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Saturday evenings don’t get much better than that if your name is Darryn Binder. The Petronas Sprinta Racing rider performed wonders to come through Q1 to bag the first pole position of 2021 at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar, setting a 2:04.075 – a new lap record. Reigning FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Champion Izan Guevara (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar) claimed a wonderful debut Grand Prix front row after also progressing from Q1, as the rookie lines up one place ahead of the most experienced Moto3™ rider – third place John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing).
The biggest name to miss out on an automatic Q2 place was Binder, but the South African made no mistake in Q1. A 2:04.834 saw Binder cruise into the pole position shootout, with Guevara, Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) and Riccardo Rossi (BOE Owlride) finishing inside the Q2 promotion places in Q1.
It was a waiting game at the start of the session as all but four riders were sat outside their pit boxes, waiting for other riders and teams to blink first. It wasn’t until nearly five minutes had gone by where everyone ventured out on track, but two of those who didn’t wait around were CIP Green Power’s Kaito Toba and Maximilian Kofler. Toba, the Free Practice pacesetter, set a 2:05.414 to lay down the first benchmark time, but that wasn’t going to stay as the fastest lap for long.
Binder was on fire and in the groove coming out of Q1. The new Petronas recruit made light work of a couple of riders in front of him and his first lap in Q2 was a new lap record, and by some margin. Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) went within a tenth of Binder’s blistering 2:04.354 as two Moto3™ race winners, John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) – tangled at Turn 15, with both chasing improved lap times.
The riders then rumbled back down pitlane, gathered their thoughts and then headed back out for a one-lap dash. However, a lot left it late and for Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3), it was too late. The Argentine took the chequered flag as Toba launched himself into P3, but there was life left in this session for the riders who had snuck over the line for a last lap shot at pole.
Lots of orange sectors lit up the timing screens but three riders were showing red: Binder, Guevara and McPhee. The soon-to-be polesitter Binder was forcing his way through Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in the final sector as he had his eyes firmly set on keeping P1, as up ahead, his teammate and Guevara were threatening.
For about half a second, a dream debut pole position was Guevara’s but Binder returned to P1 with another new lap record. A scintillating end to the first qualifying of the season, and what a front row we have: the rookie sensation Guevera sandwiched by two pre-season title favourites in Binder and McPhee.
Alcoba missed out on a final flying lap but his opening run pace was enough to see him spearhead the second row in P4, Masia and Toba will launch from the second row too in P5 and P6 respectively. Rodrigo, Sergio Garcia (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar) and Rossi set themselves up for a chance of a good start by qualifying inside the top 10, and rounding out the top 10 was Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3).
Binder set Losail alight in qualifying, but Sunday is a whole different ball game. Moto3™ is always a thriller and the opening race of 2021 promises to be just that! Remember the clock changes and tune in at 17:00 local time (GMT+3) to watch the drama unfold.
1. Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing) 2:04.075
2. Izan Guevara (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar) + 0.203
3. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 0.203
4. Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Gresini Racing Moto3) + 0.362
5. Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) + 0.423
6. Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) + 0.598
7. Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Gresini Racing Moto3) + 0.705
8. Sergio Garcia (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar) +0.795
9. Ricardo Rossi (BOE Owlride) + 0.814
10. Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3) + 0.884
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