Impressive Moto2 rookie Ai Ogura (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) has once again tested his powers of adaptation to the maximum this weekend, with the 20-year old tackling the technical, undulating Circuit of the Americas layout for the first time on Moto2 machinery.
And as witnessed throughout this season, Ogura has shown himself to be a fast learner. By the end of Friday afternoon, when he had just one fully dry session under his belt, the rider from Tokyo was already knocking on the door of the top ten, placing 13th in FP2. Today he posted an impressive qualifying position of eighth to start tomorrow’s 18-lap Moto2 race from the middle of the third row.
The rider from Tokyo will be aiming for his sixth top six finish of the year after an impressive performance in this morning’s FP3 session, when he was a brilliant fourth fastest.
Like Ogura, Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) has only visited COTA once before. But the Thai rider already is already feeling more comfortable around the circuit’s complex twists than on his last visit. Some set-up changes ahead of FP2 allowed the 22-year-old to turn better and he posted an encouraging qualifying performance of 15th, 1.5 seconds off the pole time.
Moto2 pole position went to rookie Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex), who racked up his sixth pole of the year. Along with Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo Kalex), Fernandez has been the class of the field this weekend, leading his more experienced team-mate by 0.32 seconds after the 15-minute Q2 shootout.
Gardner still enjoys a healthy lead over Fernandez of 34 points in the World Championship but will have to be on his guard after the Spaniard’s recent form. Since Fernandez suffered an injury when training four weeks ago, he has amassed back-to-back victories at Aragon and Misano to keep the title fight alive.
It already appears the best the rest can hope for is the lowest step of the podium. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Kalex) put his name in the frame for that thanks to a strong qualifying performance, in which he placed third. This is the Italian’s first front row start since the German Grand Prix in June.
The three names on the second row, which comprises of Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46 Kalex), Cameron Beaubier (American Racing Kalex) and Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc Racing VDS Kalex), will also have their eyes on a podium challenge.