As the MotoGP paddock returns to Austria after a long hiatus, there are few out-and-out favourites in the support classes after minimal testing at the Red Bull Ring. This produced two very different outcomes in the battle for pole.
Moto3 headed out on track first, where rookie Joan Mir shone on his way to pole after a battle with the experienced championship leader Brad Binder.
Moto2 saw reigning champion and leader in the title hunt Johann Zarco win his own war against Franco Morbidelli to take a confident pole in the last session of the day.
Moto3 got qualifying off to a frantic start with a session which saw the lead time swap, until a battle between rookie Joan Mir and championship leader Brad Binder emerged, and not only by time – the pair also had a lose call on track which ended with the Leopard rider in the gravel.
The Spaniard went on to set the best time around the Red Bull Ring at just the right moment, with Binder having his final lap ruined by traffic on track leaving the Red Bull KTM Ajo Rider in second.
Gresini Honda’s Enea Bastianini managed to halt a full front row of KTM’s on their home turf by stealing a late third.
Aron Canet delighted with a late dash handing him fourth on the grid for Estrella Galicia 0,0, well ahead of his championship hopeful team-mate Jorge Navarro who qualified 18th.
Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) starts fifth but had been one of many riders to struggle with staying inside track limits, losing handfuls of fast laps.
Francesco Bagnaia also improved over the session on his way to sixth for Aspar Mahindra, finishing ahead of Sky Racing Team VR46 top rider Nicolo Bulega.
Philipp Oettl had top ten pace and pushed on, mainly working solo around the track for eighth for Schedl GP Racing.
There were also two Gresini’s in the top ten with Fabio Di Giannantonio snagging ninth, Bo Bendsneyder followed his team-mate Brad Binders lead on the way to tenth.
Though the man to give Binder all his late problems, Albert Arenas, replacing Masbou at Peugeot Saxoprint, still managed to out-qualify new team mate John McPhee on his return to the paddock, Arenas starts 24th and McPhee 29th.
Moto2 had a different pace to it, with most of the fastest laps happening early in the session, but it still gave us another tense battle for pole: this time between reigning champion and current leader Johann Zarco and Franco Morbidelli.
Ajo Motorsports rider Zarco was the man with the pace at the end of the session and was one of few riders still improving, able to set the best times late and dominate the final run out of the pits from the riders.
Franco Morbidelli lead from early on, but after a brief battle Zarco upped the pace, leaving the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider to settle for second.
The third and final front row slot will be filled by Interwetten’s Tom Luthi.
Marcel Schrotter had the pace to run at the front before finishing a final fourth for AGR, with Axel Pons in sixth, his time holding well despite a crash straight after his best lap.
The pair sandwich Alex Marquez on row two, on the second Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS entry.
Sam Lowes was the best of the Brits in seventh for Gresini, while Danny Kent spent much of his time rooted to the bottom of the timesheets before his last run pushed him up to 15th, just behind top rookie Edgar Pons.
Taka Nakagami will fill eighth on the grid for Idemitsu Honda Team Asia, Alex Rins ninth (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) with Jonas Folger completing the top ten for Dynavolt Intact GP.
For the full Moto3 result click here
For the full Moto2 result click here