Moto3 & Moto2 round-up: McPhee on pole as Kent opts for the hard way, Rabat returns in style
The final round of the Moto3 world championship is here, with Valencia once again the venue for some serious showdowns.
Moto3 got qualifying off to a fiery start with John McPhee on pole on merit and not needing a penalty demotion for another rider. In the championship however the man with nothing to lose gained a serious advantage with Miguel Oliveira – needing a win – starting fourth and Danny Kent seeming intent on making a title as hard as possible to take the Moto3 crown, earning just an 18th place start.
Moto2 saw some early rivalry between Tom Luthi and championship winner Johann Zarco stamped out by the returning Tito Rabat, giving his number one plate one last spin and reminding us of how the season may have played out differently had he not picked up injury.
SaxoPrint-RTG rider John McPhee looked settled and relaxed with his future rumoured to be secure with the team for next season and it showed as he constantly ran at the top of the timesheets before posting an impressive 1m 39.364 which remained good to the chequered flag, with only a disallowed lap by Jorge Navarro ever ahead.
The Honda rider crashed at the end but held the top grid slot. He is joined on the front row by Sky Racing VR46 (a very big VR46 this weekend too) rider Romano Fenati who pushed his KTM bike back to the pits at the end too, and Leopard’s Efren Vazquez, looking to end his Moto3 career on a high.
Teamwork propelled Miguel Oliveira to fourth as the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider spent much time circulating with Brad Binder, with a late charge following Enea Bastianini also helping with a slipstream to put him in a strong position to fight for the title on Sunday.
He is joined on row two by Estrella Galicia’s Navarro, the rookie of the year and true home rider looking to impress in his home town of Valencia in fifth after staging a recovery following his best lap being scrapped for exceeding track limits, and Gresini’s Bastianini whose speed took him to sixth.
Seventh went to Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) With the other Red Bull bikes also ahead of Kent, Karel Hanika in eighth and Binder in ninth spot.
Tenth went to Leopard’s Hiroki Ono with the second Estrella Galicia piloted by the returning Fabio Quartararo and just missing out in eleventh.
Wildcard rider Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) also managed to squeeze his bike ahead of Kent in 16th.
Danny Kent had said before qualifying that he intended to concentrate on race pace, but took no time to set up a strong banker lap, with only mid-pack riders left near on his final dash for pole he had no tow or clear track and found himself with work to do in 18th on the grid.
The British rider only needs to be 14thif Oliveira manages a win to still be the new Moto3 world champion.
Moto2 got off to a fast and feisty start as Tom Luthi and Johann Zarco battled for provisional pole. They were soon interrupted by Tito Rabat, who seemed intent on giving his number 1 plate a good send off, topping the timesheets with a time that looked unbeatable with 24 minutes left to go, only to attack it himself on his EG 0,0 Marc VDS machine and set a new best lap of 1m 35.234 to secure pole.
Johann Zarco can still set a new best points hall and podium record if his race goes well tomorrow for Ajo Motorsport and his early laps put him in a strong position to break records, starting from second.
Alex Rins will be looking to hold on to second with Rabat back and in the hunt, the Paginas Amarillas rider and Moto2 rookie of the year starts third after a strong session at the Cheste track.
2014 winner Tom Luthi also looks to have good race pace and will look to pull out an advantage from fourth on the grid for Derendinger Racing Interwetten.
The Swiss rider is joined on row two by Forward’s Lorenzo Baldassarri and the QMMF of Julian Simon.
Axel Pons had hit the top ten before hitting the gravel and stayed seventh for AGR Team, with Idemitsu’s Taka Nakagami and the second Forward entry with Simone Corsi on board also making row three, in eighth and ninth respectively.
Sam Lowes suffered an early crash and could only place his Speed Up tenth on his return to the track.
Another wild-card using their chance to impress was Lucas Mahias, riding the Promoto Sport Transfiormers bike to 16th on the grid.
Azlan Shah and Louis Rossi both failed to start the session after picking up injury as they avoided Axel Pons’ morning practice crash, while Dominique Aegerter also pulled out to allow his injuries to heal after attempting an early comeback to finish the season. He was replaced for qualifying at the last minute by his flyaway stand-in Josh Hook.
Part-time MotoGP writer and blogger. Full-time Mum.
This blog is here for me give my point of view on events and share reports on key stories and race action. Specialist in Moto2 and Moto3 news. Love to share helmet art with the world.
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