Quartararo storms to season-opening pole


Quartararo storms to season-opening pole

Sunday, July 19, 2020

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JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, Spain (AFP) — Frenchman Fabio Quartararo powered to pole position for the season-opening Spanish Grand Prix yesterday, setting a Jerez lap record time to edge out Yamaha's Maverick Vinales.

The 21-year-old Quartararo, who rides for the Yamaha satellite outfit, posted a time of one minute and 36.705 seconds to claim his seventh MotoGP pole in only his second top-class campaign.

“Today was a really great day,” said Quartararo. “Of course it is a great feeling to be pole, especially after such a long time with no race, but this is only Saturday. We need to do the same on Sunday [today]!”

He will be bidding for his maiden victory on Sunday, having ended his rookie season in 2019 with four runner-up finishes in the last seven races.

“I'm not obsessing over a first MotoGP win though; our goal tomorrow is to be on the podium,” he said. “We have 13 races in a short space of time so we need consistent results.”

Spaniard Vinales was 0.139sec slower as temperatures passed 34 degrees Celsius, testing riders but boosting lap times.

“I feel really good, honestly. I think we improved the bike quite a lot, especially in the hot conditions,” Vinales said. “I can't wait for tomorrow!”

The other Yamaha rider, Italian veteran Valentino Rossi, who already knows he will be replaced next year when Quartararo steps up, could only qualify 11th.

“When you look at the data, Maverick and Fabio are strong everywhere,” said the 42-year-old. “The top three guys are very strong and in Yamaha's case, Maverick and Fabio are riding very fast.”

Reigning world champion Marc Marquez will complete the front row for Honda as he starts his tilt at a seventh MotoGP title.

“I knew even before we left the garage that my target was to try and be on the front row,” said Marquez.

“It was tough! The lap time with this high temperature was very good.

“For some reason Yamaha and Suzuki over one lap are very strong with the new tyre. But, we have been working for race distance.”

Marquez's younger brother Alex, making his MotoGP debut as his sibling's Honda teammate, failed to even make it into the second qualifying session.

“Unfortunately, I am struggling more in the hot conditions than I was expecting,” said the 2019 Moto2 champion who will start from 21st on the grid.

“Everything is so close in MotoGP,” said the younger Marquez. “Every day I am on the bike I want to improve and learn new things — tomorrow [today] will be a good opportunity to do this.

“The goal is to finish the race but still to push as hard as possible. We saw many positives today but there's still some room to push a little more.”

There was bad news for Spaniard Alex Rins, however, as he crashed out of the competition after suffering a fractured-dislocated right shoulder in a heavy fall on his Suzuki in Q2.

“He has had a fracture-dislocation of his right shoulder that caused him a lot of pain,” in-house specialist Doctor Xavier Mir told the MotoGP website.

“He has undergone sedation to put his shoulder in place, which is really much more painful than a fracture.”

Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso also crashed in the dying seconds of qualifying but had already posted the eighth quickest time.

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