Tough qualifying for PETRONAS Sprinta Racing obliges raceday fightback at Mugello

John McPhee and Ayumu Sasaki will start from 18th and 19th on the grid, respectively, at the Italian GP.

PETRONAS Sprinta Racing riders John McPhee and Ayumu Sasaki had a difficult Saturday at Mugello with Sasaki being narrowly pipped to a place in Q2 and McPhee only taking 18th in that session.

McPhee, the poleman at Le Mans last time out, was unlucky in qualifying for the Italian GP. The Briton took part in Q2 for the sixth time this season and opted for a single-stint strategy. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired against him, meaning he was only able to complete one flying lap. His time of 1min 58.122secs left him in 18th, on the sixth row of the grid.

Sasaki will take off from one position back, in 19th, after he just failed to miss the cut for Q2. The Japanese rider clocked the fifth fastest time of Q1, with a 1min 58.235secs set on his penultimate lap.

Previously, McPhee had outlined his potential by setting the fifth fastest time of FP3 with a 1min 56.787secs, while Sasaki also improved on his Friday best, with a 1min 57.697secs lap.

The 20-lap Moto3 race will take place at 11am local time on Sunday at Mugello.

#71 Ayumu Sasaki

“The team did a good job and the bike was very good. In the first stint in FP3 I felt better than yesterday, so that was very positive heading into Q1. Unfortuinately, I made a small mistake and lost the opportunity to go straight into Q2. I want to apologise to the team, because they are doing a great job. Q1 was hard, because there were many riders who made it very difficult to find the space to complete a good flying lap. On my last lap I was going very fast in the second sector until I encountered a large group; I had to get past a lot of riders and that’s where I lost almost a second.

The positive is that we have pretty good pace for the race and we have also improved under braking. Anything can happen at this circuit due to the long straight, so we have to concentrate on getting as high up the order as possible in the race. This is one of my favourite circuits and I’m not happy with my result today, but the race is tomorrow and we have to focus on that.”

#17 John McPhee

“It’s not been the day that we had been hoping for. I had been in the top five all weekend and it was difficult to choose the correct strategy for qualifying, but I only had one set of tyres to use in the session and I had to be smart when picking the time to go out. That was the reason why I only did one run at the end of qualifying. When I left the pits there were six minutes left. I tried to ride alone, but on two laps I had another rider in my way, so I was never able show my true potential.

Despite this, I feel confident about the race tomorrow and strong on the bike. It’s not the best position to be starting from, but we know that there will be a large group in the race here and I would like to fight to be at the front. I feel that I have the necessary pace to get there and that I can do it on the opening laps of the race. The main objective is to have a successful start and first lap.”