The Japanese rider heads up a front row split by 0.031 – and his Championship rivals face a fight back.
Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) took his maiden pole position on Saturday at the Gran Premio Lenovo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, snatching the honour from Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) by just 0.016 in another tight qualifying session for Moto3™. 2019 winner Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) completes the front row by an even smaller margin – with the top three covered by just 0.031 at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.
The fight to move through and take part in the fight for pole set the tone, with Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) coming out on top by less than a tenth to move through alongside Sterilgarda Max Racing Team’s Romano Fenati and Alonso Lopez, with BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy’s Ricardo Rossi the last graduate in a last minute shuffle.
In Q2 itself, the last minute dash was again the name of the game. It looked set to be another pole for Rodrigo as the flag flew, and Ogura’s laptime hadn’t initially looked like it would put him in the mix to challenge… but then came the final sector. Putting it together perfectly, the Japanese rider shot over the line and just snatched his maiden pole position.
Rodrigo was then forced to settle for second but has a nice clear view to Turn 1 on Sunday, with last year’s winner Suzuki setting himself up well for race day too in third. Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) heads up Row 2 just behind them in a solid qualifying session, but the Italian will rue the tiny margin that kept him off the front row: 0.011.
Fenati put in Husqvarna‘s best qualifying result since their return to the class this season as he lines up fifth, with Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) completing the third row. Row 3 is headed by Styria winner Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46), with the Italian joined by Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) and Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team). Filip Salač (Rivacold Snipers Team) completes the top ten.
That leaves a couple of high profile names missing… Championship leader Albert Arenas (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) will start 13th as he attempts to stop Ogura gaining on him, and third overall John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) suffered a crash early in Q2 and then ended up P17. Can they move back through to take the fight to Ogura?
Find out on Sunday at 11:00 (GMT+2) as the lights go out for Moto3™ at the Gran Premio Lenovo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini.
Ai Ogura: “I was quite surprised after the flag because I saw on the big screen I was top, and I never finished in the top six in all the practices, so I was surprised! I have a really good feeling on the bike and I’m not sure about the tyre but I think we are ready for tomorrow!”