Honda Team Asia’s Ai Ogura celebrated his first pole position in the Moto2 class at Jerez on Saturday.
The Japanese rider’s 1’41.289 was enough to defeat the dominant Elf Marc VDS duo of Tony Arbolino and Sam Lowes with the leading trio split by just 0.032s at the flag.
The final qualifying action began with both American racing riders facing Q1 as Cameron Beaubier joined Sean Dylan Kelly, Somkiat Chantra and Albert Arenas in the 16-rider fight.
The Honda rider took charge as the opening laps came in, 1’41.965 the target time which was immediately bettered by home rider Marcos Ramirez on the MV Agusta. Flexbox’s Jorge Navarro took third with Pertamina Mandalika’s Bo Bendsneyder holding the final promotion place at the halfway stage.
Navarro was in the lead on lap four, despite the Spaniard’s snapped cruciate ligament, with Arenas second. Chantra returning the serve next time around as the pace increased to 1’41.654 before he bettered himself on lap six by a further three-tenths. Bendsneyder maintaining his hold on fourth as the flag dropped.
Q2 got off to a dramatic start as Navarro attempted to save a turn one moment before his Flexbox machine ultimately succumbed and he slid into the gravel. Sam Lowes leading the times with a 1’41.696 from Elf Marc VDS teammate Tony Arbolino with Honda’s Ai Ogura third.
The duo swapped places next time around as Aron Canet settled for third, having briefly sat top despite his hand surgery just five days ago. The Team Asia duo of Ogura and Chantra split by championship leader Celestino Vietti on the provisional second row, before Fermin Aldeguer challenged for fourth.
Jake Dixon began his Spanish qualifying from ninth six-tenths adrift of his countryman having set the pace for the weekend so far. Portimao race winner Joe Roberts two places behind.
Ogura was on pole by a mere 0.01s from the Marc VDS duo with four minutes left on the clock. Dixon crashing out in the final seconds from 11th as Canet was forced to settle for fourth.
Aldeguer headed Vietti at the end of row two with Chantra, Bendsneyder and Augusto Fernandez lining up behind. KTM Ajo’s Pedro Acosta neatly behind his teammate in tenth with Aspar’s Dixon and Arenas completing row four. Navarro, Roberts, Gabriel Rodrigo, Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Barry Baltus and Marcel Schrotter completed the top 18.