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Reigning Moto3™ Junior World Champion Nicolo Bulega flies at the Jerez circuit, taking a career first pole from Binder and Navarro.
Qualifying for the Moto3™ World Championship started under beautiful blue skies in Jerez, ambient temperature steadily climbing above 22°C as the track maintained a solid 25°C temperature. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) came into the session with the fastest time of the weekend, having set a 1’46.575 in Free Practice 3 just before the lunch break.
Early in the session a number of riders had their lap times cancelled for exceeding the track limits. Riding on the curbs is permitted, but at soon as a rider goes beyond them their time is cancelled, in Jerez Turn 10 and 13 were the corners to watch.
Times were slow to improve in the session, riders setting a decent banker lap at the start before returning to the pits for various setup changes. Championship leader Binder gleefully used the clear track to set some of his personal best times. This spurred on his rivals to up their pace and Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) soon set the first 1’46 of the session. His time at the top wouldn’t last as 2015 FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship champion, Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) dropped to a 1’46.223, the fastest lap of the weekend.
The minutes continued to count down and it appeared as though the Italian rookie would be able to take his first pole position in just his fifth race start. As his time was under a tenth from Jack Miller’s 2014 pole record, a very special lap would be needed. The entire Moto3™ field headed out together with six minutes remaining to try and best Bulega’s time with the aid of a slipstream. None would be able to usurp the lanky Italian.
Bulega will be looking to shake the pole position curse of Jerez, no riding having won the lightweight class race from pole position in ten years. In a class as full of surprises at Moto3™, the only certainty is that Bulega won’t be alone come race day.
Pole may have escaped him by 0.213s, but Brad Binder lines up in prime position to challenge for victory as the South African starts second. During the dying moments, he was able to produce some fast sectors but encountered too much traffic to make anything happen. Over the course of the weekend Binder has been strong in all sessions and will no doubt be in the hunt for the podium again.
For the third race in a row, Navarro will start on the front row of the grid. Like Binder, Navarro is yet to take victory in the lightweight class and doing so in front of his home crowd would not only be a great achievement, but also do his championship challenge a world of good.
Heading the second row, Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) produced a great result for Mahindra who are so far having a difficult season. The MGP3O didn’t have the power to match the KTMs and Hondas in the opening rounds, but the tighter Jerez circuit plays to the incredible chassis of the bike.
Despite a fall in the middle of the session, Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) was able to qualify in fifth. It hasn’t been an easy weekend for the Italian who hasn’t quite had the speed to crack the top three. He's also looking for his first finish at Jerez in three years.
Enea Bastianini completed an all-Italian second row of the grid. Like Antonelli he suffered a fall at Turn 2, unable to improve his time after the crash.
Having come into the weekend carrying a flu and ending practice down in 24th on combined times, Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) rocketed up to seventh in Qualifying. Like Bulega, Mir was forged in the battles of the FIM CEV Repsol, the pair a testament to the high level of the Junior World Championship.
Juanfran Guevara (RBA Racing Team), Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) completed the top ten. Bulega’s 0.213s advantage over Binder was the single biggest gap between any two riders inside the top 29 who were all within two seconds of each other.
Karel Hanika (Platinum Bay Real Estate) also suffered a fall in the middle of the session. Davide Pizzoli (Procercasa – 42 Motorsport) had his third crash of the weekend, falling at Turn 6. All riders avoided serious injuries in their falls.
It’s all about Sunday now, Warm Up beginning at 08:400 Local Time before racing roars into action for the lightweight class at 11:00 Local Time.
Full Qualifying results can be seen here.
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