KTM’s Remy Gardner claimed his first Moto2 pole of the season at Jerez after a last-corner moment denied Sam Lowes’ final attack.
The Australian secured the fastest time of the intermediate class qualifying on just his second lap of the 15-minute session with a 1’40.667, Fabio Di Giannantonio and Marco Bezzecchi remaining firmly in contention as just eight-hundredths of a second separated the entire front row.
Lowes’ P1-worth effort was disappointingly cut short due to a final-sector moment with the Brit starting Sunday’s Spanish GP from fifth.
Saturday’s final Jerez qualifying saw Cameron Beaubier in charge of the times after the opening three laps. Stefano Manzi, Bo Bendsneyder and Somkiat Chantra vying for the final promotion places from a regrouped Hector Garzo and Simone Corsi, after their earlier offs.
Garzo was the first to improve, claiming third on his next effort, as Marcos Ramirez and Tony Arbolino advanced to sixth and seventh respectively, with the latter losing his position moments later as Lorenzo Dalla Porta joined the fray.
A swift tyre change saw the top riders waiting for the final three minutes before firing up again, Beaubier one of the last to leave the pits as he looked to defend his position but the American would remain unchallenged. A rapid crash at turn 11 saw Yari Montella’s session ending early while Nicolò Bulega placed his Gresini machine into the promotion zone.
Manzi sat in the pits as the final seconds clicked down, the Italian choosing not to head out for a second run due to a lack of tyres but it was a strategy that would prove disastrous as both Ramirez and Bendsneyder improved to second and third. Bulega once again advanced his time to consolidate the final Q2-worthy place and a dejected Manzi was left reeling in fifth and heading to the seventh row of Sunday’s grid in 19th.
Garzo completed Q1 in sixth from Lorenzo Baldassarri and Chantra with Dalla Porta, Arbolino, Corsi and Tom Luthi rounding out the top-12. Montella finished 13th after his unlucky trip through the gravel with Hafizh Syahrin, Celestino Vietti and replacement riders Taiga Hada and Tommaso Marcon completing the standings.
The Moto2 machines fired up for the final 15-minutes of action with Remy Gardner taking charge of proceedings with a 1’40.667, Di Giannantonio and Bezzecchi seeming to match the Australian with near perfect accuracy as the trio sat 0.086s adrift with Sam Lowes trailing two-tenths behind for fourth.
Raul Fernandez sat best of the rest in fifth ahead of Xavi Vierge, Joe Roberts and Jake Dixon with Aron Canet and Jorge Navarro completing the top-10 at the halfway stage. Improvements for Vierge and Augusto Fernandez saw the standings shuffle with the pair advancing to fifth and seventh respectively with Ai Ogura claiming ninth shortly after. Crashes for Canet and Roberts curtailed the duo’s progress with five minutes left of the session, before further disaster for Dixon saw the Brit too find the limit at turn six.
A blistering last-minute effort saw Lowes push for pole contention before a last corner save derailed the momentum, the Brit ultimately succumbing at turn two as he looked to recover the rhythm in the dying seconds.
Gardner secured the pole after a threatening last-lap effort from team-mate Fernandez faded to fourth in the final sector, Di Giannantonio and Bezzecchi completing the front row celebrations with Lowes forced to settle for fifth. Vierge sat sixth from the second Marc VDS machine, Roberts and Ogura, with Dixon heading row four from 10th on Sunday’s grid. Canet claimed 11th from Navarro and Bulega - the latter Italian awaiting a long lap penalty thanks to Portimao’s crash - with Ramirez, Bendsneyder, Beaubier, Arenas and Schrotter completing the top-18.