Tough Assen qualifying for Maverick Viñales & Aleix Espargaro
Team SUZUKI ECSTAR riders Aleix Espargaró and Maverick Viñales will start tomorrow’s Motul TT Assen MotoGP™ race in the Netherlands from the third and fourth rows after rain played a part in today’s final qualifying.
In the morning’s dry FP3, Viñales and Espargaró both transferred directly to Q2 following their strong third and eighth positions respectively. But times dropped-off dramatically in FP4 and the two all-important qualifying sessions following the showers and a change to wet tyres.
Espargaro had to struggle with the tyre at the very beginning of the qualifying session, not being able to find a good feeling with the soft one and having to switch pretty soon to the hard. Then, some traffic on track prevented him to do a clean lap for the time attack. His feeling is positive, however, as the improvements done and the race pace set him as a contender in such a pack race as Assen is expected to be.
Viñales was an early casualty of Q2, slipping off his GSX-RR at the start and having to transfer to his second machine, which messed-up the team’s strategy for a new set of tyres for the time attack. The Spaniard, however, could work intensively both on dry and wet to find a good set-up for the race pace, giving him good hopes for tomorrow’s race.
Because of a penalty to Andrea Iannone – who will start from the back – Maverick Viñales will start one place ahead in tomorrow’s race, meaning from 11th.
“Today the weather seemed to say ‘welcome to Assen’! As we expected the rain came to mix up the cards and actually the qualifying classification is a bit strange. This morning in the dry I could make important improvements and this paid off, then in the afternoon with the rain we had to start from zero. In qualifying I exited with the soft tyre but I immediately felt it was not performing as I wanted because I had a lot of spinning on the straight, so I decided not to lose time and get immediately a hard one. Unfortunately, after that I found some traffic on the track right when I was pushing for my time attack, and I couldn’t do better. It’s a pity because I felt comfortable and I believe that without this inconvenience I could have fought for the first row, but this is racing and it’s ok. I feel confident because I have a good feeling with the machine both in dry and wet, so for me the weather will not be a variable and with a good start I think I could be fighting for the top positions.”
“I’m disappointed because the crash at the very beginning of the qualifying session ruined the work we were doing which was really positive. In the morning I’ve been very fast and also my pace in FP4 proved to be good, my feeling was good and I was enthusiastic for the qualifying. Unfortunately, I had this crash, I cannot even explain what happened because I was riding very carefully as it was one of the early laps. Anyhow, this interfered with our strategy; the idea was to run some laps with the soft and then go for the hard, but I lost time with the crash and then finally there was no time for a tyre change. It’s a pity, probably we can learn from this experience, but at the same time I feel confident for the race because the race pace is good. Usually in Assen the race is a pack race, so I’ll try to make a very good first lap to recover positions and then fight for a good place at the end.”