Pole position for Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo). We’ve said that five times already this year and the Spaniard made it six at the Grande Premio MEO de Portugal in a Moto3™ qualifying session that might have huge consequences on the title outcome. Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) and Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) line-up on the front row for the first time this season as Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) comes through Q1 to beat Championship leader Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3). Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) starts from P27, a disaster for the Italian.
Round 15: Moto3™ Q1 at the Portuguese Grand Prix
At 12:35 local time in southern Portugal, the most important 15 minutes of Ogura and Arbolino’s careers kicked off. Both riders were in Q1 and with Arenas straight into Q2, the pressure needed to be mounted on the Spaniard from the Japanese and Italian riders. But in the opening half of the session, neither of the title contenders were heading through. Arbolino was P7, Ogura hadn’t even set a time.
Ogura had come down pitlane twice and with under four minutes to go, Ogura still hadn’t set a lap time. Worrying times for the Honda Team Asia crew, Ogura didn’t look happy and it was now all or nothing for Japan’s young star. He’d have just one lap to and Arbolino was also in trouble. Two red sectors for the Italian was followed by him sitting up as he hit traffic. It was one lap for the pair of them to grab unbelievably crucial Q2 places.
Round 15: Moto3™ Q2 at the Portuguese Grand Prix
Arbolino was again encountering traffic and at the first split, he was 0.6 seconds down. This wasn’t happening for the Valencia GP winner, but Ogura was getting the business done. Ogura took the chequered flag and jumped to P2, Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power) then shoved him down to P3 but Ogura was safe. Just. However, Arbolino’s afternoon was a disaster. The Snipers rider ended Q1 in P13, signalling a P27 start.
An outstandingly tense Moto3™ Q1 saw Binder, Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse), Ogura and Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) go through. Now, it was the battle for pole position in sunny Portugal. The nerves and tension were palpable as the final lightweight class qualifying of 2020 burst into life.
Alcoba set the first benchmark time, the Spaniard had Arenas tucked in behind him in the early stages as Andrea Migno (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) were early crashers, riders ok. Fernandez then sat on provisional pole with a 1:48.051 but half the riders were yet to set a time – Ogura included. Arenas was provisional P4 as he and the rest of the riders who had completed a time pitted, as Ogura then started his first flying lap of Q2 with just over two minutes remaining.
3...2...1... ????♂️#PortugueseGP ???????? pic.twitter.com/FsqcOCfWio— MotoGP™???? (@MotoGP) November 21, 2020
However, at Turn 5, Ogura had a big moment and that was his lap ruined. Arenas piled out of pitlane needing to get a wriggle on to get a final lap in, Ogura was safely round for what would be his only real attempt. Ogura was just over a tenth down through Sector 1 as huge drama followed for the riders trying to get around for a lap. Arenas was included and they took the chequered flag, missing out on a final flying lap by inches, with Ogura estimated P11 coming around the final corner.
A brilliant last sector followed for Ogura though. The Japanese rider took the chequered flag and stuck his Honda in P5, one place ahead of title rival Arenas. A monumental and brilliant last lap from Ogura sees him start ahead of Arenas and with half of the riders missing out on a last lap, Fernandez held onto P1 for his sixth pole position of 2020. Rookie of the Year Alcoba will launch from his best Moto3™ starting slot, Sasaki joins them on the front row for his best qualifying of the year.
That could be a crucial save from @AiOgura79! ✊#PortugueseGP ???????? pic.twitter.com/wuXu5Nea1u— MotoGP™???? (@MotoGP) November 21, 2020
The second row is a spicy one. Suzuki spearheads it from compatriot Ogura, Arenas is P6. A massive Sunday is coming up and all eyes will be on those two riders and 27th place Arbolono. Antonelli starts P7 and is joined on the third row by Leopard Racing’s Dennis Foggia and Jaume Masia, but they both have long lap penalties to take in the race. Rodrigo’s crash meant he could do no better than P10 – not a disaster for the Argentine rider though.
A bonkers final Moto3™ qualifying session of the year means this for the title-chasing trio: Ogura 5th, Arenas 6th, Arbolino 27th. Who are you backing for glory on Sunday? Anything can happen, so make sure you tune in to see a World Champion being crowned at 11:00 local time (GMT+0) on Sunday morning.
1. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) – 1:48.051
2. Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) + 0.185
3. Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) + 0.240
4. Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) + 0.291
5. Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) + 0.315
6. Albert Arenas (Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3) + 0.427
7. Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) + 0.478
8. Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) + 0.842
9. Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) + 0.859
10. Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) + 0.869
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