The rookie takes a sensational sixth pole, but this time Gardner gets set to start alongside.
Raul Fernandez came out on top in another Red Bull KTM Ajo qualifying duel at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas as the top two in the World Championship lineup P1 and P2 on the grid for Sunday’s race. Points leader Gardner was 0.320 off Fernandez’ 2:08.979 as the rookie kept the upper hand on Saturday though, with Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) earning a first front row start since the German GP in P3.
Marcos Ramirez (American Racing) found some pace to top the session by three tenths, ahead of Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) as the rookie Italian got the job done in second to move through. The gaps from there were tiny, with Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) just another 0.014 off and Tony Arbolino (Liqui Moly Intact GP) 0.040 off Chantra.
That was enough to see them move through and that denied Marcel Shrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP), and it was a tough session for Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) as the home hero ended Q1 in P12.
Di Giannantonio topped the early stages of Moto2™ Q2 but with just over five minutes to go, Gardner propelled himself to the top although only by 0.063. Raul Fernandez was third and two tenths down on his title rival after his opening efforts, with Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) and home hero Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) inside the provisional top five too early doors.
With four minutes left, Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) crashed unhurt while down in P15, and then all eyes turned to Raul Fernandez. The Spaniard was 0.029 under Gardner’s time at the second split, and then an impressive three tenths faster through Sector 3. Sure enough, it was destination P1 for Raul Fernandez on his final flying lap, a scorching time that secured pole at COTA. Gardner is forced to settle for second but will be happy to have homed in on Saturda, with Diggia hanging onto the front row.
Behind Raul Fernandez, Gardner and Diggia at the head of the field, Bezzecchi and Beaubier held station in the latter stages to claim P4 and P5 in Texas, the American picking up his best Moto2™ qualifying result – less than two tenths away from a front row as his MotoAmerica experience and home magic come to the fore. Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) will start from the outside of Row 2 in P6.
Rookie Arbolino picks up his best Q2 result since the Italian GP, and he’s seventh ahead of fellow rookie Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia). Reigning Moto3™ World Champion Albert Arenas (Inde Aspar Team) in ninth and Vietti in 10th makes it six rookies inside the top 10 in Moto2™ qualifying – a phenomenal job from the less experienced riders in the intermediate class at a challenging and long circuit.
Raul Fernandez vs Remy Gardner: a Sunday showdown between the teammates and title rivals awaits in Texas, but who will come out on top? And can Beaubier claim a dream home GP podium? Find out when the Moto2™ race kicks off at 12:20 local time (GMT-5)!
Moto2™ front row:
1 Raul Fernandez – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 2’08.979
2 Remy Gardner – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – +0.320
3 Fabio Di Giannantonio – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – Kalex – +0.478
Raul Fernandez: “I’m really happy, it was an incredible lap, especially because we changed the tyre in the middle of the practice, and I was really happy. I was a bit surprised, I didn’t know before changing the tyre how to improve but when I saw the laptime I thought wow, amazing! It was really difficult ride this weekend with the bumps but in the end I’m really competitive, but so is Remy at this track and I hope tomorrow we’ll have a good fight.”
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