The veteran Italian takes a home turf pole in a damp Q2, with Acosta fifth and Foggia 14th…
Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia VR46 Academy) dominated in the damp at the Gran Premio Nolan del Made in Italy e dell’Emilia Romagna on Saturday, topping Q1 by 1.2 seconds and then slicing to the top in Q2 for an impressive pole position – and his first since 2019. He’s joined on the front row by Filip Salač (CarXpert PrüstelGP), six tenths down but taking second, with Riccardo Rossi (BOE Owlride) completing an all-KTM front row.
Championship leader Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) put in a solid session to take fifth, the same grid position as the last race he won, the Styrian GP. For key rival Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) it seemed more of a disaster as he qualified P14… but his second to last win – the Aragon GP – was from that very same position, so it’s set up for a stunner on Sunday!
Q1 was damp and star-studded, with Antonelli one of the protagonists and ultimately topping the session too – by an incredible 1.2 seconds. That was ahead of Rossi, with John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing), back on track despite struggling with illness, third and Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) fourth.
That leaves Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), who has previously dominated at Misano in the wet, missing the cut by just 0.019, and San Marino GP podium finisher Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) was eighth. He’ll start well down the order, as will Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse), who is a former polesitter and winner at the track but faller in Q1. Wildcard Mario Aji (Honda Team Asia) did a solid job to split the two veterans on his debut.
Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) was the only other crasher after Suzuki, riders both ok.
After coming through Q1 with a 1.2s advantage, the Italian was straight down to business in the pole position battle and halfway through Q2, on a damp but drying track, Antonelli was 1.3s faster than Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) – with the Japanese rider crashing unhurt at Turn 14 with six minutes to go. Salač then went P2 to cut Antonelli’s gap down to 0.8s, but the latter almost immediately extended his lead to 1.5 again.
With three minutes to go meanwhile, Foggia was P18 and last in the session. That was as Acosta shot up to P3, and although the points leader was shuffled down to fifth, Foggia could only move up to P14.
Antonelli, Salač and Rossi head up the grid, with rookie due Izan Guevara (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) and Acosta in fourth and fifth. Masia went from Q1 to sixth, locking out the second row.
Alberto Surra (Rivacold Snipers Team) heads Row 3 on well known turf for the rookie, with compatriot Stefano Nepa (BOE Owlride) alongside. Xavier Artigas (Leopard Racing), another impressive rookie and after topping FP3, starts P9.
Sasaki is tenth ahead of a good day for rookie Adrian Fernandez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), and they’re joined on Row 4 by McPhee.
Yuki Kunii (Honda Team Asia) is next up at the head of Row 5, and the Japanese rider has Foggia alongside. The San Marino GP winner and Championship challenger has some work to do on Sunday, although it should be dry and as aforementioned, he won from the same grid position at Aragon.
If Foggia wants to keep the title fight alive, he’ll have to gain at least a handful of places – but Acosta must win to take the crown anyway. Everything is in play on Sunday, so tune in at 11:00 (GMT +2) for the first pivotal title battle of the season.
Moto3™ Warm Up is now later, starting at 9:00.
Moto3™ top three
1 Nicccolo Antonelli – Avintia VR46 Academy – KTM – 1’48.563
2 Filip Salač – CarXpert PrüstelGP – KTM – +0.611
3 Riccardo Rossi – BOE Owlride – KTM – +0.717
Niccolo Antonelli: “When I started in the middling conditions I felt really good immediately. I felt the bike a lot, felt everything happening on the bike and felt in control. And I said to myself that when you feel like that, you have to get pole! I pushed every lap, and the laptime in Q1 was already good enough for pole in Q2, then I improved two tenths in Q2 and this was the pole position. I’ve very happy because it’s always important to start from pole, and always nice.”
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