Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) made history at home today： the brilliant 23-year-old became the first Thai rider in history to score pole position in any Grand Prix category. And he did it in front of a jubilant home crowd that roared its approval!
It was a dream day for both Chantra and his team as Ai Ogura (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) ensured both rides will start from the front row, after the Japanese rider qualified third. Once again this proves the growing prowess of IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia and of Honda’s vital project for developing Asian riders to compete at the very top.
Chantra has been superb all weekend long. He has finished no lower than fourth in each of the four sessions and has been riding aggressively as his gears up for arguably the biggest race of his life tomorrow. Not even a small crash at the start of FP2 could dampen his enthusiasm.
He was all-action again in qualifying and was immediately on pole position pace on only his second lap, with his best lap time of the weekend enough to claim top spot by just 0.085 seconds.
Sunday’s race, expected to be held in front of a crowd of more than 90,000, will be only the second occasion that Chantra has started a Grand Prix from the front row of the grid. At the very least, he will be aiming to score his fifth podium of the 2022 season, one of which was the first-ever Grand Prix win by a Thai rider, in Indonesia in March.
Along with the home hero, today was a thoroughly satisfying day for team-mate Ogura, who scored his fourth front-row start of the year. Six days on from a brilliant home victory at Motegi, the 21-year-old from Tokyo has carried that confidence from Japan and topped the combined free practice standings by an impressive three tenths of a second.
Tomorrow will be a crucial race for Ogura and his quest to become 2022 Moto2 World Champion. He currently sits just two points behind championship leader Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull Ajo Kalex) and has a fantastic opportunity to overturn that deficit, as the Spaniard starts from eighth, in the middle of the third row.
Between Chantra and Ogura, Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) qualified second, equalling his best Saturday performance in the Moto2 class. This was the 22-year-old Italian’s first front row start since the Spanish Grand Prix back in May.
The second row is made up of Pedro Acosta (Red Bull Ajo Kalex), Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team Kalex) and Alonso Lopez (Beta Tools Speed Up Boscoscuro), keen to score another podium after finishing third in Japan last weekend.
After tomorrow’s action Moto2 riders and teams have one week off before back-to-back races in Australia and Malaysia, on 16th and 23rd October