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Qualifying for Moto3™ in Austin saw tthe track change conditions multiple times, Oettl keeping his cool for pole from Navarro and Bastianini
After a shower just before the lunch break, Qualifying began under heavy skies but with the rain holding off. The track was not yet fully dry as the pit lane opened and riders first went out with wet tyres. As the activity increased, the track quickly dried. Most riders did just two laps on their wet tyres before returning to the pits for slicks with over half an hour to go. Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) was the first to hit the track with slicks, soft in the front and rear.
The Moto3™ World Championship Qualifying began to pick up stream as Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) began to improve his times, dropping under the 2’20 barrier with 27 minutes remaining. Slicks were now clearly the choice for the remainder of the session even though times were still three seconds off the pace of FP2.
Everything looked to be progressing well until the rain flag was brought out with 20 minutes remaining. Riders out on track pushed for a final fast lap before any water settled on track. The field would soon be sent back to the pits once again. Riders returned, but many kept their helmets and tyre warmers on, ready to go back out on track as soon as the rain stopped.
With ten minutes remaining riders were back out again with slick tyres fitted, was a hectic battle for pole position just beyond the horizon? Several riders down the order would improve their time, but none inside the top ten saw their positions changed.
This saw Oettl secure the first pole position of his career. The German rider has frequently shown well in practice but has struggled to complete a single fast during Qualifying. His work ethic saw him complete more laps than any other rider in the early part of the session. A 2’18.398 may have been three seconds off the pole record, but he was still half a second faster than anyone else in the session.
Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) will line up second on the grid, repeating his front row start from Argentina. The last two times Navarro has started from the front row he has gone on to finish on the podium, a foreboding sign for Sunday’s race. With 29 points, Navarro is just seven points shy of the lead in the championship. As both of his rivals start outside the top ten, Austin could be a perfect chance for the Spaniard to grab the points lead.
For the first time in 2016, Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) will start from the front row as the Italian took third in the session. It has so far been a disappointing start to the year as he has claimed just 11 points and has only once scored points.
Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) and Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) will head the second row of the grid. The entire top five took huge benefit from setting a banker lap during the first dry period of the session.
In just his third World Championship race, Adam Norrodin (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) will start sixth. This comes just a week after the Malaysian produced a spirited ride in Argentina to challenge for the podium before falling at the final corner.
Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing), Jules Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold), Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) and Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV) formed the top ten. Times were more spread out than usual due to the unusual conditions of the session. Many of the big names and championship hopefuls in the lightweight class missed out on the top ten, unable to make the most of limited dry track time.
Championship leader Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) will start in 12th place while Qatar GP winner Nicolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) will launch from down in 30th place.
Karel Hanika (Platinum Bay Real Estate) crashed at Turn 14 with Stefano Valtulini (3570 Team Italia) suffering a third crash of the weekend at Turn 15.
Full results from the session are available here.
Racing begins for the Moto3™ World Championship at 11:00 Local Time on Sunday.
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