Esteve Rabat confirmed his status as the Moto2 championship favourite by taking pole position for the season opener in Qatar. The Spaniard saw off the challenge of Sandro Cortese late in the session although qualifying ended in terrible fashion with the German involved in an accident which caused chaos behind.
Rabat was at the sharp end throughout qualifying and his 2:00.341 was already looking a tough benchmark to beat but Cortese took up the challenge in the closing minutes, going faster by a quarter of a second. Esteve wasn’t to be denied though and after picking up a timely slipstream from Tetsuta Nakashima, the Marc VDS rider clocked a 2:00.081 to snatch back pole by two hundredths of a second.
The drama was saved for the very end of the session though with red flags coming out along with the chequered flag itself. The reason soon became apparent as Sandro Cortese had suffered an accident with Jordi Torres at turn two. Cortese was stretchered away but his out-of-control motorcycle had wandered into the race track and was collected by Mika Kallio.
Both riders were declared ok later on, meaning Cortese will be able to take up his place in the middle of the front row with Rabat on one side and Takaaki Nakagami the other. Thomas Luthi will line up fourth ahead of the outstanding Sam Lowes, who qualified fifth for his debut Moto2 race, with Kallio sixth and fortunately unhurt after his disturbing accident.
Xavier Simeon starts eighth ahead of Alex de Angelis with Johann Zarco handing Caterham ninth on the grid for their Moto2 debut. Gino Rea’s AGT Rea Racing squad are also new to the series and the Londoner will start 24th, ten places behind Moto3 champion Maverick Vinales.