Niccolo Antonelli used a well-timed slipstream to claim pole position for the opening round of the 2018 Moto3 season in Qatar. The Italian denied Jorge Martin by one thousandth of a second to hand the SIC58 team a welcome morale boost after seeing Tatsuki Suzuki withdraw from the race weekend due to a broken arm.
Due to the revised schedule for 2018, Moto3 have spent most of their practice sessions in the daytime but qualifying began just as the sun was starting to set, leaving murky conditions for the riders in qualifying. Pre-season title favourite Aron Canet made the brightest start, clocking a 2:07.362 early on, but Martin would establish himself as the man to beat by breaking into the 2:06s, aided by a tow from his team-mate Fabio Di Giannantonio.
As has become the theme in Moto3 qualifying, a hush descended over the Losail circuit as the riders waited until the dying seconds to chase a fast time and, crucially, a slipstream. Antonelli was ultimately the man to find it, following Tony Arbolino down the start/finish straight to set a 2:06.364, while Martin saw a four tenth advantage over the Italian slip away as he circulated alone.
Gabriel Rodrigo was another rider to capitalise on a slipstream, climbing to third, while Japanese pair Ayumu Sasaki and Kaito Toba did likewise to secure career-best grid positions in fourth and fifth. Marco Bezzecchi backed up his impressive testing form in sixth, relegating Canet down to seventh, while Philipp Oettl, Lorenzo Dalla Porta and Enea Bastianini rounded out the top ten.
Moto3 Grand Prix of Qatar: Qualifying Result
|1||23. Niccolo Antonelli||Honda||SIC58 Squadra Corse||2:06.364|
|2||88. Jorge Martin||Honda||Del Conca Gresini Moto3||2:06.365|
|3||19. Gabriel Rodrigo||KTM||RBA BOE Skull Rider||2:06.848|
|4||71. Ayumu Sasaki||Honda||Petronas Sprinta Racing||2:07.043|
|5||27. Kaito Toba||Honda||Honda Team Asia||2:07.048|
|6||12. Marco Bezzecchi||KTM||Redox PruestelGP||2:07.058|
|7||44. Aron Canet||Honda||Estrella Galicia 0,0||2:07.059|
|8||65. Philipp Oettl||KTM||Sudmetal Schedl GP Racing||2:07.187|
|9||48. Lorenzo Dalla Porta||Honda||Leopard Racing||2:07.320|
|10||33. Enea Bastianini||Honda||Leopard Racing||2:07.324|
|11||84. Jakub Kornfeil||KTM||Redox PruestelGP||2:07.326|
|12||17. John McPhee||KTM||CIP - Green Power||2:07.407|
|13||5. Jaume Masia||KTM||Bester Capital Dubai||2:07.462|
|14||16. Andrea Migno||KTM||Angel Nieto Team Moto3||2:07.586|
|15||42. Marcos Ramirez||KTM||Bester Capital Dubai||2:07.607|
|16||21. Fabio Di Giannantonio||Honda||Del Conca Gresini Moto3||2:07.634|
|17||7. Adam Norrodin||Honda||Petronas Sprinta Racing||2:07.758|
|18||11. Livio Loi||KTM||Reale Avintia Academy||2:07.901|
|19||22. Kazuki Masaki||KTM||RBA BOE Skull Rider||2:08.108|
|20||40. Darryn Binder||KTM||Red Bull KTM Ajo||2:08.202|
|21||72. Alonso Lopez||Honda||Estrella Galicia 0,0||2:08.280|
|22||8. Nicolo Bulega||KTM||Sky Racing Team VR46||2:08.364|
|23||75. Albert Arenas||KTM||Angel Nieto Team Moto3||2:08.480|
|24||76. Makar Yurchenko||KTM||CIP - Green Power||2:08.547|
|25||10. Dennis Foggia||KTM||Sky Racing Team VR46||2:08.785|
|26||14. Tony Arbolino||Honda||Marinelli Snipers Team||2:08.795|
|27||41. Nakarin Atiratphuvapat||Honda||Honda Team Asia||2:08.936|
|NQ||24. Tatsuki Suzuki||Honda||SIC58 Squadra Corse||No Time|