Moto3: Arbolino on pole as McPhee back on front row

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Tony Arbolino has done it again in the season finale as he secured his second career pole position at the Valencian Grand Prix. A 1:46.773 was enough to beat second placed Nakarin Atiratphuvapat by 0.244 and third place John McPhee by 0.343 in an enthralling lightweight class qualifying.

It was a hectic start to the Moto3 qualifying session as several riders went down in the opening exchanges on a drying Circuit Ricardo Tormo. Marco Bezzecchi was the man to lead the opening exchanges, but he crashed his KTM machine at turn eight. 2018 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup champion Can Öncü then took over at the summit, but he also went down at turn eight – the Turkish rider able get straight back on track but the Italian having to get his bike fixed.

As they have been all weekend, the track conditions were tricky but with no rain falling, a slight dry line started to appear as the times continued to tumble, with Atiratphuvapat sitting 0.2 clear with 12 minutes remaining. However, with his bike repaired, Bezzecchi then took over at the top but by only 0.027.

The track was getting drier and drier and the times started to get faster, with Raul Fernandez and Jakub Kornfeil taking over at the top soon after and from there on in, the red sectors were coming from across the board as five minutes remained. Pole position? Anyone’s guess at that stage – but there were still no gamblers changing from wets.

With two to go, it was Atiratphuvapat on top by 0.188 but half the field were lighting up the timing screens with red sectors as some began to gamble on slicks. Arbolino was one of them and he moved the goal posts by over a second, so could that be beaten? Aron Canet got within 0.3 of the Italian as they homed in, before Arbolino went even quicker to set a 1:46.773; the insurmountable time that would earn the Italian pole.

Öncü then leapt up to a stunning second on his final run, before McPhee and then Atiratphuvapat just bumped the 15-year-old wildcard down to fourth and the front of the second row. He’s joined by Canet who ended the session fifth after the late flurry of times, with Bezzecchi starting from the outside of the second row in his last Moto3 race – sixth for the Italian.

After a crash, Marcos Ramirez managed to get himself up to seventh at the end of the session, with Kornfeil settling for eighth. Ninth went to Albert Arenas, the Spaniard another rider to crash during the session, with teammate and wildcard Fernandez rounding out the top ten in another impressive showing.

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer