Gresini’s Filip Salac celebrated maiden success in Moto2 qualifying with pole for the opening race of 2023 at Portimao on Saturday.
The Czech rider’s 1’42.323 mid-session effort held off morning hero Aron Canet with Friday man Pedro Acosta completing the front row on the Red Bull KTM.
American Racing’s Rory Skinner began the first qualifying of his full-time World Championship career with a 1’44.530 effort as the 15-minute Q1 session fired up. Fantic Racing’s Borja Gomez the early pacesetter before Darryn Binder took over on the Husqvarna thanks to a 1’43.386. Gresini’s Jeremy Alcoba slotted into second with Elf Marc VDS’ Tony Arbolino initially holding the final promotion place.
Arbolino launched to the lead at the halfway stage before consolidating command next time around thanks to a 1’42.965. Zonta van den Goorbergh trailed the Italian by a tenth with five to go as Alcoba and Binder maintained their promotion hopes behind.
As the flag dropped, Italtrans Joe Roberts missed out on Q2 by 0.076s, Skinner lining up from the head of row nine in 25th with teammate Sean Dylan Kelly one place ahead and Aspar substitute Jordi Torres behind.
Van den Goorbergh suffered his third crash of the day on the Fieten Olie as Q2 kicked off. Canet and Acosta continuing their session topping battles with the Pons rider setting the 1’42.574 pace. Pertamina SAG’s Bo Bendsneyder ran third from Marc VDS’ Sam Lowes before VR46 Master Camp’s Manuel Gonzalez split the leaders ahead.
Salac took charge with six minutes to go. Alonso Lopez crashing the SpeedUp out at turn three as Arbolino bettered his teammate for seventh. A subdued Jake Dixon running under the radar and ten places behind on the GasGas Aspar with just four minutes left to play.
The closing minutes saw the Canet/Acosta battle resume as the pair returned to second and third. Gonzales once again splitting the pair as Barry Baltus crashed the second Fieten Olie out at turn 14, bringing out the waved yellows. Dixon caught out as he briefly improved to fifth before his lap time was withdrawn.
Salac eventually claimed his maiden Moto2 pole from Canet, Acosta and Gonzales as the pursuing trio switched again. A late surge from Fantic’s Celestino Vietti denying the VR46 rider further at the head of row two with Alcoba and Albert Arenas in sixth and seventh. Arbolino and Lowes completed row three with Bendsneyder, Binder and Dixon behind while Honda’s Somkiat Chantra, Lopez, Baltus, Fermin Aldeguer, Pons rookie Sergio Garcia and the fallen van den Goorbergh rounded out the top 18.