‘Fast Fabio’ is an easy moniker to bestow, but it’s much harder to live up to. And yet, rookie Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) just won’t stop breaking records. At the Motul TT Assen the Frenchman put in the fastest ever lap of the track in qualifying to take his third pole position overall, and in doing that he also becomes the youngest ever rider to take back-to-back poles in the premier class. 0.140 is his advantage over Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) as the pattern of the two taking it in turns at the top continued, with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) taking third as he blasted from Q1 to the front row.
Before pole was decided, it was that Q1 that would prove crucial for one big name: Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). The ‘Doctor”s difficult day at the office began earlier in FP3 as his lap that would have seen him move through to Q2 was cancelled for exceeding track limits, and that left him fighting it out in Q1. In that Q1, he eventually finished fourth and will therefore start from P14, with Rins and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) the two men moving through.
Rins held the advantage first as the Suzuki man started Q2 on provisional pole, but on the second runs Viñales had something to say about it. The number 12 machine put in a stunning lap with a few minutes left on the clock to cut a few tenths off Rins’ best effort, and he was the man with the target on his back as Quartararo began his assault. But then, Quartararo began his assault.
Keeping it together to perfection and able to pull out nearly a tenth and a half by the time he crossed the line, the Frenchman made some more history – and celebrated so hard, it made his airbag go off in his suit!
Behind that little slice of history, there’s one habitual front row starter missing from the top three: Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). The reigning Champion starts fourth and misses out on a place in the fastest trio for the first time this season, and he’ll be looking to slice through early off the line. Alongside him, rookie Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) put in an impressive effort to take a best-yet fifth, just into the 1:33s, with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) completing the second row.
Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), third on Friday, is the top Ducati in qualifying and heads up an incredibly tight third row, with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) in P8 and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) locking it out in ninth. The three men are covered by just 0.032.
2016 Assen winner Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) completes the top ten and he was also just hundredths adrift, with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) a few further tenths off the Australian in P11. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the final man in Q2 in P12, not far off the Italian ahead of him.
Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) starts just ahead of Rossi, with the number 46 facing down a few of his VR46 Riders Academy proteges in his mission to move forward on Sunday. He’s won ten times at Assen, and he is the Sunday miracle maker. Can he get in the fight at the front?
Remy Gardner’s (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) 1:36.572 in Moto2™ Q2 at the Motul TT Assen sees him join a very illustrious list of Australian Grand Prix polesitters as two late flying laps puts the Kalex rider 0.110 clear of second place Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo). The KTM rider kept his Friday form to beat Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) to second by hundredths despite needing to put in a stunner of a save at Turn 5.
It was Vierge who looked like he would be the man to beat in Q2 after the Spaniard was able to half a second clear of the pack with a storming time, but Binder hit back to continue the upturn for KTM. But then Gardner, the man who sat nearly six tenths clear of the rest in FP3, started to find his rhythm.
The Australian’s first attempt was 0.016 faster than the South African, but he managed to pull a bit more margin out on his second run to secure the first Australian intermediate class pole since Casey Stoner did it in the 250cc class at Phillip Island in 2005.
Behind the top three, Championship leader Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) will start from P4 and he spearheads a second row that consists of Q1 graduate Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) and rookie Fabio Di Giannantonio (Beta Tools Speed Up). It’s Di Giannantonio’s second consecutive second row start after a P5 in Barcelona, and Marquez won from P6 in Catalunya…
Seventh is Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up), just behind his rookie teammate and looking to move forward, with second in the Championship Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) down in P8 and with a little more work to do than key rival Marquez. He has rookie Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) for company completing Row 3, another newcomer who bested his teammate as second Italtrans rider Andrea Locatelli starts tenth.
Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) will want more than P11 on race day, as will Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) just behind him. Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40) is a similar story after the Barcelona polesitter took P13 ahead of Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo), but it’s more true of former Championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) than any as he faces a fight back from P16.
Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) has brought the run of different polesitters in the opening rounds of the Moto3™ season to an end, with the Italian setting a new record in qualifying at the Motul TT Assen to head the grid for Sunday’s race. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) in second, with Mugello winner Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) taking third and just 0.013 in further arrears.
It was a frantic, manic Moto3™ Q2 and Toba sat atop the timesheets before the final flyer came in from Antonelli, but it’s nevertheless a good start down the path to redemption for the Japanese rider after a heartbreaking crash on the final lap in Barcelona that saw him slide out the lead. And the last time he was on the front row, he won the race…and all three men on the front row have the best chance to become the first repeat winner of the year.
Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) was fourth fastest and is one of the men best-placed to try and keep the record-breaking run of different winners going, joined on Row 2 by rookie duo Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia), both of whom are also looking for their first Grand Prix wins.
Friday’s fastest Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PrüstelGP) heads the third row, another to have not yet taken to the top step, but he’s in serious company as the men first and second in the standings line up alongside him. Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) is P8 after coming through Q1 and the man he’s chasing, Championship leader Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), was just 0.014 off him in ninth.
Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) was tenth quickest but has a six-place grid penalty to serve, so it’s Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) who starts in P10, with rookie Raul Fernandez (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team) and Catalan GP winner – and Q1 graduate – Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) joining him on the fourth row.
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