Frenetic, electric, high-octane, tense and down to the absolute wire: that was qualifying for the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley. And as the yellow haze clears, it’s Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) who’ll be starting from pole, the ‘Doctor’ putting in an electric 1:46.203 to take to the top and master the stunning Autodromo del Mugello once again. Sometimes, there really is no place like home.
Starting alongside the number 46 is the other man with a comparable winning record at the track – Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team); also the rider whose 65 career poles Rossi equals, with the two now equal second of all time. And that stat was on a knife edge, with the number 99 only 0.035 off pole. Lorenzo has also taken the holeshot in both Jerez and Le Mans, but it won’t just be Rossi he’s fighting into San Donato once the lights go out at Mugello – the Ducati rider splits the Yamahas, with Q1 graduate Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) completing the front row after an impressive Q2.
The home hero who had led the way for much of the weekend so far was the man to just miss out on the front row, with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) taking P4 and just shuffled out in the incredible hot lap shootout. He’s just ahead of top Independent Team rider Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), a podium finisher at the venue last year, with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) down in sixth.
One on attempt, Marquez had been almost half a second up by halfway round the lap but it wasn’t to be. Losing time, the Championship leader wasn’t able to put it all together and push himself up the order – despite an impressive save around the final corner in classic self-named style. He’s in good company, however, with key rival and 2017 Mugello winner Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in seventh and less than a tenth off.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) make for two more riders looking for more on Sunday as they start eight and ninth, with the top ten completed by Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) as he competes at the venue for the first time in the premier class, having sat out the Italian GP due to injury in his rookie year.
Second Q1 graduate Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) will be gunning for his ninth consecutive top ten result from P11 on the grid, with top rookie Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) in P12 after his first automatic graduation to Q2 at his home race. In contrasting fortunes, it’s been a tough weekend so far for former Mugello winner Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), who’s not yet back to fully fit and will be starting the Italian GP in P20.
So that’s it – the 46 flags are flying high on Saturday. Will it be the same on Sunday? With such pedigree both at the front and looking to move forward, the battle between the veterans, the hard chargers and the fresh challengers is going to light up Mugello once again – tune in for the race from 14:00 (GMT +2).
2017 winner Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) carried his Saturday morning form into qualifying as the Italian shot to pole position for his home race at the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley, heading Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) by just 0.030. Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) rounds out the front row of the grid in third, just 0.067 back from pole in an incredibly close battle at the top.
Schrötter led in the early stages, setting his fastest time on only his fourth flying lap to set the benchmark. Last year’s race winner Pasini then went quicker on his ninth lap to move the goal posts further – a time that wouldn’t be beaten, securing him pole to stake an early claim on the win. The close margins, however, bode well for Sunday, with last season having been a supreme spectacle and 2018 shaping up the same with 19 riders within eight-and-a-half tenths.
Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) had a quiet session, sitting in the garage for some time, but he’ll launch from P4 as he aims to grab a home victory. He leads fellow Italian Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2), who starts from P5 on his 250th Grand Prix start – a fantastic milestone for Corsi, who’ll be aiming for a podium finish tomorrow.
Fastest of the rookies was Romano Fenati (Marinelli Snipers Team) in front of his home crowd and the Italian was in and around the top ten throughout the session on board his Kalex machine, eventually finishing sixth quickest. Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) sealed his best qualifying of the year at his home Grand Prix in seventh, with Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP 40) continuing the Italian domination in the top ten – the Jerez winner recovered to eighth on his final run, despite an early fall in the session when he tucked the front at Turn 10 – rider ok.
Friday’s fastest man Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was ninth quickest, with compatriot Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) in P10 for his third top ten qualifying finish of the season. Championship contender Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had a more quiet session in P11, the first of the KTM chassis’ in qualifying and looking for more on race pace, with Le Mans comeback king Xavi Vierge (Dynavolt Intact GP) in 12th.
Tetsuta Nagashima (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) was a prolific figure in the top ten throughout, P13 was his best qualifying position of the season. Sam Lowes (Swiss Innovative Investors) – second fastest man on Friday – had to settle for P14, while Danny Kent (MB Conveyors – Speed Up Racing) was 0.001 behind his fellow Brit in 15th.
The grid has taken shape ahead of the intermediate class race, so tune in at 12:20 local time (GMT +2) to see the Moto2™ riders do battle at Mugello.
‘Mr Pole Position’ strikes again to top qualifying by two tenths – with a Japanese lockout completing the front row
Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) kept his awesome record in qualifying at the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley, taking provisional pole and then bettering that on his final run to end the session 0.190 ahead of the field. That field was headed by two equally impressive performers: Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing), who locked out the front row for Japan.
It’s the first front row start for both and with no Italians on the front row, Suzuki flies the flag for the home nation with the SIC58 Squadra Corse outfit. And, after getting tangled in a crash earlier in the day, Sasaki’s ride through the pain barrier – despite still suffering with an injury to his leg sustained in Le Mans – made for an incredible performance for the former Asia Talent Cup and Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion.
Aron Canet (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was also in close company, just 0.014 further back heading up the second row – with first Italian, Championship leader Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PrüstelGP) – 0.017 in arrears to complete the top five. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) and Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) took P6 and P7 respectively on home turf as the gaps remained incredibly tight, ahead of Adam Norrodin (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Marcos Ramirez (Bester Capital Dubai). From second to ninth is covered by just over two tenths – an incredible preview of what’s to come on race day at the venue that saw 21 riders fight for the win last season.
Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) took tenth as the third former Asia Talent Cup rider in the top ten – and he’s just ahead of compatriot and top rookie Kazuki Masaki (RBA BOE Skull Rider), the reigning Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion…and another former Asia Talent Cup competitor in an impressive day for the graduates of the Road to MotoGP™ program.
The stage is set for a showdown at Mugello, with the times incredibly tight and some big names looking to slice through from further back – including Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) in P14 and last year’s winner Andrea Migno (Angel Nieto Team) in P15. Will the fight at the front be another 20+ strong battle? Find out on Sunday from 11:00 (GMT +2).
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