The clouds decided that the premier class had enough to contend with in the short qualifying burst and did not make an appearance throughout proceedings, but that did not make the two sessions short on drama. Many riders placed their bid for pole early on, starting with the predictable Fabio Quartararo and the impressive Takaaki Nakagami, but it was a jubilant Pol Espargaro who had the last laugh, scoring his very first pole position at KTM’s home GP.
Despite missing out on pole by only two hundredths of a second, Takaaki Nakagami was happy to secure his first front row start in the premier class. After sitting out FP4, flying through Q1 and placing his Ducati on the front row of the grid, Johann Zarco’s penalty for last weekend’s events sends him back to pitlane for tomorrow’s start and promotes Joan Mir to the last slot on the front row. Having shined throughout practice, Mir took his time to get going in Q2 but was less than a tenth slower than the poleman in the end.
Jack Miller seemed to be troubled by shoulder issues following his FP3 crash but put together a lap good enough for the second row of the grid, where he will be joined by Maverick Vinales and Alex Rins. Another of the consistently fast men opens row three, Miguel Oliveira two tenths off pole and narrowly ahead of a surprisingly subdued Andrea Dovizioso. Last weekend’s victor will have to battle through from eighth grid spot, while Quartararo not only stepped off the front row for the first time in a year, but also scored his worst qualifying position in the premier class, down in 10th spot, before being promoted by Zarco’s penalty.
The Tech 3 squad went from applause to dismay in the closing stages of Q1, when Iker Lecuona got pushed out of Q2 places, but the Spaniard demonstrated fine speed to qualify 13th and join Franco Morbidelli and Danilo Petrucci on the fourth row of the grid. Brad Binder could not do any better than 15th, one place ahead of Valentino Rossi, whose Q2 chances slipped away when he crashed out at turn 9 on his final flying lap in Q1.