Champion Cortese Claims Moto3 Pole At Phillip Island

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Sandro Cortese led a German 1-2 in qualifying for tomorrow’s Australian Moto3 Grand Prix after drizzle fifteen minutes from time ended any real possibility of his time being beaten. Before the rain intervened, Cortese had four tenths in hand over Jonas Folger with Efren Vazquez taking the remaining spot on the front row.

The weather appeared slightly unsettled before the session began, forcing the 34-rider field into immediate action when the pitlane opened. Not everybody would be taking part though with Britain’s Danny Webb having to withdraw from the race due to a lack of spare parts following yet more Mahindra reliability problems. Italian teenager Niccolo Antonelli was also going nowhere after a heavy spill in final practice which left him unfit for qualifying.

Folger jumped straight to the top of the leaderboard after his first flying lap but the Aspar rider was shuffled down the order by Miguel Oliveira, before Vazquez overtook the pair of them with a 1:39.179. After regrouping in the garage, Folger returned with the first sub-1:39 lap of the afternoon but he was quickly outdone by Cortese, the world champion pipping him by 0.013s.

The German head-to-head continued as Folger regained provisional pole on a 1:38.727 but for the second lap in succession, Cortese had the perfect response although this time his lead wasn’t in the thousandths, instead pulling 0.393s ahead of the Kalex-KTM.

Sadly, the fight would end there thanks to the predictably unpredictable Australian weather. The drizzle did relent in time for a last minute dash but no-one found enough grip to mount a challenge to the front row.

As a result, Cortese, Folger and Vazquez remained unchallenged, as did Danny Kent who qualified a solid fourth, but Zulfahmi Khairuddin was the big winner in the dying seconds, climbing from fifteenth to fifth to edge out Miguel Oliveira. Home rider Arthur Sissis also improved late on to take a career-best seventh ahead of Maverick Vinales and Luis Salom who will resume their fight for runner-up in the championship from the second row.

The two riders battling for rookie of the year are also deep on the grid with Romano Fenati and Alex Rins fourteenth and sixteenth respectively. John McPhee will line up 22nd for Caretta Technology while British wildcard Sam Clarke will only race at the stewards’ discretion after failing to get inside the 107% cut-off.

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