On Friday at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, it was all about one man: Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). A day later and the headlines don’t need too much adjusting, with the French rookie putting in another superlative performance in qualifying to take the final pole position of the season – his sixth in his rookie year. It was a close run duel with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), however, with the number 93 losing out by just 0.032 despite a crash in FP4. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), another man with some serious pace so far, converted that into a front row start and he’ll start third.
The chill had been taken out the day by the time qualifying came around, and in Q1 it was Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) vs Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in a duel for supremacy – with the former coming out on top, but by just 0.005. Johann Zarco (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was the man who just lost out in P13, with the 12 men ahead of him then heading out to fight for pole.
Given his performances in qualifying so far this season, it was no surprise to see Quartararo on provisional pole after the first run, but Miller was coming. The Australian was able to take over at the top as the riders headed back out, but it didn’t take too long for Quartararo to strike back. Provisionally fastest once again and Marquez taking over in second, there remained one more shot at it for most. Could the reigning Champion ruin the rookie party?
As the clock ticked down, many were still pushing but the timing screens remained resolutely free of red. Quartararo couldn’t better himself, and Marquez and Miller had no answer for the Frenchman. So a sixth pole of the season is the number 20’s sign off from rookie Saturdays, and he’ll be aiming, as ever, for a maiden win on Sunday. But Marquez will doubtless be keen to stand in his way as he homes in on 400 points, with Miller with his own high stakes as he aims to stop Quartararo taking the title of top Independent Team rider too.
On the second row it’s Sepang winner Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) in fourth, with Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in a solid fifth. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) slotted into sixth as the only man who improved on his final lap, aiming to stop Marquez from giving Repsol Honda the teams’ Championship.
Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) got the better of Q1 graduate and teammate Alex Rins to take seventh, with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) completing the third row alongside the two Suzukis. Ducati Team’s Danilo Petrucci rounds out the top 10 in Valencia.
Pol Espargaro managed to beat Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) to P11, with the KTM man aiming even higher on race day. But on that race day, Rossi will be eager to hit back and move a good way forward – with Saturday sessions largely having seen ‘The Doctor’ further forward, despite a tough Friday.
Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team), meanwhile, will begin an emotionally-charged final race of his career from 16th.
Can Quartararo grab that first MotoGP™ win before the 2019 season comes to a close? The scrap for the final 25 points of the year looks set to be a cracker, with plenty on the table and history guaranteed to be made. Tune in for the Valencia GP at 14:00 local time (GMT+1).
1 – Fabio Quartararo* (FRA – Yamaha) 1’29.978
2 – Marc Marquez (SPA – Honda) +0.032
3 – Jack Miller* (AUS – Ducati) +0.108
*Independent Team rider
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