Moto3: Antonelli pips Martin to pole by 0.001

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Niccolo Antonelli will start on pole position for the opening Moto3 Grand Prix of the 2018 season after pipping series favourite Jorge Martin to the top spot by 0.001 seconds in a close-fought qualifying session.

Positioning himself behind the Snipers Honda of Tony Arbolino to benefit from the slip stream on the stretch to the line, the Sic58 rider did just what he needed to clinch his first pole since Le Mans 2016 in the closing moments of the session.

High winds at the Losail International circuit saw lap times drop by about a second in comparison to the quickest laps from Friday.

It had looked as though Gresini Racing’s Jorge Martin could put a stop to the Italian though, almost 0.7 seconds up after three of four splits but with no slip stream on the straight he’d miss out by just 0.001 seconds.

Gabriel Rodrigo completes the front row on the RBA BOE Skull Rider KTM after lapping some 0.484 seconds slower than the duo ahead.

Petronas Sprinta Racing’s Ayumu Sasaki heads up the second row in fourth ahead of Kaito Toba and Marco Bezzecchi – with the latter two lucky to avoid serious incident after Toba clipped Bezzecchi’s front end on the main straight mid-way through the session.

Estrella Galicia’s Aron Canet will start seventh ahead of Phillip Oettl and Leopard Racing’s Lorenzo Dalla Porta. The second Leopard machine of Enea Bastianini will start tenth after running wide on his final lap.

Britain’s John McPhee will start his first race with the CIP team in 12th

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Oli Rushby

By Oli Rushby

Former sports reporter covering British Superbikes, World Superbikes and road racing