Rossi wins three-way fight for 52nd pole position

Valentino Rossi speeds to pole
Valentino Rossi speeds to pole

Tension hung in the air as the 12 fastest MotoGP World Championship riders zipped up their leathers and pulled on their helmets before stepping out to fight for pole position. Jerez is the shortest circuit of the opening four rounds, crew chiefs and their riders discussing one or two strop strategies until the final moments. As in almost every session at the Gran Premio Red Bull de Espana, Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was the first out of pit lane. Lorenzo, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), who had advanced through Q1, were the only riders to head out with the hard front tyre. The entire field had soft rears fitted from the start.

Straight away times were in the mid 1’39s, matching what riders had done during practice as Jorge Lorenzo seized the early lead. Both he and Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) came into the pits to switch bikes early, the pair looking as though they would opt for a three run strategy. Lorenzo immediately returned to the pits and had the new tyros fitted to his first bike.

Meanwhile Marquez had overtaken the lead of the session with a 1’39.064 and went back into the pits for new tyros, remaining on the same bike. Times were largely unchanged as the rest of the field had also returned for their second set of Michelin tyros.

With new tyros on his preferred bike, Lorenzo put the hammer down straight away and set a 1’38.858 to jump into provisional pole. Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) was able to benefit from the lap as he expertly stuck in the slipstream.

Marquez tried to respond to Lorenzo’s lap but once again the final sector proved to be his downfall. He had just one lap left to do it, fans edged forward in their seats as Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) began his final lap with roaring pace as wellLorenzo immediately returned to the pits and had the new tires fitted to his first bike. Rossi was the first to cross the line, producing a 1’38.736 to push Lorenzo to second. It was all down to Marquez, could he snatch a third straight pole?

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Try as he might the Spaniard has unable to overcome the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP duo as Rossi claimed his first pole since the Dutch TT in 2015. This is the first time since 2009 that Rossi has started on the front for three consecutive races and his 52 premier class pole position.

He may be in the best qualifying form in over half a decade, but Rossi won’t have it easy on race day as both Lorenzo and Marquez are out for home glory. Lorenzo’s time made it a Yamaha 1-2 as the duo were split by 0.122s, clearly the YZR-M1 is working incredibly well at the Jerez circuit. As shown in FP4, Lorenzo is easily able to lap in the 1'39s from the start of a run. This is Lorenzo’s fourth front row start of the year, third in Argentina his worst position of 2016.

Completing the front row, Marc Marquez was unable to catch the super smooth Yamahas. Turns 11 and 12 are the source of all of Marquez’s problems as he ended 0.155s back on Rossi. All three of the leading trio have had races decided at the final corner in Jerez, will it be three across into Turn 13 on Sunday?

As the battle for pole raged, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) quietly went about his business as he secured fourth on the grid. It’s clear the leading trio are a league above, Dovizioso 0.844s back on Lorenzo and 0.689s off a front row start. Fourth on the grid is a great result for Ducati and Dovizioso as the factory team has struggled massively throughout the weekend.

Two Team Suzuki Ecstar bikes completed the second row of the grid, Maverick Viñales out qualifying Aleix Espargaro for the fourth time in 2016. Incredibly Viñales was only 0.001s behind Dovizioso and Espargaro was just 0.007s back on his teammate. The leading three may be set for an exclusive battle for victory, but the fight for fourth place is building to be just as exciting.

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) will start from the head of the third row in front of Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing). A very Spanish affair.

The fourth row will feature Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) and Loris Baz (Avintia Racing). Iannone had appeared to find some speed in Free Practice 3, but was not able to carry it over to Q2 as he qualified outside the front two rows for the first time in 2016.

Warm Up begins at 09:40 Local Time on Sunday with the Gran Premio Red Bull de España commencing at 14:00 Local Time.

Results

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Constructor Time/Gap
1 ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 1'38.736
2 LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 1'38.858
3 MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 1'38.891
4 DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA Ducati Team Ducati 1'39.580
5 VINALES Maverick 25 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki 1'39.581
6 ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki 1'39.588
7 PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 1'39.678
8 ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 1'39.720
9 BARBERA Hector 8 SPA Avintia Racing Ducati 1'39.742
10 CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR LCR Honda Honda 1'39.881
11 IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA Ducati Team Ducati 1'40.054
12 BAZ Loris 76 FRA Avintia Racing Ducati 1'40.184
13 BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia 1'40.239
14 SMITH Bradley 38 GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 1'40.242
15 LAVERTY Eugene 50 IRE Aspar MotoGP Team Ducati 1'40.292
16 HERNANDEZ Yonny 68 COL Aspar MotoGP Team Ducati 1'40.335
17 REDDING Scott 45 GBR Octo Pramac Racing Ducati 1'40.595
18 BRADL Stefan 6 GER Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia 1'40.835
19 MILLER Jack 43 AUS Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda 1'40.968
20 PIRRO Michele 51 ITA Ducati Team Ducati 1'40.985
21 RABAT Tito 53 SPA Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda 1'41.039

Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director

"We couldn't expect more from our riders today. We were able to start the session with the good basis set-up from yesterday. During the free practice sessions we focused on improving a few areas and we continued to compare different settings and tyre combinations to prepare for both the race and qualifying. The Q2 session was superb, with our riders in first and second place. Vale set a brilliant 1'38.7s that deserved pole position. Jorge, despite the vibrations of one of his tyres, has been able to score a 1'38.8s and take second place. We still have a bit of room to improve the bikes and weigh our options and decide which tyres we will start tomorrow's race on. We will finalise our setting during warm-up tomorrow and we look forward to a strong race."

Valentino Rossi

1st / 1'38.736 / 8 laps

"We worked a lot because last year we struggled during qualifying. This year, with the Michelin tyres, I feel better and I already started on the front row two times, but pole position is something different, especially here in Jerez. I knew I could be competitive, but during the last races we had some problems and I made a mistake in Austin. We didn't take the results we expected, so we have to start doing so now. For sure tomorrow will be very hard with Lorenzo and Marquez, but we are there and we can fight."

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