Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) will start from a maiden pole position in the HJC Helmets Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland, taking the honour from compatriot Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) by just 0.057 at the Sachsenring. It’s 18 years since the last time there was a Japanese 1-2 in the lightweight class, with Youichi Ui and Nobby Ueda heading the field in the the 2001 South African GP. Sasaki will also be the first Japanese rider to start from pole position in the lightweight class since Youichi Ui in 2003, with compatriot Hiroki Ono taking the honour in his home Grand Prix in 2016 but later receiving a grid penalty. Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) completes the front row.
Another key headline sees Championship leader Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) start from P22, his worst qualifying in over two years, after exiting pitlane for his second and final time attack too late, missing the chance at another flying lap. He’ll start from the eighth row and faces a fight back on Sunday if he’s to keep the points lead.
But before all that, a sunny Sachsenring greeted the grid once again on Saturday, and in Q1 it was rooke Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) who topped the session to moved through, joined by Dennis Foggia (Sky Racing Team VR46), Assen podium finisher Jakub Kornfeil (Redox Prüstel GP) and Le Mans winner John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing). By that stage Canet was already out, as was fellow Championship challenger Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers), giving Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) the opportunity to capitalise.
Dalla Porta did, and behind Sasaki, Toba and Ramirez, the Italian starts fourth and heads up Row 2. He’s joined by Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers Team) just 0.032 in arrears, and although the veteran had a laptime cancelled, it remains his best qualifying performance since his return to the class. Jakub Kornfeil, from Q1, completes the second row.
Albert Arenas (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team) took P7 and has Dennis Foggia for close company, with Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) locking out the third row. McPhee took P10 from Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0) by an infinitesimal 0.001, with rookie Can Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) pushed down to 12th by just 0.006 after a solid weekend so far for the Turk.
Filip Salač (Redox Prüstel GP) continued his roll of improved pace into qualifying and starts P13, ahead of Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and rookie Raul Fernandez (Sama Qatar Angel Nieto Team), who was one of the fastest on Friday. Ogura is next up, ahead of Antonelli, who looks to make some serious moves forward on Sunday to take some solid points and at least gain on Canet in the standings despite missing out on the chance to make the most of it.
What will race day bring? Sasaki and Toba lead the troops into Round 9 at 11:00 (GMT +2), with the likes of Canet, Arbolino and Antonelli looking for a quick way through the pack.
1 – Ayumu Sasaki (JPN – Honda) 1’41.232
2 – Kaito Toba (JPN – Honda) +0.057
3 – Marcos Ramirez (SPA – Honda) +0.171