Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP’s Ayumu Sasaki scored the first Moto3 pole of 2023 with an all-time lap record at Portimao.
The Japanese rider’s 1’46.798 lap was set on his first flyer of the afternoon, remaining unbeaten as the 15-minute shootout played out. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Jose Antonio Rueda claimed his maiden front row start on his maiden World Championship weekend with CFMoto PruestelGP’s Joel Kelso likewise completing the top three for the first time in his career.
British riders Scott Ogden and Josh Whatley joined the Q1 fight alongside big names Romano Fenati, Tatsuki Suzuki, Xavi Artigas and Riccardo Rossi as Saturday’s lunchtime action prepared. The 14 rider duel set for a frantic 15 minutes with the top four promotion places up for grabs.
Having led the times in the preseason test, Sic58’s Rossi set the initial pace on the 1’48 bubble, Ogden two tenths adrift on the VisionTrack Honda with Leopard’s Suzuki and Husqvarna rookie Colin Veijer completing the top four.
Artigas placed the CFMoto in prime position with a 1’47.694 and five minutes left on the clock. Veijer rising to second and pushing Ogden precariously into the danger zone while teammate Whatley circulated a second adrift of the outright target, in seventh.
A turn one crash for Honda’s Taiyo Furusato brought the yellow flags out as the second runs fired up, Suzuki the first to improve as he swept through to second. Rivacold Snipers’ Matteo Bertelle pushed hard in the final minute as the Italian found fifth, the number 18 demoting the 19 of Ogden down to sixth overall as the frustrated Brit missed out on promotion. Late charges from Tech3’s Filippo Farioli, Honda’s Mario Aji and MT Helmets’ Syarifuddin Azman doing likewise to Whatley as the 17-year-old dipped to tenth. Fenati, Furusato, Ana Carrasco and Lorenzo Fellon completed the lightweight grid.
Q2 kicked off with Sasaki setting the fastest Moto3 lap ever at the Algarve International Circuit in his bid for pole, the Husqvarna rider’s 1’46.798 almost half a second ahead of Kelso and his CFMoto teammate Artigas for front row contention with Leopard’s Jaume Masia in hot pursuit for fourth.
The halfway stage found a trio of KTM’s so far unclassified as Deniz Öncü, Daniel Holgado and Rueda circulated in tandem. The Red Bull Rookies Champion the winner of the three as he swept up to second with a 1’47.1, Holgado behind in fourth with Öncü left floundering in eleventh.
Late shuffles saw Ivan Ortola up to fifth on the MTA KTM ahead of Aspar’s David Alonso, Artigas and an advancing Öncü in the mid-pack. Kelso consolidating his front row position with his final effort as Masia dropped to the back of row three.
Stefano Nepa claimed tenth on the second MTA machine from Sic58’s Kaito Toba and Rossi. Muñoz headed Veijer, Suzuki and a surprisingly underwhelming Diogo Moreira on the MSI, while Aspar’s Ryusei Yamanaka and CIP Green Power’s David Salvador completed the top 18.