Qualifying in Portugal started with drama straight away, with Q1 causing trouble for one of the championship contenders and Q2 following it up by setting the scene nicely in the title battle. Raul Fernandez might not be party to that particular battle but the Spaniard was fast enough straight out the gate to secure his sixth pole position of the season, two tenths faster than the rest of the challengers. Jeremy Alcoba is keen to end his rookie season in fine style and qualified on the front row of the grid, where he is joined by an equally impressive Ayumu Sasaki.
Tatsuki Suzuki escaped out of Q1 and went on to open the second row of the grid, ahead of compatriot Ai Ogura. The title contender only got out of Q1 on his final flying lap and in between all the head shaking in Q2, the Japanese rider managed to jump into 5th at the last minute, just ahead of rival Albert Arenas. The championship leader missed the boat on one final flying lap, together with a group that was too busy playing around and is likely to expect some penalties, and that allowed rival Ogura to sneak ahead of him on the grid. However, with the two main championship contenders starting next to each other on the second row, it’s a tasty prospect for Sunday’s race.
Niccolo Antonelli heads the third row of the grid, ahead of Leopard duo Dennis Foggia and Jaume Masia, but the teammates are due to serve a double long lap penalty in the race. That should help Gabriel Rodrigo progress from 10th place, the Argentine rider starting on the fourth row despite another crash in Q2. Deniz Oncu and Sergio Garcia complete row four, while Barry Baltus in 13th was the final rider within a second of pole.
The big surprise of Q1 was Tony Arbolino, the Italian going from hero to zero after failing to post a competitive laptime and misjudging the time he had available in the session, which left him 27th on the grid and in need of the comeback of a lifetime to revive his championship aspirations.
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