Estoril MotoGP: Bradley Smith storms to front row

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British teenager Bradley Smith shrugged off a massive practice yesterday to surge to a brilliant front row start for the Portuguese 125GP. In bright and sunny conditions for this afternoon’s qualifying session, the 18-year-old produced a brilliant last lap to claim his seventh row start of 2009, despite a painful right ankle injury picked up in the opening practice session.

The Aspar Aprilia rider ended with a best time of 1.45.775 that was just 0.036s away from second spot after he’d been languishing outside of the top ten with just five minutes remaining. But Smith’s heroics weren’t enough to prevent team-mate Julian Simon from dominating again.

In the two practice sessions the Spaniard, who can wrap up the world 125GP title in tomorrow’s 23-lap race, had been over a second clear of the field. And while his advantage was reduced in qualifying, Simon’s best lap of 1.45.199 was still over half-a-second clear of second placed Pol Espargaro.

Marc Marquez completed the front row while Danny Webb enjoyed his best qualifying performances in eight races. The 18-year-old will start from a top ten grid slot for only the fourth time in 2009 after he posted a best time of 1.46.442. That left the Degraaf Aprilia rider just over a second off pole position.

It was another wretched session though for 2008 British GP winner Scott Redding. The 16-year-old was outside the top 30 in the final stages before he managed to claw his way back as high as 24th with a best lap of 1.48.316.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt