Moto3 was the first category to qualify today, when a narrow dry line following earlier rain allowed lap times just one second slower than yesterday’s FP2 session, the last fully dry outing.
Honda’s NSF250RW worked superbly in the tricky conditions, which required rider-friendly engine performance and perfectly accurate chassis behaviour. Thus Honda riders filled the top eight positions, with a clean sweep of the first two rows and then two men on the third row.
John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) took pole position for the first time this year, going fastest at the very end of Q2, just 25 minutes after he had been fastest in the Q1 session. The 24-year-old Briton ended the outing 0.190 seconds in front of Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers Honda NSF250RW) who will start from the front row for the first time since last month’s Argentine GP.
Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) completes the Le Mans Moto3 front row, just 0.048 seconds behind Arbolino, for his first front row. The 18-year-old rookie from Saitama also had an excellent start to the weekend, ending yesterday’s first two sessions fastest, ahead of Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW), who scored a famous team one-two at the Spanish GP two Sundays ago. Ogura scored his first-ever Grand Prix top ten at Jerez and will be hoping to be even closer to the front at Le Mans, where he finished third in last year’s FIM CEV Moto3™ Junior World Championship race.
The second row comprises Suzuki, Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) and Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW), the three of them separated by just over two tenths of a second. Antonelli leads row three, a fraction ahead of Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW), who had a rousing ride from 24th sixth place at Jerez. The 19-year-old from Fukuoka was less than seven tenths of a second off pole position, so the 2014 Asia Talent Cup Champion will be gunning for his first podium finish since he won the season-opening Qatar GP.
Honda’s next rider is ten-times Moto3 race winner Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers Honda NSF250RW) in 13th. Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW), who started the last race from pole, lost his chance to repeat that performance when he fell on his final lap. The 21-year-old Italian will start tomorrow’s race from 13th on the grid.
Tomorrow’s races are the fifth round of this year’s 19-event MotoGP series, which concludes at Valencia, Spain, in November. Next stop is Mugello, for the Italian Grand Prix on June 2.