Tony Arbolino capitalised on a late switch to dry tyres to snatch pole position for the Moto3 season finale at Valencia. The Italian, who took his maiden pole in similar circumstances in Argentina earlier this season, edged out another unlikely challenger in Nakarin Atiratphuvapat as conditions rapidly improved in the closing stages of qualifying.
With all three practice sessions taking place in wet conditions, dry tyres seemed unthinkable at the start of qualifying, especially when the conditions continued to catch riders out. Marco Bezzecchi had set the initial pace on a 1:50.745 but a tumble at turn eight would see him plummet down the order while his KTM was repaired. The same corner also saw Turkish wildcard Can Oncu lose control but the 15-year-old, who clinched the 2018 Red Bull Rookies title in September, was making a serious impression on his Grand Prix debut.
While Bezzecchi patiently waited in the pits, Atiratphuvapat lowered the benchmark time by a full second but the impressive work of the PruestelGP mechanics enabled Bezzecchi to regain top spot 11 minutes from the end. Tyre choice would ultimately decide matters and Atiratphuvapat called correctly, fitting slicks to secure second spot, but Arbolino had made the same decision to claim pole by a quarter of a second.
John McPhee also used dry rubber to grab third while Oncu qualified a remarkable fourth despite finishing the session on wets. Aron Canet will start fifth ahead of Bezzecchi who looks well placed to clinch the championship runner-up spot with nearest rival Fabio Di Giannantonio nine places further back.
Marcos Ramirez, another rider to crash early on, recovered to qualify seventh ahead of Jakub Kornfeil and Albert Arenas while newly crowned champion Jorge Martin rode cautiously on his way to thirteenth.
Moto3 Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana (Qualifying)
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