Alex Rins conquered the torrential conditions to take pole position for the Japanese Moto3 Grand Prix in the very first on-track action of the weekend. The on-form Spaniard beat Maverick Vinales and teammate Alex Marquez by almost a second with championship leader Luis Salom set to start tomorrow’s race from the second row.
After a frustrating Friday for riders and spectators alike with no running taking place at all, Saturday looked in danger of going the same way when final practice was also cancelled due to driving rain. However, race direction chose to extend the afternoon qualifying sessions and place an extra practice session into Sunday morning’s schedule.
At 12:40pm local time on Saturday afternoon, the pitlane opened for the very first time and perhaps unsurprisingly, the Japanese wildcard riders turned heads with their early pace. Sixteen year old Sena Yamada topped the time in the opening stages of the 55 minute session but as the times tumbled, the Spaniards eventually punted the debutant down the order.
Twelve minutes in, Alex Rins lowered the benchmark time to a 2:13.417, some fifteen seconds off the lap record, but Maverick Vinales chopped two seconds off with his next lap to overtake his compatriot. While Yamada’s dream afternoon quickly turned sour with a crash at turn three, Rins regained provisional pole with a 2:10.203 and a further improvement 20 minutes from time gave him an unassailable lead at the top, even with a crash late on.
With rain continuing to fall, Vinales didn’t go any quicker and settled for a safe second but Salom was in desperate need of improvement, lying in eleventh spot. With a minute to go, the championship leader seemed to have salvaged third but Alex Marquez did his Estrella Galicia teammate a massive favour by snatching it back on his final lap, just three thousandths of a second behind Vinales in second.
Wet-weather specialist Jack Miller qualified fifth ahead of Isaac Vinales with Niccolo Antonelli seventh ahead of the other Japanese wildcard, Honda Team Asia’s Hiroki Ono. Jonas Folger could only manage ninth despite his prowess in the wet while Yamada held onto tenth despite his tumble midway through the session.