Esteve Rabat kept up his 100% pole position record after denying Johann Zarco for the second qualifying session in a row. Just as in Texas, Zarco entered the session among the favourites for pole but Rabat delivered at the death to snatch top spot by a hundredth of a second.
Zarco established himself as the rider to beat with a 1:44.552 twenty minutes into the session but shortly afterwards, the entire field was stopped in its tracks by a red flag following an accident for Sam Lowes. The Briton lost control on the exit of turn eight with the foot peg of his Speed Up coming through his leathers during the accident, leaving him to complete the session in pain.
Lowes’ accident had dragged grass onto the circuit but conditions didn’t seem to have suffered when the action resumed, Zarco improving to a 1:43.971 but ultimately that wouldn’t prove enough for pole. Rabat, who hadn’t figured much at the top of the leaderboard all weekend, slowly chipped away at his own fastest time and with two minutes remaining, the Marc VDS rider clocked a 1:43.961 to snatch pole from the Caterham team.
Xavier Simeon also left it late to grab third, knocking Maverick Vinales off the front row, and the Moto3 champion will have a couple of familiar faces from last season alongside him on row two with Jonas Folger and Luis Salom qualifying fifth and sixth. Mattia Pasini starts seventh ahead of Alex de Angelis and Simone Corsi while Takaaki Nakagami rounds out the top ten on the Idemitsu Team Asia Kalex.
After his earlier accident, Sam Lowes bravely rode on and improved in the end to 22nd while Gino Rea wrestled his Suter around to 28th, one place and one thousandth of a second behind Thomas Luthi of all people with the Swiss having an abysmal session.