The South African edges out Toba for pole position as the top two in the Championship are split by a single thousandth.
Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power) went from Q1 to the top as the South African took his first Grand Prix pole position in qualifying for the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, edging out Kaito Toba (Red Bull KTM Ajo) by just 0.043. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) completes the front row after a tricky session in Valencia, with rain falling lightly and then stopping but the skies remaining grey. Championship leader Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) was sixth quickest, beating key title rival Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) by a single thousandth.
Q1 began with all eyes on Arenas as the points leader found himself on the back foot after Free Practice, but he kept it calm to top the timesheets and move through along with Riccardo Rossi (BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy), John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Binder, joining the fray in the fight for the top 18 on the grid.
After the first runs it was Ogura on provisional pole, but a late flurry of laps as the clock ticked down put paid to his hopes of holding onto it. Second time out the Japanese rider also had Arenas on his tail, the points leader right behind him on track, and by the end of the session the two would be even closer together on the timesheets.
Binder’s 1:38.286 proved a late lunge to put the South African on top as the timesheets shuffled behind him, riders crossing the line as the flag flew or just after. Toba got closest to denying the number 40 as he cut the gap from considerable to just 0.043, but Binder held on – as Ogura and Arenas got shuffled back.
Fernandez completes the front row just over a tenth off Toba, with the same 0.043 that splits the top two making the difference for the number 25 ahead of Jaume Masia. The Leopard Racing rider is forced to settle for fourth, joined on the second row by Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) in fifth and Arenas.
Ogura, that single thousandth off the Championship leader, heads up Row 3 ahead of Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse), with Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) down in ninth and needing to move forward on Sunday. Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) completes the top ten.
Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) was P11 ahead of one of the best Saturdays of the season for Yuki Kunii (Honda Team Asia) in 12th. Free Practice pacesetter Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) was shuffled down to 13th, ahead of Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) and Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3). John McPhee ended up in 16th, with work to do on Sunday.
Arenas starts his first chance at the crown from sixth, but Ogura couldn’t be any closer. Can the Spaniard stake his claim on home turf or will the Japanese rider – or those just behind them – hit back? Find out at 11:00 local time (GMT+1) on Sunday morning!
Moto3™ front row
1 Darryn Binder – CIP – Green Power – KTM 1:38.286
2 Kaito Toba – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM +0.043
3 Raul Fernandez – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM +0.161
Darryn Binder: “It was crazy to get my pole today, yesterday I was 16th and unfortunately this morning with the strange conditions I had to pass through Q1. I knew if I could just get a lap together I could do a good laptime. On the last run I came past and saw on my dash 8.2 and thought, ‘ok that’s good enough for the front row maybe’. I came past the flag and saw my team shouting on the wall and I thought ‘ok, I’m definitely on the front row’. To get pole I’m so happy!”
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