The Italian is the only man in the 1:38s, with Quartararo second and Rossi ready for his 350th premier class start from a first front row of the year
Saturday, 26 September 2020
Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) can add a maiden pole position to his tally in 2020 as the Italian proved the only man able to dip into the 1:38s in qualifying at the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, only a tenth shy of the lap record. He was two tenths clear of teammate Fabio Quartararo, who starts second, with Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) taking third as the number 46 gets a front row start for his 350th premier class race. Championship leader Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), meanwhile, starts P17…
In Q1 Dovizioso was one of the main names fighting to make it through, but all did not go to plan for the Italian. Ultimately it was Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) who was quickest, with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) snatching second right at the end in some late heartbreak for Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). Rins now lines up in P13, and Dovizioso down in P17.
It was a Yamaha stranglehold at the beginning of Q2 as Morbidelli set the first banker, with Rossi then taking over at the top before his teammate Maverick Viñales hit back. Quartararo, meanwhile, ran wide as he got his YZR-M1 all sorts of crossed up at the tricky Turn 10 – just as his teammate Morbidelli slammed in the fastest lap of the weekend to go provisional pole again with a 1:39.110.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) then also got it wrong at Turn 10 but unlike Quartararo, Oliveira was down – thankfully unhurt. Next to get the hammer down were two Ducatis – Miller and Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing), and Miller only had one set of fresh soft tyres available after coming through Q1. The Aussie made it count though, slotting into second just 0.115 off Morbidelli.
As the final runs dawned, Quartararo then found himself rumbling out of pitlane with five minutes to go having not set a lap time after his earlier Turn 10 moment. The Frenchman and last year’s poleman was P12, but that was soon going to change as four Yamahas lit up the timing screens. Halfway around the lap, Quartararo was 0.132 under Morbidelli’s time, although the number 21 was going even quicker. Over the line though it was Quartararo who improved this time around to a 1:39.008, with Morbidelli unable to – and nor did Viñales. Rossi, however, did, with the ‘Doctor’ leaping up from P7 to P3 to make it a provisional Yamaha front row lockout.
On the next lap, Morbidelli was flying yet again. The San Marino GP winner was 0.082 under Quartararo’s time at Sector 3, but could he hold it through Sector 4? He could. Ultimately, Morbidelli did more than hold his advantage and the final sector was a stunner as he shot to the top, over two tenths clear. Quartararo went in search of a final lap charge but it didn’t materialise for the MotoGP™ sophomore, and no one had an answer for Morbidelli.
That makes it a first premier class pole position for the recent first time winner, with Quartararo set to launch from P2 and ahead of all his closest challengers in the overall standings. Rossi makes it a Yamaha 1-2-3 for the second time in three races and takes his first front row of the season… as well as sounding pretty confident for Sunday.
Miller did an impressive job to qualify P4 as the leading Ducati rider, beating Viñales by just over a tenth as the number 12 lost out on making it another Yamaha 1-2-3-4. To the right of Viñales is Zarco, his final lap moving him up to just 0.007 slower than Viñales’ effort to give the Frenchman his best grid slot since his Czech GP pole.
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) spearheads Row 3 ahead of Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), with both riders also looking like strong contenders in the race – and Mir having already taken a podium from P11 on the grid last weekend. Ducati Team’s Danilo Petrucci joins the Spaniards on the third row for his second consecutive P9 start.
Rookie and Brno winner Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completes the top 10, ahead of Nakagami and Oliveira after the earlier crash for the Portuguese rider.
Will the Championship standings change significantly in 24 hours’ time? Dovizioso leads by one point as it stands and he’s down in 17th, so it seems like Sunday is a prime opportunity for Quartararo, Viñales and Mir to strike back. The Catalan GP promises to be another phenomenal MotoGP™ race, and a pivotal one at that.