|Reigning Champ, Rabat, was superseded in Qualifying
Pic: MVDS Racing
The first MotoGP weekend is in full swing as the action gets under way on Thursday in Qatar and qualifying in the two classes couldn’t have been more different -where the sudden revelation that a tow meant everything in Moto3 threw the form book out of the window, Moto2 was by contrast a one man show -Sam Lowes reigned supreme on his Speed Up.
The Brits had fared well over the course of practice with Danny Kent ahead in FP1 and fastest overall with his leading time from FP3, John McPhee had a bike to learn having only got his 2015 edition of the SaxoPrint bike at the wet Jerez test and immediately showed progress.
Now, however, it was time to make those times count.
Some precision timing and good fortune saw SaxoPrint RTG rider Alexis Masbou on pole for the first time at his 141st Grand Prix Weekend, the Frenchman, still learning his way around the SaxoPrint Honda, had the luck to discover at the right time that a great slipstream was the key to a quick time in the final sector, and the skill to pull it off from the back of a group of four.
Isaac Vinales was the next rider to benefit from the notion and gained the extra tenths he needed to push his Husqvarna up to second, taking over form man Danny Kent as he tussled with Jules Danilo.
Third went to early leader Niccolo Antonelli, who completes the front row for Ongetta-Rivacold.
A final push to the flag saw Francesco Bagnaia up to fourth for Mapfre Team Mahindra, John McPhee used Ajo rider and FP2 pacesetter Miguel Oliveira in his ascent to fifth, a great boost for the Briton.
Fabio Quartararo finished the day top rookie in sixth as he learns Qatar for the first time, he beat his Estrella Galicia team-mate to the honour with Jorge Navarro in 12th.
Gresini’s Andrea Locatelli did enough to score a seventh place start, while the practice session heroics of Olivera and Kent were soon forgotten as their strong solo laps could only help them to eighth and ninth resectively.
Kent’s Leopard Racing team-mate Efren Vazquez completes the top ten.
With Tito Rabat expected to be at the front to defend his Moto2 crown, the first rider to attempt to do so since the class was introduced, it was instead to be former British Supersport champion Sam Lowes who was to provide the column inches for the weekend, dominant in every session, and once again lowering the circuit record as he too secured his first pole in the world championship.
After working on set up in the early stages the Brit flew in the later laps, with his main competition coming from Frenchman Johann Zarco, who worked hard to gain the lead back time again until Lowes dropped his new circuit record of 1:59.423 with 13 minutes to go, the lap stood until the chequered flag.
A late crash by Lowes as he pushed the bike to the limit left him to watch as the clock ticked down but Ajo Motorsports rider Zarco’s final effort couldn’t match it and he was left three tenths adrift and second on the grid.
Tito Rabat was unable to copy the pace of the pair but stayed consistent and clocked a time strong enough for third on his Kalex, holding off the only other two men to dive under the two minute benchmark, Sandro Cortese in fourth and Jonas Folger in fifth.
A late push saw Xavier Simeon move into sixth, Tom Luthi looked to have successfully transitioned into a Kalex rider in seventh, Franco Morbidelli starts eighth.
Alex Rins took top rookie grid honours, ninth for Paginas Amarillas HP 40, his former Moto3 rival, the 2014 winner Alex Marquez, starts 12th .
Simone Corsi completes the top ten for Athina Forward Racing. Kalex dominated due to their huge grid presence, filling every slot between second and twelfth.
Full Moto3 qualifying results here.
Full Moto2 qualifying results here.