The Brit makes it two from two, but this time it’s Gardner in close company as the two prepare for another showdown.
Last weekend’s race winner Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) once again brought his A-game to the table when it mattered at the TISSOT Grand Prix of Doha, with the British rider and Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) going head-to-head for pole position and the number 22 coming out on top. Lowes’ 1:59.055 sees him head the grid by nearly a tenth and a half, but with Gardner in second on take two in the desert it’s the man who proved Lowes’ closest rival last weekend starting right alongside him. Another familiar face from the fight at the front in the Qatar GP, Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46), completes the front row in P3.
There was early drama in Moto2™ Q1 as Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) missed out on a place in the top four, with reigning Moto3™ World Champion Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team) slamming in a personal best lap on his final flyer that was good enough for P3. That demoted Vierge to P5 and out of Q2. Jorge Navarro (MB Conveyors Speed Up) topped the first part of qualifying with a 1:59.592 though, moving through ahead of Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team), Arenas and Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing).
Gardner was the early pacesetter once Q2 got underway, but the times were down on Q1’s best efforts. Red sectors then lit up the timing screens as a big reshuffle took place, with Aron Canet (Solunion Aspar Team) leading the field from Bendsneyder. Bezzecchi took control of the session next with a 1:59.736, but the times would tumble again.
Gardner hit back, Lowes did the same and Dixon made his way up into second. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) soon split the Brits to grab P2, but the Free Practice pacesetter was three tenths down on Lowes – and just 0.002s ahead of Dixon. Fighting back, Bezzecchi slipped into P2 with just over two minutes left, before Gardner muscled his way back into second. A red second split then popped up for Gardner as Lowes backed out, so all eyes turned to the number 87…
Gardner was also up in Sector 3, but could he keep it going all the way to the line? Not quite! The Aussie just lost ground and despite improving his time, pole went to Lowes for the second week in a row. After Gardner started much further back on his way to second in the Qatar GP however, a front row is mission partly accomplished, as it is for Bezzecchi in P3.
Raul Fernandez ends his second Moto2™ qualifying session in P4, another fantastic job by the rookie, and he’s joined on Row 2 by Q1 graduate Dixon. A late charge from rookie Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) seals a brilliant P6 for the Japanese rider as he makes a big leap up the timesheets on take two in Doha, even getting the better of third place Qatar GP finisher Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) as the Italian is forced to head up Row 3. Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) and Canet slot in behind Diggia, with Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) completing the top 10 in Q2.
Stefano Manzi (Flexbox HP 40), Arenas, Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), American rookie Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) and Bendsneyder complete the fastest 15 on Saturday.
The grid is set and so is the stage. Can Gardner, Bezzecchi or anyone else stop Lowes from making it two out two at Losail? We’ll find out on Sunday at 18:20 local time (GMT+3)!
Sam Lowes: “It was a good day for me, we changed the bike back after we tried something yesterday and I’ve felt good all day. It’s nice, it was sort of a different session. Last week I went out and tried to get into a rhythm in qualifying but today with the wind it was difficult to be as consistent so I knew I just had to make the best lap I could and then see. In the end I’m really happy and i think we can have a great race from there tomorrow.”
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