For the first time since Le Mans, title contender Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) will launch from pole position at the Pramac Generac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix. The rain started falling in the final five minutes of the Q2 to prematurely end any push for the top, with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Q1 graduate Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) the confirmed as joining Navarro on the front row. Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40) was the key name to lose out as he starts 16th on a pivotal weekend.
Rain fell on and off for much of Saturday on the Island, but for 10 minutes of Moto2™ Q2, the riders were able to at least set some dry lap times. The initial benchmark was set by Red Bull KTM Tech 3’s Marco Bezzecchi but as the riders gained confidence in the cold and wind, pole position was changing constantly. Championship leader Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was the next man on top of the pile, before Marini then led the way by just 0.004 over Binder.
Personal best and session best sectors were lighting up the timing screens, but no one was going faster than Navarro. The Speed Up rider took provisional pole position by 0.3 after Binder had just taken top spot, and it was timed to perfection. With just over five minutes to go in Q2, heavy rain started to fall in the first sector and put an end to everyone’s hopes of improving their times, guaranteeing Navarro pole for the third time in 2019. Both he and fellow front row starters Binder and Marini can all stop Marquez from claiming the title this weekend, setting us up for another classic.
Fabio Di Giannantonio (Beta Tools Speed Up) will be wanting to get involved in the fight at the front too as he made sure both Speed Up machines were in the top four – just 0.002 off the front row in P4. Fellow rookie and Free Practice pacesetter Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) would have been hoping for a maiden pole and although the weather put a stop to that as the reigning Moto3™ World Champion qualified fifth, it’s his second-best qualifying position of the year. Lining up alongside Martin will be compatriot Marquez as the title favourite set the seventh fastest time in Q2, but the man in P6, Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), has to start from the back of the grid because of irresponsible riding in FP2, so Marquez moves up a place to Row 2.
Phillip Island specialist Jesko Raffin (NTS RW Racing GP) had a fantastic Q2, he’ll spearhead the third row for Sunday’s intermediate class race after the Swiss rider put in his best qualifying of the year by some distance, with Bezzecchi alongside him in eighth place ahead of fellow KTM rider Iker Lecuona (monday.com American Racing). Second in the Championship Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) will need a good start on Sunday from tenth, a few places adrift of Marquez.
Tetsuta Nagashima (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team), Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46), Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Temporary Forward), home hero Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) and Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) complete the riders on the front five rows.
Augusto Fernandez, meanwhile, faces a real uphill struggle. He’s qualified down in 16th and he seriously needs to cut his deficit to Marquez…can he do it? Find out at 13:20 (GMT +11), one hour later local time than normal.
1 – Jorge Navarro (SPA – Speed Up) 1’33.565
2 – Brad Binder (RSA – KTM) +0.321
3 – Luca Marini (ITA – Kalex) +0.369
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