Vinales on MotoGP pole following fascinating Valencia qualifier
Marquez fifth despite shoulder dislocation as Miller takes P10 on the grid.
After a sensational final battle for pole in 2018, Q1 graduate Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was the man to take P1 at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana.
A 1m31.312s was enough to edge out second-place Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) by 0.068s and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) by 0.080 in a close top three.
Reigning champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), meanwhile crashed, dislocated his shoulder, then headed back out to claim a miraculous fifth and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) starts way down in 16th.
It was seven-time champion Marquez who led the field onto the first flying lap but then at turn four, the 2018 champion suddenly lost the front and went down, seemingly dislocating his left shoulder in the process. Marquez headed straight back to the Repsol Honda motorhome, but soon after he headed back out.
Back on track it was Dovizioso who was setting the pace, but then Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) got the better of his compatriot to set the first 1m31s of the session before blitzing the field again on his next lap – a 1m31.531s becoming the time to beat.
Then with six minutes to go, a warrior emerged in the form of Marquez as he left pit-lane and all eyes were on the seven-time champion. Before the 93 crossed the line though, Vinales shot to the top to take provisional pole.
Red sectors were lighting up the screens in the final minutes of the session though and it was Vinales who went quicker again to make 0.068s his margin at the top, with the miraculous Marquez climbing back up to P3. He then had a moment at turn one to end his session, but Rins was then threatening to take pole on his final lap.
In the end however, qualifying ended with Vinales spearheading the grid after his first pole on a Saturday since Aragon last year, with his Americas GP pole this season resulting from a Marquez penalty. Rins and ‘DesmoDovi’ complete the front row, and Petrucci is top Independent Team rider in fourth.
Just behind the reigning champion Marquez in P5, sixth made it a great day for Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) with the Spaniard just 0.265s from pole in KTM’s equal-best qualifying performance. He was just ahead of Q1 graduate Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in seventh, with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) P8.
In his final qualifying, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) claimed ninth to start from the outside of the third row after some difficulties in FP4 that affected his QP, with Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) suffering his fourth crash of the weekend to start 10th, but automatically through to Q2 once again.
Italian Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) picked up where he left off in Malaysia to take the Moto2 pole position, his 1m35.777s enough to beat Xavi Vierge (Dynavolt Intact GP) by a slender 0.027s, with fellow Dynavolt Intact GP rider Marcel Schrotter completing the front row. Tech3 Racing’s Remy Gardner was 17th.
In Moto3, Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team) did it again in the season finale as he secured his second-career pole position. A 1m46.773s was enough to beat second-place Nakarin Atiratphuvapat (Honda Team Asia) by 0.244s and John McPhee (CIP – Green Power) in third.