Nearly perfect conditions waited for the qualifying show to start, the track slowly hotting up and bikes gleaming into the sun. And shiniest of them all was the Yamaha of Maverick Viñales, the Spaniard snatching pole position after an eventful session in which the Hondas faded as the Yamahas gained ground. Viñales looked quick from the word go and will start his world title bid in prime position.
After blasting through Q1, Jorge Lorenzo was the lead Ducati, the Spaniard getting within a tenth of a second of pole, stuck between his former bike and his former teammate in the middle of the front row. Valentino Rossi proved that some extra bits of metal did his speed no harm and put his Yamaha on the front row at a circuit he aims to cross off his ‘to do’ list. Remarkably, the Italian finished less than two tenths behind his teammate.
The second row was an all-Honda affair, the LCR ride of Cal Crutchlow showing the way for the factory boys. Marc Marquez needed only two laps to drop into the 1:47s but his second run was less successful, the world champion sliding out in turn twelve while running a very hot pace. The Spaniard will have his teammate to his left for tomorrow's start, Dani Pedrosa unable to drop his pace under the 1:48 mark.
The one small consolation for the world championship leader was that the man he’s tied on points with will start behind him, Andrea Dovizioso only seventh, half a second slower than Viñales. The Ducati will share third row of the grid with the Aprilia of Aleix Espargaro, who was narrowly ahead of Alvaro Bautista, the Spaniard crashing out for a second time this afternoon.
Andrea Iannone placed a Suzuki on the fourth row, ahead of the other Q1 survivor, Johann Zarco, who is yet to look comfortable on the Spanish track. After a great display in practice, Mika Kallio was unfortunate to crash before improving his time and will start only twelfth.
Even more unfortunate could be considered the likes Jack Miller, who missed out on a shot at Q2 by nine thousandths of a second and Danilo Petrucci, the Italian having to make quite a comeback from sixteenth grid position if he is to replicate his previous race result.