Joe Roberts secured the first Moto2 pole by an American for a decade when he took top spot in today’s Qatari qualifying.
The Free Practice pacesetter’s qualifying time was exactly the same as second place Luca Marini’s (SKY Racing Team VR46), but Roberts’ second best time was faster than the Italian’s. Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) completes the first Moto2 front row of the season.
Kenny Noyes was the last American to take a Moto2 pole at Le Mans in 2010.
From the off under the Losail lights, the Moto2 pace was electrifying. In Q1 Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) went just a thousandth of a second of Roberts’ Friday lap record and at the beginning of Q2, fellow Q1 graduate Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) set a 1’58.396 to set the scene for a cracking first Moto2 qualifying of 2020.
Tucked in behind teammate Marco Bezzecchi, Marini then went P2 as the SKY Racing Team VR46 duo sat P2 and P3 in the early stages, but it was an ever-changing affair on the timing screens.
After impressing in Free Practice, Bo Bendsneyder (NTS RW Racing GP) then went just 0.014 off Navarro’s time to launch him into a provisional front row start, but Roberts – having pitted in the early stages in the session – was setting red sectors.
On his opening flyer, lapping by himself, the number 16 went to P3 as 0.051 split the leading trio halfway through the session. It was anybody’s guess as to who was going to grab pole but then Marini launched an attack, the Italian setting a new lap record to go P1 with seven minutes remaining.
Then, Roberts flashed across the finish line and set the exact same time as his counterpart – the American going to P1 because of his previous lap time being better than Marini’s.
Would that be it? Not quite in terms of the front row as ‘The Beast’ turned up the wick in the east to propel himself into P3.
Bastianini going just over a tenth shy of Roberts and Marini to secure his first Moto2™ front row, and that was all she wrote at the sharp end of the grid. Roberts had done it, but it literally couldn’t have been any closer – not that the American will care.
Heading Row 2 is Navarro, the Spaniard will be happy with that having come through Q1, with Bendsneyder doing a sterling job on the NTS bike to sit P5 on the grid for Sunday’s race – that’s the Dutchman’s best Moto2 qualifying result.
Having suffered two crashes in Free Practice, Remy Gardner (Onexox TKKR SAG Team) kept it rubber side down in qualifying to earn P6. Bezzecchi got his best lap time in on his final lap to start from P7, the Italian will lead Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Q1 graduate Lorenzo Baldassarri (FlexBox HP 40) off the third row. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) stuck in a late flyer to grab a top 10 slot on the Qatar GP grid.
Britain’s Jake Dixon finished in 20th but is only six-tenths off the pace on the Petronas Kalex.