Suzuki stunner: Espargaro leads surprise 1-2 in Catalan GP qualifying
Team Suzuki Ecstar claimed a surprise 1-2 in Catalunya as local hero Aleix Espargaro took the pole ahead of Maverick Viñales after decimating the lap record.
In almost perfect conditions, with track temperatures reaching 120 degrees, Espargaro claimed the first pole position for the Japanese manufacturer since Chris Vermeulen’s at Assen in 2007.
The Spaniard smashed Dani Pedrosa’s 2013 lap record (1:40.893) by over 0.3 seconds as he set a 1:40.546 around the 2.9-mile Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya to claim his second MotoGP pole. It got even better for Suzuki as his teammate Maverick Viñales was just 0.083s slower, completing a Suzuki lockout of the first two positions on the grid.
Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo was the only rider who used a two-stop strategy to allow him to utilize three tires during the session. The man who had set the most consistent race pace over the weekend made it four successive front-row starts as he finished 0.1s behind Espargaro in third.
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez (+0.208s) has benefitted from a new exhaust on his RC213V in Barcelona and led the session after the first set of flying laps. The reigning MotoGP World Champion looked like he might sneak the pole on his last lap, only to fade in the last sector and he will start the race from the head of the second row.
Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso (+0.361s) managed to set the fifth fastest time on his GP15, ahead of Marquez’ teammate Pedrosa (+0.382s). Pedrosa, who made it through from Q1 earlier alongside Andrea Iannone, was on course for a stunning lap time at one point and was over a tenth up after the first two sectors, only to be held up by Yonny Hernandez and be forced to settle for sixth.
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) recovered from a poor performance on the first day of practice to start the race from the front of the third row in seventh. Bradley Smith, on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3, will start from just behind him on the grid as the leading Satellite rider, ahead of his compatriot Cal Crutchlow (CWM LCR Honda) who completes the third row after crashing out late on at turn 10.
Octo Pramac Racing’s Yonny Hernandez rounds out the top 10, while Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was not happy about having to start from 11th on the grid after he crashed at turn 1. The leader of the Open class Championship, Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing), will start from the head of the fifth row in 13th, just ahead of Brit Scott Redding (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS).
The Aspar MotoGP Team duo of Nicky Hayden and Eugene Laverty were 18th and 22nd respectively, while Australian rookie Jack Miller on the CWM LCR Honda RC213V-RS will start from 21st position.
Earlier, Karel Abraham had a nasty crash in FP4 and will miss the rest of the weekend after a severely dislocating the big toe on his left foot.
Check out the full MotoGP qualifying results; LIVE coverage from Barcelona will begin at 7:45 a.m. ET Sunday on FOX Sports 1.