Magnificent pole position for McPhee at Le Mans

The PETRONAS Sprinta Racing Moto3 rider will head the grid at the French GP. Ayumu Sasaki misses out on Q2 and will start 24th.

PETRONAS Sprinta Racing’s John McPhee scored an historic Moto3 pole position today at Le Mans, defying the changeable weather conditions and bouncing back after a difficult start to his weekend. McPhee had not made the initial cut for Q2, however secured his place through being fastest in Q1. By then setting the fastest Q2 lap, McPhee not only achieved his first pole for PETRONAS Sprinta Racing – and his third career pole – but also became the first rider in Moto3 history to take pole after going through Q1. Ayumu Sasaki was not so fortunate today and qualified 24th for tomorrow’s race.

Rain made an appearance early on Saturday morning, preventing an improvement on lap times from Friday. Knowing that both would both participate in Q1, Sasaki and McPhee dedicated the third Free Practice session to further preparation on setup as well as working on race pace. McPhee finished FP3 in 12th position with a 1min 54.152secs time, while Sasaki was 18th with a 1min 54.592secs.

Q1 was also affected by damp conditions on track, so the riders waited until the final minutes to use slicks. McPhee clocked the fastest time on his final attempt, with a 1min 43.994secs seeing him through to Q2 for the fifth occasion in as many rounds. Sasaki would miss out, with a 1min 44.837secs lap only enough for 10th in the session, which equates to 24th on the grid tomorrow.

Minutes later, McPhee continued his speedy form to also top the timesheets in Q2. On his penultimate lap, he set a 1min 42.277secs for his fifth career pole – his first as a PETRONAS Sprinta Racing rider.

The 22-lap French GP takes place on Sunday at 11am local time.

#71 Ayumu Sasaki

“In qualifying we used wet tyres and I felt pretty good with the wet setup, however we quickly discovered that slicks were required. After changing tyres I was going quicker, but on my last lap I encountered another rider and I lost time on some sectors. The important thing is to continue on the right track and be focused for the race. In Moto3 there is always a large group at the front, so if I’m in the fight we can be up there. The important thing is to focus and try to get up to the front as soon as possible.”

#17 John McPhee

“I can’t explain what it means to have taken pole position here! I’m very happy for both myself and for the team, because we had not been getting the results we wanted. We worked very hard and in the end we have achieved what we had been looking for. We had difficult conditions yesterday and didn’t have a good day; I made a couple of mistakes that forced us to go through Q1. In the first qualifying session I found more speed, I felt good, the bike worked better to secure a place in Q2, where I could clock a fast time and get the pole position. I feel strong in any conditions, whether dry or wet so I think there will be a great battle tomorrow; we don’t know what the weather will be like, but I feel good.”