Kent Claims Maiden Moto3 Pole At Motegi

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Danny Kent stormed to his maiden pole position in Grand Prix racing after snatching the quickest time from Maverick Vinales and Sandro Cortese in the dying seconds. The British teenager will move up to Moto2 next year but will want to sign off with a victory and has given himself the best possible chance.

Cortese was the man to beat in morning practice but Vinales dominated the opening minutes of qualifying, pulling out a one-second lead over Jonas Folger. The German was unable to respond when his Aspar Kalex-KTM stopped in the final sector with the only power getting him back to the pits coming from the marshalls. It wouldn’t be the last mechanical trouble to strike him either.

Vinales coolly set about lowering his benchmark time, eventually getting down to a 1:58.810, while his rivals swapped second place behind him. Zulfahmi Khairuddin moved ahead of Folger to lead the chasing pack with twenty minutes to go but Kent demoted his fellow KTM rider soon afterwards, closing to within a quarter of a second of Vinales.

After a break in the garage, Kent returned to the track and whatever changes had been made clearly worked as the no.52 leapt to the top of the timesheets with a 1:58.804, six thousandths quicker than Vinales who’s first lap in reply wasn’t quick enough. Most were waiting for the inevitable onslaught from Cortese but he could only slot into third initially, 0.045s slower than his teammate.

With less than a minute to go, Cortese put himself on course for a seventh pole of 2012 with a 1:58.669 but his two rivals hadn’t taken the chequered flag yet, giving them one more shot to overhaul him. Both were inside the required time at the third checkpoint, setting up a shootout for pole position. Vinales was the first to cross the line, registering a 1:58.514, but that would only hold provisional pole for a matter of seconds as Kent clocked a 1:58.371, settling the argument in his favour.

Vinales and Cortese will provide the competition from the front row while quick-starting Zulfahmi Khairuddin will be a threat from fourth. Alessandro Tonucci produced a career-best qualifying performance to take fifth ahead of a despondent Luis Salom while Jonas Folger was powerless to prevent himself tumbling to seventh after his Aspar machine broke down for a second time in the final five minutes. Louis Rossi will start eighth ahead of Efren Vazquez with Romano Fenati salvaging tenth after a session which threatened to leave him outside the top twenty.

John McPhee ran as high as seventh in the early stages but fell back to 26th in the end while Danny Webb’s Mahindra misery continued as he qualified 32nd, third from the back.

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