The land of the rising sun may be all hustle and bustle off the track but that doesn’t stop it from being as non-stop on it too as the Moto3 bikes kicked off the action in Motegi.
Gabriel Rodrigo: After what seemed to be a ‘non-start’ to Gabri’s weekend as he could only manage 15th position in FP2 and seventh overall after FP3, the Argentinian fought back in qualifying to snatch pole position away from the likes of John McPhee and championship hopeful Marco Bezzecchi. The 22-year-old rider delivered a storming 1’56.894 lap to clinch the best spot on the grid and a coveted Tissot watch as a late birthday present. Gabri is certainly showing his true talent as the season goes on, leading many to tip him for Moto3 champion in 2019. Happy belated birthday, Gabri!
John McPhee: McPhee’s luck seems to vanish just as he needs it but, this time at least, it appeared just when he needed it. The Scottish rider had been sitting way down the timings in 22nd after FP3, a far cry from the fifth place he had been occupying in Friday’s sessions, but he was able to deliver a blinder of a performance to rocket him up 20 positions and into second. This will be McPhee’s third front row start of the season, fingers crossed he can hold onto the position as Bezzecchi lines up alongside him.
Darryn Binder: Someone has obviously lit a fire under Darryn Binder at the moment because the South African is pulling some flyers out of the bag! After a pretty bleak 26th position in FP1, he made 17 positions to end FP2 in ninth and his Saturday sessions were even better as he was eighth in the FP3 timings but it was his lap last screamer than got us talking. A spectacular 1’57.120 lap time snatched fifth position out of Enea Bastianini’s clutches and making this Binder’s best qualifying position of the season.
Aron Canet: It’s been a torrid time for Canet recently. After battling with his fractured shoulder, the Spaniard has struggled to regain much of his past form. Canet had managed early on in FP1 the settle into second on the timings before he took a tumble at turn nine. He was able to maintain second going into FP2 as well but his Saturday sessions were simply shocking. Canet could only manage 12th in FP3 with a 1’57.626, over half a minute slower than fastest man Jorge Martin, and his troubles didn’t end there as he was unable to pull anything out of his bag of tricks in qualifying and had to settle for a disappointing 19th position.
Fabio Di Giannantonio: They always say you take the highs with the lows and with the high of his second Moto3 victory in Thailand still fresh in his mind, his performance so far this weekend has been the definite low. Diggia’s Friday was a mixed bag to say the least, a horrendous 18th place on the timings in FP1 followed by a lovely second in FP2, it almost looked as if Diggia had possibly found something but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. The lanky Italian could only manage sixth on Saturday’s FP3 session and had to settle for an uncharacteristic 15th place start for tomorrow’s race.
Tony Arbolino: It’s been a bizarre weekend so far for Arbolino as he made mistakes throughout free practice but still managed to get into the top 10 or to stay within touching distance of them. The Spaniard crashed in both FP1 and FP3 but salvaged eighth position in FP1 and 11th in FP3. A mistake during FP2 saw him run off the track but he quickly rejoined and finished the session in seventh. His qualifying offered little to write home about and he will start tomorrow’s race in 12th. It may have been the pressure of his past mistakes or the fact that the circuit obviously does not agree with him but Arbolino’s weekend so far has definitely not been what he was hoping for.
Full results here.
With the championship rivals starting slightly out-of-place and an aggressive Binder alongside them, we are certainly in for some fireworks on Sunday but who will come out on top and who will be left with their fingers burnt?