Alex Rins gave his chances of finishing the season as championship runner-up a boost by claiming pole position for the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island. The Spanish rookie saw off surprise challenger Axel Pons to take his third pole of the season and with Tito Rabat not taking part tomorrow, or in Malaysia, Rins is well placed to snatch second in the championship.
The big story heading into qualifying surrounded the withdrawal of Rabat who was forced to give up on the weekend for the second Friday in succession. The 2014 champion was riding despite recently injuring his left arm in a training accident and a crash at the final corner in FP2 did him no favours. With the accident compounding the pain and miscomfort, Tito announced his withdrawal prior to FP3.
In his absence, Rins dominated the qualifying session with the quickest laps coming in the early stages. The Paginas Amarillas rider set a 1:32.523 in the opening fifteen minutes and that ultimately proved enough with the impressive Pons finishing two tenths down on his compatriot.
Sam Lowes looked set to pose the biggest threat to Rins but a crash at turn six blunted his charge, forcing him to settle for third on the grid. Thomas Luthi lines up fourth ahead of a resurgent Mika Kallio on the QMMF Speed Up while Takaaki Nakagami rounds out the second row for Idemitsu Honda Team Asia.
Newly crowned champion Johann Zarco was a subdued seventh ahead of Sandro Cortese and Lorenzo Baldassarri while Julian Simon ensured three Speed Ups would make it into the top ten.