Persistence pays off for the Japanese rider in Q2 as he pips the British GP duelling duo to pole.
Idemitsu Honda Team Asia’s Ai Ogura claimed Moto2™ pole position at the CryptoDATA Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich, the Japanese rider eventually clocking a 1:33.933 in Q2 at the Red Bull Ring – Spielberg to finish the session just 0.048 seconds up on CAG Speed Up’s Alonso Lopez. World Championship leader Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) also earned a spot on the front row for Sunday afternoon’s race.
Lopez was the early pace-setter in Q2 and the 20-year-old Spaniard was back on top when he set a 1:33.981 on his third flying lap. Ogura soon took up second position, albeit at more than two tenths of a second off the pace, and he continued to be a threat. He was setting a succession of ‘red’ first and second sectors, but was struggling to improve over the course of the whole lap.
Jake Dixon (Zinia GASGAS Aspar Team) capitalised somewhat by moving into second on a 1:34.104 with less than three minutes to go, before Ogura finally strung all four sectors together well enough to clock a 1:34.001. Having closed the gap to Lopez, the Saitama-born pilot then completely overcame it when he punched out a 1:33.933 just before the chequered flag. For Ogura, who is second in the World Championship, it is a second career Moto2™ pole, but Lopez’s reward is a still commendable front row start to follow up his first ever podium taken at Silverstone. Fernandez, meanwhile, earned third with an even later 1:34.101.
Dixon was therefore classified fourth, with Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) fifth at just a single thousandth of a second slower again. Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who is back in the saddle after breaking a femur in a motocross training crash, took an impressive sixth with a late 1:34.126, while Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) was seventh on a 1:34.170.
Rounding out the top 10 were Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP), Albert Arenas (Zinia GASGAS Aspar Team), and Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Italtrans Racing Team), while Q1 fast man Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) would be classified 11th after a mid-session spill at Turn 1. Fermin Aldeguer (CAG Speed Up) came from Q1 but was at one point fastest in Q2 before being shuffled back to 12th in the final classification, with Aron Canet (Flexbox HP40) finishing 13th after he also crashed at Turn 1. The rest of the Q2 classification was Filip Salac (Gresini Racing Moto2™), Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team), Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team), Jorge Navarro (Flexbox HP40), and Barry Baltus (RW Racing GP).
Back in Q1, Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) and then Jeremy Alcoba (Liqui Moly Intact GP) both improved after the chequered flag. However, Alcoba was still 0.084 seconds shy of the top four and Roberts 0.120 seconds outside the cut-off, with the two set to start 19th and 20th respectively.
Ogura has the opportunity to not only get his second Moto2™ race win, but also to close the gap to and potentially even pass Fernandez in the World Championship standings. Can he do it? Tune in to find out at 12:20 (GMT 2)!
Moto2™ FRONT ROW
1 Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) – Kalex – 1’33.933
2 Alonso Lopez (CAG Speed Up) – Boscocuro – 0.048
3 Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) – Kalex – 0.168
Ai Ogura: “I’m really happy about my pole position. I knew that I was strong in Sectors 1 and 2 but I knew that I’m not really strong in Sector 3 so I risked a little bit there in qualifying and I finished P1. Tomorrow, I start from the best position, so I’m really happy about today.”
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