Team SUZUKI ECSTAR’s Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaró both put together strong performances today in the final qualifying sessions for the Red Bull Ring MotoGP™ World Championship 10th round in Austria, claiming second and third-row starts.
Viñales clocked sixth position on his GSX-RR while Espargaró – riding with a fractured finger and damaged hand – scored an impressive ninth overall, despite the limitations caused by his fall yesterday.
Both Spaniards automatically qualified through from FP3 to the final Q2 with Viñales third on a lap-time of 1’23.755 and Espargaró seventh with a 1’24.108 lap, but in Q2 both improved their times to 1’23.584 and 1’23.813 respectively.
The improvements done with the introduction of new, bigger winglets allowed both riders to find more efficiency in acceleration and keeping the gap from the leaders very small: In particular, Viñales had a consistently-strong pace in all today’s sessions, also managing to test his pace for the race and get the final feeling from the hard tyres.
Espargaró did a great job riding his machine with the pain he is suffering: Although yesterday’s medical investigation found him unfit to race, the job done with Clinica Mobile - and a night of rest - allowed him to recover feeling and functionality, finally being allowed to take the track this morning. His efforts were evident, but his determination allowed him to put a positive time-attack and also find a comfortable pace.
“Thinking towards the race we are not in a bad position. Maverick will jump from the second row, it’s a position that leaves the options open for a good performance; and also because during the whole sessions today he proved to have a good pace. We hope we will be able to take advantage in the race from this work that has been done. Maybe we missed something in qualifying, maybe we were expecting something better, but we couldn’t succeed in exploiting all our potential.
“Aleix, until this morning… we didn’t even know if he could ride a bike and finally he did, and he really ‘bit-the-bullet’ and could qualify on the third row. We really have to thank him for the great effort and the courage he showed in getting on the bike after yesterday’s crash. Tomorrow he will have to endure further effort and this will be the hardest as the race will be long and so we will see. We must also thank all the Clinica Mobile’s staff, Doctor Zasa and Doctor Mir, who really supported him and allowed us to have our rider competitive.”
“Honestly, I thought I could have been in a better position. The temperature has ‘gotten higher and the grip dropped, and this was a little problem for our machine that struggled to find the good grip. In the afternoon I felt less-competitive than in the morning. However, in FP4, we did a great job, focusing on the pace with the hard tyre and a full tank of fuel, preparing the race. For tomorrow we will see about the weather; I hope it’s ‘gonna be colder than today so that I can get the best from my machine. The winglets gave me positive feelings and improvements but we still miss some acceleration.”
“After yesterday’s crash it was not easy to ride today, but finally I could make it and I’m happy. It’s a pity because when we were here for the test I really enjoyed it and I felt this track could be suitable for our machine and style, and also yesterday, in FP2, I felt competitive. Unfortunately, the crash injured me and this morning I had a lot of pain. I didn’t have any injections today, but I got some oral pain killers but this makes me feel weak and tired. Having the injury on my left hand makes it complicated to use the clutch, so I’m happy in MotoGP we don’t need to use it to change gear. Despite this, my feelings with the bike are positive, we are not so far from the leaders; and the race-pace I tested in FP4 was consistent and fast.”