Sandro Cortese took his second pole in three races at the start of the 2012 Moto3 World Championship after seeing off the challenge of Maverick Vinales at Estoril. The Spaniard had the edge in morning practice but Cortese delivered at the crucial moment to seal top spot by a third of a second.
Vinales started the session as favourite and although Cortese held pole position early on, the Avintia Blusens rider was the first into the 1:47s shortly before the halfway stage. Cortese capitalised on a slipstream from his teammate Danny Kent to grab pole moments later and pulled out another tenth of a second on his next lap, proving he could do it in clear air.
Vinales moved back to the top with eight minutes remaining, but only by a tenth of a second, and Cortese clearly had more time in his pocket, as the German demonstrated with a 1:47.145 shortly afterwards. Despite a succession of fast laps, Vinales couldn’t close the three tenth gap, giving KTM their second pole of the year.
It looked for a long time as though Danny Kent would give them two bikes on the front row of the grid with the Briton clocking a 1:47.950. His hopes of a first ever front row start were dashed by Miguel Oliveira though who delighted the home crowd with a 1:47.916 in the dying seconds, enough to edge out the Chippenham teenager.
Zulfahmi Khairuddin was another rider to deliver his best lap at the death and claimed fifth from Romano Fenati, with the championship leader matching his career best qualifying result of sixth. Luis Salom, who looked a pole position contender in the opening minutes, ended up a disappointing seventh while Efren Vazquez was left to rue an off-track excursion which prevented him from falling to eighth, having run as high as second.
Hector Faubel completed the third row for Bankia Aspar but the reigning 125cc champions are continuing to struggle in the new junior class. Faubel’s best effort was 1.2s slower than Cortese’s benchmark while teammate Alberto Moncayo finished a lowly 17th after his Kalex-KTM stopped late in the session.
Danny Webb will start next to Moncayo in 18th after an impressive performance on the Mahindra. Webb will have a number of high-profile riders behind him, including Jerez polesitter Alex Rins who couldn’t do better than 22nd.