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MotoGP Le Mans: Maiden Moto2 pole for KTM’s Fernandez as Lowes qualifies 10th

KTM’s Raul Fernandez navigated challenging Q2 conditions to take his maiden Moto2 pole position at Le Mans this afternoon.

Marco Bezzecchi and Joe Roberts joined the rookie for Parc Ferme celebrations after the American fought his way through from Q1 with Sam Lowes concluding the tricky qualifying in 10th.

Petronas’ Jake Dixon faced the Q1 fight as Moto2 qualifying got underway at a dry Bugatti Circuit. Tony Arbolino taking the lead in the standings as the Italian continued his prominent morning form with Simone Corsi and Dixon trailing the Intact machine before Roberts advanced the times to a 1’37.071. Ai Ogura was the next to challenge as the Honda Asia machine put itself in prime position with Lorenzo Baldassarri slotting into third on the same lap and Dixon sipped to ninth. Cameron Beaubier looked to be enjoying an impressive hot-lap before the time faded in the final sector, the American continuing to push on his next revolution before it once again fell away.


Roberts was cementing his control as he improved by exactly four-tenths, Ogura, Baldassarri and Corsi now holding the final upgrades with three minutes to go but there was little change as the clock ticked down. Marcos Ramirez fell foul of turn three in the closing stages with Corsi and Baldassarri swapping positions as the pair consolidated their advance to Q2. Arbolino missing out on promotion by 0.109s with Dixon completing the session in 12th, eight-tenths down, to line up 26th on Sunday’s grid.

The rain returned as Q2 prepared to fire up. The pack remaining in the pits as the settings were tweaked with the clock already counting down but with some sections of the track drying as quickly as the rain appeared a number of riders headed out on slick tyres. The conditions continued to change as fast as they were being reported, with Roberts sent through the gravel at turn eighth due to the wet conditions, Lowes headed back to the pits to swap his slicks for wets and Ogura hitting the deck at turn seven as his Kalex flicked him high.

Schrotter was the next to fall, at the final corner, with yellow flags interrupting the hot-laps underway. Remy Gardner was in charge with five to go and only half the field having times set, before Roberts took over at the top with a 1’53.818. Bo Bendsneyder sat second from Gardner and Ogura as Nicolo Bulega and Corsi became the next to succumb to the conditions. Roberts continued to dominate, demoting Raul Fernandez with his next attempt as Lowes finally got a time on the board, worthy of seventh, with three minutes left to play.

Bezzecchi joined the fray on the next revolution, taking third 0.9s behind the American before the times shuffled oncer again. Gardner, Roberts and Lowes sat on the front row as the final minute began, Fernandez bettering the trio with a 1’50.448 on his sixth lap as Bezzecchi demoted Lowes to fifth moments later.

The chequered flag released and the final hot-laps came in, Fernandez maintaining his hold on the pole position with an improved 1’50.135 and Roberts the only rider looking to challenge. It wasn’t to be, however, as the American settled for third behind KTM’s rookie star and Bezzecchi’s Sky machine. Aron Canet claimed fourth with his last-ditch effort, from Augusto Fernandez and Bendsneyder, Gardner heading row three from Hector Garzo and Stefano Manzi. Lowes starts Sunday’s contest from 10th on the grid ahead of Bulega and Xavi Vierge with Baldassarri, Schrotter, Fabio Di Giannantonio, Ogura, Corsi and Jorge Navarro completing the top-18.

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