Pol Espargaro edges Rins to pole at European GP

Pol Espargaro pic: MotoGP.com

KTM’s Pol Espargaro has edged Suzuki’s Alex Rins to pole position for the European Grand Prix in Valencia.

Barely more than four hundredths of a second split the pair at the end of Qualifying 2 on a drying Circuit Ricardo Tormo, where Takaaki Nakagami put his Idemitsu LCR Honda third on the grid.

Championship leader Joan Mir ended up fifth on the second Suzuki, one spot up on Jack Miller and ahead of his title rivals also.

Despite the presence of sunshine over the race track, rain earlier in the day meant the field ran on wets throughout.

Rins started off with a 1:42.420s on #42 and while he improved on his second flyer, he was still knocked off top spot by Mir’s 1:41.662s.

Nakagami was next to lead with a 1:41.618s but that was quickly bettered by Franco Morbidelli’s first flyer, a 1:41.557s on the #21 Petronas SRT Yamaha.

Rins regained the ascendancy with a 1:41.254s before Nakagami moved the benchmark to a 1:40.530s just ahead of the final five minutes.

Miller, who was fastest in both of the Friday sessions before sitting out Free Practice 3, was still just starting his first and only run at that point.

The Pramac Ducati rider threatened to immediately take over first position before nearly crashing at the final corner on his way to a 1:40.893s that left #43 in second spot.

Rins had been shuffled back to fifth when he rebounded with a 1:40.525s as Nakagami hit the deck at the final corner.

Johann Zarco was over seven tenths up on the fastest lap at the third sector split as that was going on but failed to improve on the lap as a whole, although it would not have counted anyway due to the yellow flag covering #30’s spill.

The yellows were withdrawn by the time Espargaro rode his Red Bull KTM Factory entry to a 1:40.434s in the 15th and final minute of the session, before Rins got in a 1:40.475s which would ultimately be academic.

What was not academic was Mir’s 1:40.704s after the chequered flag, which elevated #36 to fourth.

The Spaniard ended up fifth after Zarco, who went through Qualifying 1 but was again threatening for pole, put in a 1:40.577s having nearly binned his Esponsorama Ducati at the final corner.

Miller was sixth all told with no improvement on his first flying lap, ahead of Aleix Espargaro (Gresini Aprilia), Q1 graduate Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3), and Morbidelli.

The latter is fourth in the championship at the equivalent of a race away from Mir, with team-mate Fabio Quartararo second in the standings but only 11th in qualifying for the European Grand Prix.

Splitting the SRT Yamahas on the timesheet was Red Bull KTM Factory’s Brad Binder, while Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was slowest in the second 15-minute hit-out.

Stefan Bradl ended up 13th having vied for a berth in Q2, with Repsol Honda team-mate Alex Marquez and Castrol LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow to start next to him.

The latter was sixth-fastest in Q1 but will be elevated one position on the grid due to Maverick Viñales’ pit lane start after the #12 Monster Energy Yamaha entry moved to a sixth engine for the season.

Valentino Rossi is similarly set to take up 17th on the grid on the other factory Yamaha, having missed Friday’s running as he awaited a second negative COVID-19 test result.

The 27-lap race is set to get underway on Monday morning at 00:00 AEDT.

Qualifying: European MotoGP

Pos Num Rider Nat Team Bike Time Gap 1st/Prev
1 44 Pol ESPARGARO ESP Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM 1:40.434
2 42 Alex RINS ESP Team SUZUKI ECSTAR Suzuki 1:40.475 0.041 / 0.041
3 30 Takaaki NAKAGAMI JPN LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda 1:40.530 0.096 / 0.055
4 5 Johann ZARCO FRA Esponsorama Racing Ducati 1:40.577 0.143 / 0.047
5 36 Joan MIR ESP Team SUZUKI ECSTAR Suzuki 1:40.704 0.270 / 0.127
6 43 Jack MILLER AUS Pramac Racing Ducati 1:40.893 0.459 / 0.189
7 41 Aleix ESPARGARO ESP Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia 1:40.997 0.563 / 0.104
8 88 Miguel OLIVEIRA POR Red Bull KTM Tech 3 KTM 1:41.328 0.894 / 0.331
9 21 Franco MORBIDELLI ITA Petronas Yamaha SRT Yamaha 1:41.557 1.123 / 0.229
10 33 Brad BINDER RSA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM 1:41.781 1.347 / 0.224
11 20 Fabio QUARTARARO FRA Petronas Yamaha SRT Yamaha 1:41.943 1.509 / 0.162
12 04 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA Ducati Team Ducati 1:42.249 1.815 / 0.306
13 6 Stefan BRADL GER Repsol Honda Team Honda 1:41.010 Q1 / Q1
14 73 Alex MARQUEZ ESP Repsol Honda Team Honda 1:41.276 Q1 / 0.266
15 12 Maverick VIÑALES ESP Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 1:41.310 Q1 / 0.034
16 35 Cal CRUTCHLOW GBR LCR Honda CASTROL Honda 1:41.311 Q1 / 0.001
17 63 Francesco BAGNAIA ITA Pramac Racing Ducati 1:41.395 Q1 / 0.084
18 46 Valentino ROSSI ITA Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 1:42.039 Q1 / 0.644
19 9 Danilo PETRUCCI ITA Ducati Team Ducati 1:42.244 Q1 / 0.205
20 32 Lorenzo SAVADORI ITA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia 1:42.532 Q1 / 0.288
21 53 Tito RABAT ESP Esponsorama Racing Ducati 1:43.030 Q1 / 0.498

Maverick VIÑALES to start from pit lane

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