Petronas Sprinta Racing’s John McPhee made a little history at the Shark Helmets Grand Prix de France, becoming the first rider to progress from Q1 to then go on to take pole position in Moto3™. It’s his first pole position since Argentina 2017 – although he started from the front at Mugello the same year – and he’s joined on the front row by Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) and Friday’s fastest man, impressive rookie Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia).
McPhee moved through from Q1 ahead of Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing), Makar Yurchenko (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) and Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0), with Argentina winner Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) surprisingly one to lose out. Once in Q2, McPhee set a 1:42.277 on slick tyres, with the track having dried from this morning’s wet FP3 session, and that was enough to earn him pole.
For Ogura, it’s his career best qualifying and therefore evidently his first front row. The Japanese rider beat compatriot Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) to the honour by just over half a tenth, so Jerez podium finisher Suzuki starts fourth at the head of row two. Kömmerling Gresini Moto3’s Gabriel Rodrigo was fifth quickest, ahead of Q1 graduate Ramirez as the Spaniard completes the second row.
Despite a third crash of the weekend, and a second at Turn 3, SIC58 Squadra Corse’s Niccolo Antonelli responded by setting a lap that will see him front row three of the grid in P7. The Italian is aiming to become the first double race winner of the 2019 season, as is Honda Team Asia’s Kaito Toba, who joins Antonelli on row three after going ninth quickest. The man between the two, Raul Fernandez (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team), won’t be starting eighth due to a 12-place grid penalty, however – so Toba will start P8, and he’ll be joined by Andrea Migno (Bester Capital Dubai) on row three as the Italian also gains a place due to the penalty. Sergio Garcia, after moving through Q1, also drops 12 places on the grid despite having gone tenth quickest.
That means Makar Yurchenko (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) starts 10th, Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers) 11th – the Italian still feeling some effects of his Friday highside – and Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) 12th, with a good few names looking to slice back through the order on Sunday.
The lights go out for the Moto3™ race at 11:00 (GMT +2), don’t miss it!
1 – John McPhee (GBR – Honda) 1’42.277
2 – Tony Arbolino (ITA – Honda) +0.190
3 – Ai Ogura (JPN – Honda) +0.238