Pole for Pol! Espargaro heads Rins and Nakagami as a tenth covers the front row in Valencia
Rins second, Mir fifth, Morbidelli ninth, Quartararo 11th, Dovizioso 12th and Viñales in pitlane sets us up for a rollercoaster race day
Saturday, 07 November 2020
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Espargaro picked up a phenomenal second pole position of 2020 after mastering the wet conditions in Q2 at the Gran Premio de Europa, the Spaniard slamming in a late 1:40.434 to head a front row covered by less than a tenth. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) starts second as the top title challenger, just 0.041 back, with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) claiming the final front row slot despite a late crash. The grid is a fascinating one ahead of lights out, with Championship challengers scattered throughout and, of course, Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) also starting from pitlane due to exceeding his engine allocation.
First, FP4 pacesetter Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and FP3 leader Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) emerged through the Q1 shootout on top in wet but drying conditions. The sun was shining for Q2 but the asphalt still wet; a dry line appearing but nowhere near dry enough to risk slicks. High stakes, anyone?
Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) pulled straight back into pitlane after his out lap, a tyre change on for the Italian, but it wasn’t to slicks. Rins then set a 1:42.420 and the first time of the session, but that was going to be beaten fairly quickly as some of the Q1 contenders dipped into the 1:41s, already dialled in. The number 42 Suzuki did then set a 1:41.714 to extend his lead though, and teammate Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was next up as he went quicker by a tenth to sit on provisional pole.
The Suzuki stranglehold was then beaten by Nakagami as Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) peeled into the pitlane despite being on a great lap, but the lead then changed again. Morbidelli was back on top, but Rins was on a roll and topped the session for the third lap in a row; the Aragon GP winner in fine form.
Nakagami was then on another flyer. The Japanese rider was 0.3 seconds faster at the second split and over half a second up through Sector 3, coming round the final corner and firing his RC213V to the line to take over by seven tenths – goalposts well and truly moved. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) was the first man trying to respond, the Australian straight down to business to take P2 despite waiting to head out, but a mistake at the final corner cost him time.
Meanwhile, Mir then improved his time to go P3 as Dovizioso’s next time was only good enough for P12 as the wet weather form book seemed to take a hit. There was time left yet though and Rins was through the third split 0.041 up, the number 42 just pipping Nakagami by 0.005 seconds over the line. The Japanese rider then crashed at the final corner though, so that was his session over…
In the end, it all came down to a tense final minute. Rins was once again going faster and faster, 0.079 seconds under and looking set to challenge, but there was a flying KTM about to join the party at the top: Pol Espargaro. The Spaniard, who picked up both his and KTM’s first MotoGP™ podium at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in 2018, crossed the line to take provisional pole and show yet more wet weather mastery. Could Rins ruin KTM’s afternoon? Not quite – but it was close. 0.041 was the gap between the two and next attention turned to Zarco, because the Frenchman was flying.
0.196 up through Sector 3 looked like it might be the two-time Moto2™ World Champion’s time to shine, but a mistake at the final corner then saw the Ducati man lose time. Just enough, although it was only covered by a tenth, to lose out on the front row. The number 5 went fourth, and it all came down to Rins. Could the Suzuki rider make one last ditch attempt to snatch pole? Not quite. It was another good lap but the Spaniard had to settle for P2, the search for premier class pole continuing.
And so, another breathless wet qualifying session ends with Pol Espargaro and KTM on top. The number 44 earns his second pole position of the season as Rins claims his second consecutive front row, and that can also be said for Nakagami. Three manufacturers in the top three positions, and all three are looking strong in Valencia. Two could also become the ninth different winner of 2020 on Sunday…
So could Zarco, who was unlucky to miss out on the front row but after negotiating Q1, heading up the second row is a solid Saturday afternoon. Championship leader Mir will launch from P5 after some good work on home soil, and he’s another big candidate to become that ninth winner. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) completes Row 2 and that’s the Aprilia rider’s best Saturday afternoon outing since his P4 at the Czech GP earlier this year, and Aprilia’s best at Valencia in the MotoGP™ era.
After showing strong pace all weekend, Miller was forced to settle for P7 and the head of the third row, ahead of Oliveira. The Portuguese rider was the last man within a second of Pol Espargaro after improving on his last lap. Next up is top Yamaha rider Morbidelli in ninth and the Italian has some work to do on Sunday afternoon, with Mir and Rins ahead of him. Crucially, however, there are three title contenders behind him…
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) rounds out the top 10, the South African just over a tenth faster than one of said title challengers: 11th place Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT). It wasn’t the ideal Saturday for the man second in the standings but thankfully for El Diablo, Sunday looks like it will be dry – he’ll likely be hoping so. Dovizioso’s Q2 didn’t go to plan either, the Italian well adrift of Pol Espargaro by the flag and set to start P12.
And then, in terms of the top six in the standings, there’s Viñales. The Spaniard will start from pitlane on Sunday, looking to do some damage limitation. His returning teammate Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) starts from P17 too… so what can they each do?
The scene is set with a grid that promises another truly stunning Sunday. Will it be a ninth winner? More Championship drama? Another maiden winner? Some history-making is entirely possible, with Pol Espargaro, Nakagami, Zarco and Mir all starting in the top five and on the verge of some serious stats. Tune in for the MotoGP™ race at 14:00 local time (GMT+1) on Sunday for another unmissable twist in the tale of 2020!
MotoGP™ front row
1 Pol Espargaro – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing – KTM – 1:40.434
2 Alex Rins – Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – +0.041
3 Takaaki Nakagami* – LCR Honda Idemitsu – Honda – +0.096
*Independent Team rider
Pol Espargaro: “That qualifying was crazy, we have not so much to lose, we’re not fighting for so much in the Championship. We’re not far but not close enough which is a pity but a reality. Today was difficult because we have three races in a row and these conditions made it so so so difficult to make a good laptime and so easy to crash, so I wanted to finish that session and with a good result, especially after seeing Miguel in Q1 who was very fast. I’m super pleased, I couldn’t believe it when I crossed the line and my mechanic put P1 on the board, it’s difficult to believe because when it comes in difficult situations it’s even more tasty!”
Oliveira set to start European GP from third row
Red Bull KTM Tech3‘s Miguel Oliveira performed strong in today’s proceedings at the Gran Premio de Europa, which were determined by the weather conditions once again. Following a shower this morning, FP3 took place on wet tarmac, therefore the Portuguese had to pass through Q1 this afternoon.
He mastered Free Practice 4 with the fastest time overall to head into Qualifying full of confidence, although the Circuit Ricardo Tormo was still mainly wet after the rain returned around lunchtime. On a slowly drying track Oliveira topped Q1 with an impressive time of 1:40.771 to advance to Q2. In the final session of the day he couldn’t repeat his great lap time, but still finished eighth, which means he‘ll head into the 12th race of 2020 from the third row tomorrow when the red lights turn off at 14:00 local time.
“It was a good day. I’m satisfied with all sessions. I was fast from the first moment in the morning and obviously I’m happy about the result from FP4 and Q1. It could have been slightly better in Q2, but I think overall we can be truly delighted with the eighth starting position for tomorrow’s race.”
MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP DUO END EUROPEAN GP QUALIFYING DAY IN 15TH AND 18TH PLACE
Valencia (Spain), 7th November 2020
GRAND PRIX OF EUROPE
Mixed conditions in Q1 dampened Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP‘s Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi‘s qualifying hopes today. The pair ended the session in fifth and eighth place. Normally this would put them in 15th and 18th position on tomorrow‘s starting grid. However, as Viñales will be starting the European GP from pit lane, Rossi will move up to 17th place.
1‘41.310 / 7 LAPS
1‘42.039 / 9 LAPS
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP‘s Maverick Viñales had to adapt quickly to the fast changing track conditions in Q1. He set the 5th fastest time of the session. Valentino Rossi thoroughly enjoyed being back aboard his YZR-M1 today in Valencia but was unable to put his mark on the Q1 session, taking 18th place overall in qualifying. He will be starting tomorrow‘s race from 17th, as Viñales will be starting from pit lane.
Viñales took a little time to start his Q1 outing following a small crash at the end of FP4. His first lap moved him into fifth place, but the fight was still on. With bright sunshine on one side of the circuit and rain on the other, he had to adapt his riding from a dry line in some places to a full wet track in others.
The drying track conditions meant his rear soft wet tyre degraded rapidly. He made a quick pit stop and with a bit more than 3 minutes remaining was back on his way. He improved to a 1‘41.310s on his seventh and last lap, to finish the session in fifth place, 0.539s from first. Normally this would have put him in 15th place on tomorrow‘s starting grid. However, Viñales will be starting from pit lane as a part of the FIM‘s sanction for using a sixth engine, beyond his allocation.
Rossi ventured out quickly for the 15-minute contest on a still wet Ricardo Tormo track. His first attempt immediately put him in P1, with a provisional 1.131s lead. But the battle for the top two positions was just getting started. The number-46 rider improved his time but not his placement and found himself in third.
The Italian weighed his options and decided to stay out on his first set of wet tyres, cooling them on the wetter parts of the circuit. He pushed to the maximum and squeezed out a 1‘42.039s on lap 6/9, which ultimately put him in 18th place in the overall qualifying results, 1.268s from the top. Due to his team-mate starting tomorrow‘s race from pit lane, he will move up to 17th place on the starting grid.
Things didn‘t go our way out on track today. Though Maverick had a good pace in FP3, he suffered a crash at the end of FP4 and struggled to adapt to the treacherous mixed conditions in Q1.
Valentino, of course, had a big challenge today, having to return to action in tricky conditions whilst having missed yesterday‘s FP1 and FP2 practice time. He did a good job in FP3, especially considering this is his first time on the M1 since the French GP. We were very pleased to see him out on track today, but he hasn‘t quite caught up with our rivals yet, so he wasn‘t able to get through Q1.
Both riders will have to ride a comeback race from the back of the rider field. The team have their work cut out for them tomorrow. The tyres for the race will also be a gamble because we didn’t have any dry sessions this weekend, while the weather forecasts predict a dry race. Warm Up will be quite important, as it’s the only session that might give the right information for the race.
It‘s been a difficult weekend for us so far, but nothing is ever accomplished by getting dejected. We are going to keep fighting and make the most of our capabilities and grab any opportunity we get with both hands.
We know I have to start from pit lane tomorrow. The forecast for a dry race worries me a little, because the grip level is very low. In FP2, which was the driest session we‘ve had so far this weekend, I didn’t feel very comfortable. But I don‘t want to overthink this race too much. I just want to race and be calm about it. If I feel good on track in the dry tomorrow, I will be pushing as hard as I can, and then we‘ll see.
I felt good on the bike today, without any problems. Fortunately, while I was in quarantine I felt always good, only two days were bad, and after it was okay. But anyway, it was difficult because I had to stay home alone for 24 days and it was boring. I had a lot of check-ups, and every time I tested positive. And now, after three weeks, I’m back, and I’m very happy about this. Not riding these last few weeks was not a big problem, but missing FP1 and FP2 is not easy, and also the conditions this afternoon were difficult. This morning I was not so bad, but in the afternoon I suffered more.
CRUTCHLOW ON THE FIFTH ROW AS RAIN HITS VALENCIA QUALIFYING
7 November 2020 | European GP Qualifying
Cal Crutchlow will start the Europa Grand Prix from the fifth row of the grid after a tough day in Valencia on Saturday. The LCR Honda CASTROL rider was unable to advance from a competitive Q1 session as rain again ensured the MotoGP class riders weren’t able to push as expected and the Briton now has work to do heading into Sunday’s race.
Having seen his best lap on Friday chalked off due to a yellow flag, Crutchlow’s fears were confirmed when wet conditions ensured he was unable to break into the top 10 overall in FP3, despite finishing fifth. In a damp Q1 session containing the likes of Alex Marquez, Maverick Vinales and Johann Zarco, Crutchlow had to settle for fifth spot and will now start from 15th on the grid in tomorrow’s race.
Cal Crutchlow – 15th
“Not the qualifying that we expected or wanted today. Unfortunately, I didn’t go directly through to Q2 yesterday and it was always going to be a difficult ask to go through Q1 with the condition of the track and not a great feeling with the Honda in those conditions. We’re all going into the race a little bit blind tomorrow in terms of no dry track time. Hopefully tomorrow morning will be good conditions and we can work on our bike set-up for the race.”
Rain doesn’t dampen the Repsol Honda Team in Valencia
Stefan Bradl led the way for the Repsol Honda Team as he showed off incredible wet-weather skills aboard the RC213V, Alex Marquez close behind as the pair showed top-ten pace in Qualifying.
Heavy rains early in the day left the Ricardo Tormo Circuit sodden for Free Practice 3, riders able to gather more valuable wet time but missing a final chance to duke it out for Q2. Weather continued to play a major role in the European GP as a downpour just before FP4 ended any chance of a dry Valencia Circuit on Saturday.
Without a chance to improve on his best time from Friday, Alex Marquez spent Free Practice 3 working on the wet-weather setup of his Honda RC213V and exploring options for Sunday’s race should it remain wet. A 1’41.589 put the MotoGP rookie seventh in the session, showing strong potential for Q1 later in the day. Improving by a further three tenths in the 15-minute shootout, Alex ended the session in fourth and less than half a second from a transfer spot. Alex will start Sunday’s race from 14th.
The wet conditions didn’t bother Stefan Bradl who continued to call on his vast experience to regularly challenge for the top spots. 11th in FP3 and 9th in FP4, Bradl was full of confidence for Q1 and was immediately on the pace. Bradl’s charge in Q1 was cut a lap short as the HRC Test Rider fell on his final lap at Turn 8 as he pushed to the limit for a place in the top two. Uninjured, the German will line up 13th on the grid tomorrow, his best Qualifying position since the 2016 Australian GP.
Takaaki Nakagami will line up on the front row of the grid in third after another strong Saturday as he chases his debut premier class podium.
Scheduled for 14:00 Local Time, the 27-lap European GP is building to be one of the closest races of the year with unpredictable weather and very limited dry running.
“Today was a good chance to be in front in Qualifying but the conditions were not easy at all, it wasn’t really wet only in two corners and the rest were drying. My time was better than I expected, and I would have been eighth in Q2. If it is dry tomorrow it will be tricky as we have had no time with the circuit fully dry and everyone needs to try and decide what tyre to use. We need to see what happens tomorrow because a lot can happen.”
“It was all or nothing today in Quali! I felt really good all day on the bike in the wet and the track was improving with each lap. We had to manage the tyres a bit in Q1 because they started to overheat when it stopped raining, so I put it all on the line for the final lap. I got to Turn 8 and I thought either I will crash, or I will be in Q2. Unfortunately, we crashed. I am OK and although we didn’t make Q2 I am happy with how the day has gone because we have been feeling good and able to show our speed.”
Fourth-row start for Andrea Dovizioso, twelfth in qualifying for the European Grand Prix in Valencia. Danilo Petrucci will start from the seventh row
The mixed wet-dry conditions of the Spanish race track complicated the Ducati Team riders qualifying as Dovizioso and Petrucci will start from the twelfth and nineteenth positions on the grid respectively in tomorrow’s European Grand Prix in Cheste.
The official qualifying of the European MotoGP Grand Prix, scheduled this weekend at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Cheste, near Valencia, was held in semi-dry conditions as the track gradually began to dry when the sun returned to shine before FP4, after the heavy rain that fell in the morning.
Eighth at the end of the first three free practice sessions Andrea Dovizioso took part directly in Q2 this afternoon but, with the mixed conditions of the track, he couldn’t go beyond the twelfth fastest time in 1:42.249, and will start from the fourth row of the grid in tomorrow’s GP.
On the other side of the garage, Danilo Petrucci was forced to take part in Q1. The rider from Terni closed FP3 eighteenth overall with the fastest time that he set yesterday in the only session held on the dry, but during which Danilo fell victim of a slide that prevented him from improving his lap time. In Q1 this afternoon, Petrucci was unable to find a good feeling with the rain tyres, closing the session with the ninth-fastest time which will grant him the start from the nineteenth spot on the grid, from the seventh row, in tomorrow’s race.
Andrea Dovizioso (#04 Ducati Team) – 1:42.249 (12th).
“Qualifying didn’t go as we had hoped. In some areas, the track was quite dry, while in others we had to slow down a lot due to the lack of grip. Unfortunately, with these particular conditions, I couldn’t find the right feeling with my Desmosedici machine, and this prevented me from finding the rhythm and setting a good lap time. Hopefully, the weather will improve for tomorrow’s race”.
Danilo Petrucci (#9 Ducati Team) – 1:42.244 (19th)
“Unfortunately, today I paid dearly for the mistake I made yesterday in FP2. With rain tyres, in the semi-dry track conditions I have always struggled a lot, and also today in qualifying I had the same difficulties. Tomorrow the weather will probably change, and we will find an even different situation. Let’s see how it will go, but for sure we will have to attempt a comeback in the race tomorrow “.
The Ducati Team riders will be back on track tomorrow at 10:00 am for the warm-up session before tackling the twelfth race of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship from 2:00 pm local time (GMT +1.00).