Australian Grand Prix, Phillip Island: Moto3 qualifying report
Red-flagged and re-started with only four minutes left on the clock after a crash for Juanfran Guevara (RBA Racing Team) in the constantly challenging Phillip Island weather, Moto3™ qualifying was a stunning rush to the line – and it was 2016 Moto3™ World Champion Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) who navigated the four minute drama the best, topping the timesheets as a whole host of riders swept over the line to improve on their final attempts.
Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) was the man at the top until Binder’s last lap, and the Frenchman was only 0.094 off the South African’s best, but was then disqualified for a technical infringement. Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) then moved up from P3 on the timesheets to start second, after a session marred by drama for the Italian rookie.
Bulega was quick on Friday and spent a good time in the session on provisional pole, but was just pipped to the honour in the last few seconds. The Italian had one incident before the red flag with Francesco Bagnaia (Pull&Bear Aspar Mahindra) that saw Bulega running off, but he was able to get back out on track following the stoppage and takes another front row start in an impressive first appearance at Phillip Island.
Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA Racing Team) converted his practice promise into qualifying pace to go third quickest in the session, with John McPhee (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) managing the same for an impressive top five as the track conditions improved. Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV) was sixth, ahead of polesitter last time out Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46).
Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate) had his best qualifying to date with an impressive laptime to put him well within the top ten in P8, ahead of Jorge Martin (Pull&Bear Aspar Mahindra) and Martin’s teammate Bagnaia, who completed the top ten. Bagnaia also received a penalty of three grid positions, moving him down the grid on race day.
Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing) was one big loser in the session as an untimely crash saw the Italian pushed down from the top echelons of the timesheets to P15 by the flag, with Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) also suffering a similar fate and ending QP in P22.
Contenders for P2 in the Championship – Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) – both had tough sessions, ending up P13 and P16 respectively and looking to charge back through the field, gaining some positions due to the penalties applied further up the grid.
Moto3™ get down to racing on Sunday at 13:00 local time (GMT +11), with Navarro and Bastianini locked in the battle for second as Binder attempts to take another victory to crown his Championship success once again.