Miguel Oliveira will start his home Portuguese MotoGP race from pole position for the first time in the premier class after getting the edge over Franco Morbidelli in a fiercely contested qualifying session at Portimao.
The first time MotoGP has turned a wheel at the Algarve circuit – as well as being the first MotoGP race to be held in Portugal since 2012 – Oliveira may have enjoyed a loftier than usual status among the pole position favourites coming into the qualifying by virtus of his local knowledge, but he still had to prevail over some tough competition all the same.
While the absence of spectators had the effect of dampening down the celebrations, he will nonetheless get the opportunity to target an emotional win on home soil from the best possible spot and provide a fitting farewell result to the Tech 3 Racing team before he switches to the KTM factory outfit in 2021.
Joining him on the front row will be Morbidelli, the Italian maintaining his impressive run of late season form to place the Petronas SRT Yamaha second on the grid, even if he did have to do it via Q1 after failing to make the top ten in FP3.
With Valencia sparring partner Jack Miller filling out the top three, Morbidelli is primed to secure the runners-up spot tomorrow as the best-placed of the six riders vying for it.
Cal Crutchlow will kick off his final outing in MotoGP for the foreseeable future from an excellent fourth position, the LCR Honda rider on the cusp of a fitting podium on his swansong, while Fabio Quartararo enjoyed a better Saturday than of late with his run to fifth place. It also means he clinches the BMW M Award for best qualifier, earning him the keys to a brand new BMW M3.
Arguably the biggest surprise of the session – based on an erstwhile season’s best qualifying performance of merely 13th – Stefan Bradl was an outstanding sixth on the grid for the Repsol Honda team, ahead of Johann Zarco, who recovered from technical issues in FP4 to place the Avintia Ducati seventh.
Maverick Vinales gets underway from eighth position, with Pol Espargaro’s hopes of signing off from KTM hampered by his run to ninth ahead of Alex Rins, Takaaki Nakagami and Andrea Dovizioso, the latter dropping back when his lap time was cancelled.
Missing out on a Q2 berth, Brad Binder got closest but would just miss out on progressing in 13th, ahead of Aleix Espargaro on the best of the Aprilias, the out-of-sorts Pecco Bagnaia, Alex Marquez and Valentino Rossi, the Italian starting his final race as a factory Yamaha rider from 17th.
Even so, they all fared better than the newly-crowned champion Joan Mir, who couldn’t string a good enough lap together on his Suzuki to do any better than a disappointing 20th on the grid.
It means Suzuki’s hopes of wrapping up the constructors’ crown have been dealt a huge blow with Rins its best hope in 10th, behind two Ducatis in third (Miller) and seventh (Zarco)