Pedro Acosta, looked to have high confidence to match his pace as he powered to the top of the timesheets at just the right moment, holding on for his first Moto2 pole ahead of the French Grand Prix, round seven of the championship.
With the lap record being lowered several times in practice, Acosta had set the best time of the weekend earlier in the day in FP3. Although conditions didn’t allow for any further record pace, the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider dropped his time to an unbeatable 1m35.803s with just under five minutes left on the clock.
With most riders opting to not undergo a tyre change and yellow flags on track the lap stood firm as the clock ticked down to give the rookie his first Moto2 pole. Acosta’s previous best in qualifying this season was tenth.
Jake Dixon had talked up improvements found at the Barcelona test between races, but it had not translated to performance this weekend, with something missing – the British rider was in twelfth after FP3.
Everything clicked for the Inde GasGas Aspar rider at just the right time. Slotting in behind Acosta on track paid dividends. Already performing better than he had all weekend, the extra tow pulled Dixon up to second, just 0.118s off the pole time.
Ahead and being chased around by the duo, Augusto Fernandez lead briefly before Acosta and Dixon arrived at the line. The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider held on for third ensuring both of the teams bikes were on the front row, a strong showing ahead of the race.
Sam Lowes was one of the late fallers, one of many riders to be caught out at Garage Vert this weekend. Landing on his shoulder and being clipped by his tumbling bike after a violent highside, the Elf Marc VDS rider returned to the pits top of timing tower and only slipped as far as fourth as he watch the rest of the session unfold in the garage thanks to his early strong lap.
Albert Arenas was one of few riders to opt for a tyre change and it seemed to pay off. On his return to track with new rubber he moved up to fifth on the second Aspar bike, completing a great day for the team.
Alonso Lopez showed why he has been chosen as the new rider at Speed Up. In for the ousted Romano Fenati he has built into the weekend, qualified directly for Q2 and then improved to sixth at the same time the other fast laps were set. The best of the non-Kalex riders, he qualified well ahead of team-mate Fermin Aldeguer – he was 18th after moving up from Q1.
Aron Canet, who is still in recovery mode having had his radius bone plated before the last round, gave everything he had to secure seventh for Flexbox HP40.
Ai Ogura was wise to bank a strong lap as early as possible, he too crashed in the session so was unable to match his performance in Jerez where he converted his first pole to a maiden win. The Idemitsu Honda Team Asia rider could only watch as he slipped to eighth. His team-mate Somkiat Chantra had been the first rider to drop the Le Mans lap record on Friday but was the only other faller in Q2 leaving him an even more lowly eleventh.
Between the two on the grid will be Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team), the best of the riders to graduate from the first qualifying session, in ninth and Tony Arbolino, who only completed two laps on his way to tenth on the second Marc VDS entry.
Lorenzo Dalla Porta surprised by moving up to the second half of qualifying with the best time. The Italian went on to set the 15th best time for Italtrans.
Vietti continues to struggle
After an electric start to the season – two wins and a second place in the first three rounds – Celestino Vietti hit a wall to his progress which is showing no signs of being removed. Austin saw the Italian need to come through Q1 before a fall in the race as he pushed, while the Mooney Vr46 rider was helped massively to claw back points with a huge amount of frontrunners absent for the restart of the Portimao round, where he was running outside the top ten before the red flag. Vietti went on to claim second.
The #13 was again off the pace of the frontrunners in Jerez, finishing sixth.
After his best in FP3 could only lift him to 16th at the chequered flag, Vietti went on to miss out on Q2 for the first time by the finest of margins. His consistent lapping will be useful in the race, and timing on point as an extra go at a top four time was available after crossing the line with one second to spare before the chequered flag – but fifth in Q1 remained Vietti’s best – 19th on the grid.
The time was just 0.051s shy of Dalla Porta’s timesheet topper and just a tiny 0.006s slower than Jorge Navarro who progressed in fourth.
Portimao winner Joe Roberts also did not make it out of Q1, eleventh in the session he will line up 25th for Italtrans.
There were falls in Q1 for Niccolo Antonelli, who has had arm pump surgery between rounds, Sean Dylan Kelly and Alessandro Zaccone so they will fill the back of the grid.
Fenati out, Lopez in
It was all change at MB Conveyors Speed Up with Romano Fenati ousted after just six races in favour of Alonso Lopez.
The team issued a short statement – ‘The Speed Up Team announces the termination of the contract with the rider Romano Fenati’.
The move has some strange parallels – The European Moto2 runner-up was due to partner Fenati in 2020 in Moto3 at Max Racing but had his contract terminated before the season started in favour of Adrian Fernandez.
The Speed Up team are no stranger to personnel changes – current rider Fermin Aldeguer does not enjoy rookie status this season after he was drafted in to replace Yari Montella last season. In 2017 they also removed Axel Bassani in favour of Augusto Fernandez after just four races.
Lopez is no stranger to the Boscoscuro chassis after his previous stint with the team, though his best result to date came on a Kalex when he was a replacement rider for Flexbox HP40, finishing twelfth in Germany.
It is Fenati’s second controverial Moto2 exit, although this time he is on the right side of history. The Italian was previously axed after the mid-race brake incident with Stefano Manzi (who is himself back in action as a replacement rider this weekend in 16th on the grid) which lead to his ban from racing and return to Moto3 to rebuild his racing career, a class where he has been much more successful holding the record for the most wins in the class with thirteen, despite never winning a championship.