Brad Binder has taken pole for tomorrow’s Australian Moto3 race at Phillip Island as the rain finally cleared up to allow for some dry track time.
The recently crowned champion took the top spot in the dying seconds with a late lap of 1’37.696s after a four-minute shoot-out following a red flag.
After a wet start to the weekend and more rain expected, the pack headed out on slicks in the hope of putting in an early banker. However, just as the lights turned green the heavens opened and deposited a load more of the wet stuff on the track.
Niccolo Antonelli became the first victim of the conditions as the Italian crashed his Ongetta-Rivacold Honda on his out-lap.
Meanwhile, everyone else tip-toed around for a lap before coming in to change tyres, and by the time most had reached their garages it had actually stopped and the sun was beginning to poke through.
Five minutes in, the sun was back out and the track beginning to dry very quickly. This meant the remaining 30 minutes was an exciting battle as riders went faster lap after lap as track conditions improved minute by minute.
With just over 13 minutes to run, SKY Racing Team VR46 KTM rider Nicolo Bulega hit the top as he became the first to dip into the 1’39s, but moments later found himself in the barrier after being forced to take evasive action.
While on a second fast lap, Bulega came up behind the Pull & Bear Aspar Mahindra of Francesco Bagnaia who was cruising on the racing line at Turn 12. The rookie had to take evasive action and despite looking as if he may be about to save it, he ran off track and out of space and crashed.
Over the next seven minutes the battle for pole raged, with several riders jumping to the top of the timesheets.
Britain’s John McPhee, who had been feeling confident going into the session after topping the timesheets in Friday’s second free practice, went quickest with around eight minutes to go.
But with just under five minutes remaining, the session had to be red flagged when RBA Racing Team’s Juanfran Guevara had a big off. He was stretchered off and taken to the medical centre, and said to be conscious.
Seconds before the flag, Binder had knocked McPhee off the top spot with a 1’39.087 aboard his Red Bull KTM Ajo machine, putting him in a good position ahead of the re-start.
As the bikes headed out for a final four minute dash, Leopard Racing’s Andrea Locatelli – who had been fastest earlier on – ruled out any chance of improving as he crashed after hitting white line.
Bulega, who had got back to the pits and back out again, was sitting top as the flag came out, but as he set off on his final quick lap, Binder and early pacesetter Fabio Quartararo were also looking to better themselves.
In the end it was Binder who emerged quickest, the South African taking yet another pole ahead of Quartararo with rookie Bulega third.
RBA Racing Team’s Gabriel Rodrigo heads the second row ahead of Brit McPhee, who was able to hold onto fifth. Livio Loi was sixth ahead of Motegi poleman Andrea Migno, who put his SKY Racing Team VR46 machine seventh on the grid.
Darryn Binder will start from eighth on his Platinum Bay Real Estate Mahindra with Jorge Martin ninth and his Pull & Bear Aspar team-mage Bagnaia 10th.