The South African battles it out in a classic Q2, with rookie sensation Guevara and veteran McPhee completing the front row.
From Q1 to pole, 2021 is off to a good start for Darryn Binder. The Petronas Sprinta Racing rider topped the first qualifying session to make it through to the pole position shootout at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar, then setting a 2:04.075 – a new lap record – to take the first pole of the year, despite also dicing it out with a few rivals on the way round. Reigning FIM Moto3™ Junior World Champion Izan Guevara (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar) claimed a wonderful debut Grand Prix front row, and also progressed from Q1, with the rookie set to line up in second. Veteran campaigner and former Qatar podium finisher John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) completes the front row.
The biggest name to miss out on an automatic Q2 place after Free Practice was Binder, but the South African made no mistakes in Q1 to put in a 2:04.834 and top the session, cruising into the pole position shootout along with Guevara, Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) and Riccardo Rossi (BOE Owlride), setting the stage for the first pole position fireworks of 2021.
As Q2 began it was initially a waiting game, with all but four riders sitting outside their pit boxes, waiting for other riders and teams to blink first. It wasn’t until nearly five minutes had gone that everyone finally ventured out on track, but two of those who didn’t wait around were CIP Green Power’s Kaito Toba and Maximilian Kofler. Toba, the Free Practice pacesetter, set a 2:05.414 to lay down the first benchmark time.
Coming out of Q1, Binder was in the groove and that lap from Toba didn’t last too long at the top. The new Petronas Sprinta recruit made light work of a couple of riders in front of him and his first lap in Q2 was a new lap record, and by some margin. Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) then got within a tenth of Binder’s blistering 2:04.354 as two Moto3™ race winners, John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) – tangled at Turn 15, with both chasing improved lap times and things getting close in the battle for the first pole of the year.
The grid then rumbled back down pitlane after their first runs, with most leaving it late before heading back out for a one-lap dash. However, late was very late for some, and for Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3), it was too late. The Argentinean took the chequered flag before starting his lap as Toba launched himself into P3, but there was plenty still to come from those who had managed to sneak over the line for a last shot at pole.
Lots of orange sectors were lighting up on the timing screens but three riders were showing red: Binder, Guevara and McPhee. Soon-to-be polesitter Binder was forcing his way through those ahead in the final sector too – those ahead being Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) as the two got very close on track.
Up ahead, and for about half a second, it seemed like a dream debut pole position was going Guevara’s way… but Binder was still on a charge. The South African completed his barnstormer and returned to P1 with another new lap record to seal the deal in a scintillating end to the first qualifying of the season. Those joining him on the front row make it an interesting one too: rookie sensation Guevera sandwiched by two pre-season title favourites in Binder and McPhee.
Alcoba missed out on a final flying lap but his opening run pace was enough to see him spearhead the second row in P4, with Masia and Toba launching from the second row too in P5 and P6 respectively. Rodrigo, Sergio Garcia (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar) and Rossi set themselves up for a chance of a good start in seventh, eighth and ninth in that order. Rounding out the top 10 was Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3), a former winner at Losail.
That’s it from Saturday, with full results available here. Binder set the track alight in qualifying, but Sunday could be a whole different ball game. Moto3™ is always a thriller so tune in at 17:00 local time (GMT+3) to watch the drama unfold!
Moto3™ front row
1 Darryn Binder – Petronas Sprinta Racing – Honda – 2:04.075
2 Izan Guevara – GASGAS Gaviota Aspar Team – GASGAS – +0.203
3 John McPhee – Petronas Sprinta Racing – Honda – +0.283
Darryn Binder: “It’s never fun when you have to come through Q1 first but I knew I had the speed and just had to get a lap together. When I came out in Q1 and put down that first flying lap I was like ‘Ok, I’m here and I’m done’. Roll On Q2. We went out later than I expected in Q2, and I did my lap, came in and thought ‘nah no one is gonna do it at the end’. Next thing we’re rolling out again, I’m like ‘we’re going and I gotta put another one together now, I’ve got another chance’. I put together a good one there, I’m so stoked. Can’t complain, starting first and I got myself a new watch!”
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