Sandro Cortese claimed pole position for the first ever Moto3 Grand Prix in Qatar after a last-gasp effort sneaked him in front of Maverick Vinales. The battle for pole was wide open right until the end with Cortese the last of eight separate riders to hold it provisionally.
Vinales set the pace early on before being usurped by Zulfahmi Khairuddin on the AirAsia KTM but Miguel Oliveira beat the pair of them half an hour from time with a 2:09.636. Moments later, Vinales regained top spot by a tenth of a second while Alex Rins matched his time exactly to put both Estrella Galicia entries on the front row.
The Spanish 125cc champion went one better on his next lap but he would soon be upstaged by another rookie as Romano Fenati took over provisional pole for Team Italia FMI. Vinales soon bounced back to the top with a 2:08.601 but his time held up until the final six minutes when Luis Salom jumped up from 13th to first and the place-swapping wasn't done there.
Louis Rossi recaptured his Thursday pace to take pole with four minutes remaining and despite briefly dropping below Cortese, the French youngster retained provisional pole when the chequered flag came out. Other riders were still on hot laps and Vinales was particularly fast with his final attempt good enough to edge in front of Rossi by a tenth of a second. But Cortese was still pushing and the power of the KTM on the pit straight was just enough to sneak him in front of the Honda powered Blusens bike by 0.016s.
Rossi dropped back to third but will still be delighted to start on the front row, just as he did in the final 125cc race of last season. Salom will start fourth while Finnish teenager Niklas Ajo shot up to fifth with a late flyer. Fenati could only improve by a tenth of second on his earlier pole time and dropped to sixth but that will still leave him as the leading rookie on tomorrow's grid.
Khairuddin will head up the third row in front of Oliveira with Arthur Sissis a sensational ninth on the second Red Bull KTM. This meant Danny Kent was the slowest rider within the Ajo squad and the Briton will be disappointed with 12th after showing such encouraging pace in free practice. Fellow countryman Danny Webb qualified 25th on the Oral-powered Mahindra, a full three seconds off the pace.