Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) will start the Pramac Generac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix from his first ever pole position at Phillip Island, with the Spaniard coming out on top on a cold and windy Saturday Down Under to hit the landmark. Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) made a late leap up the timesheets to take second, with 2018 Phillip Island winner Albert Arenas (Gaviota Angel Nieto Team) completing the front row.
Some early drama hit the field in Q1, with a bike dropping some fluid and a good few then affected by the track conditions just behind. The Red Flag therefore came out and everyone headed back in – riders all ok – as work began to get the track ready to race once again. Once conditions had improved and the green light was back on, it was Tom Booth-Amos (CIP – Green Power) setting the pace.
Wind, spots of rain and the delay couldn’t deter the majority from a final push, however, and there were tense times for the Brit as red sectors lit up the timing screens in the final few seconds of the session. Can Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) emerged on top, with Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) slotting into second ahead of Jaume Masia (Mugen Race). Booth-Amos was pushed down to fourth, but nonetheless joined the other three in going through into Q2, a first for him.
Come Q2, everything went down to the wire in a mad Moto3™ rush, although a few were sidelined a little earlier than they would have wanted: Arbolino suffered an issue and pulled off and Motegi polesitter Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) took a tumble at Doohan corner, taking them out the fight for pole. As the laps kept coming in, the two were pushed down the order in an expensive session – Arbolino to P13 and Antonelli to P18, although the latter will leapfrog Stefano Nepa (Reale Avintia Arizona 77) after a grid penalty for the number 82. Antonelli also has to be reviewed before Warm Up to check if he’s fit to race.
In the final shuffle, it was Ramirez on provisional pole and Ramirez still very much on a charge – but there were plenty of red sectors on the timing screens. Ultimately the Spaniard would hold onto it, crossing the line to improve once again as Arenas followed him home. But Canet was coming, and the Spaniard was glued onto the rear of key rival and Championship leader Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing). Would it be enough for pole?
Not quite, but the number 44 shot up to second to take a front row start and is the lead title contender on the grid, with Dalla Porta pushed down to sixth.
John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) qualified fourth, just ahead of a resurgent Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) and Dalla Porta locking out the second row. Andrea Migno (Mugen Race) heads up Row 3 ahead of Romani Fenati (VNE Snipers) and Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46), with Vietti getting the better of teammate Dennis Foggia by less than a tenth.
Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) was 11th ahead of Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse), with Arbolino in P13 after his issue. Booth-Amos took a career-best 14th ahead of Jaume Masia (Mugen Race), who crashed – rider ok. Öncü, Nepa and Antonelli were the final three in the session, although Nepa takes his penalty.
It’s advantage Canet after qualifying, but not by much as Dalla Porta is only a row behind him. With they duel it out on Sunday? Can Dalla Porta take the title? And what of Arbolino, faced with a fight back? Tune in when Moto3™ go racing at the slightly later time of 12:00 (GMT +11) Down Under.
1 – Marcos Ramirez (SPA – Honda) 1’38.976
2 – Aron Canet (SPA – KTM) +0.184
3 – Albert Arenas (SPA – KTM) +0.268
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