Local rider Miguel Oliveira took a famous pole position for MotoGP’s season finale at Portimao, as 2020 champion Joan Mir qualified only 20th.
While Oliveira, whose previous best MotoGP qualifying result was fifth, denied Franco Morbidelli by 0.044s, Mir was left to watch from the sidelines, having come nowhere near contending for Q2 as Suzuki’s qualifying shortcomings reared their head again.
Qualifying was delayed by a few minutes after Johann Zarco’s 2019-spec Ducati gave up the ghost in the final minutes of fourth practice, Zarco crossing the track after slowing with smoke billowing out of his exhaust, and thus potentially dumping oil onto the circuit.
And, after having fought his way through a closer-than-comfortable Q1, Valencian GP winner Morbidelli pumped in the initial benchmark, 1m39.245s set on the medium rear tyre and leaving him a tenth clear of nearest rival Jack Miller halfway through the pole shoot-out.
Switching to fresh soft rubber, Morbidelli improved to a 1m39.141s and then bettered that with the first sub-1m39s lap of the weekend, a 1m38.936s, with a minute left on the clock.
But just half a minute later Oiveira improved to a 1m38.892s to claim his maiden pole position, with neither Morbidelli nor anyone else able to respond.
Miller completed the front row a tenth behind Morbidelli, ahead of his good friend Cal Crutchlow, who had narrowly topped Q1 on what is his final qualifying as a full-time MotoGP rider.
Fabio Quartararo made it two Petronas-run Yamaha bikes in the top five, while Marc Marquez’s Honda stand-in Stefan Bradl had benefitted from a well-timed Morbidelli tow to complete the second row.
Despite crashing during Q2, Avintia rider Zarco bounced back to take seventh on the grid, ahead of Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) and Pol Espargaro (KTM), the latter having been up on Oliveira’s pole time after two sectors on his final lap.
Alex Rins completed a disappointing qualifying for Suzuki in 10th, while Crutchlow’s LCR Honda team-mate Takaaki Nakagami overcame apparent pain from his own FP4 crash to beat Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) to 11th – albeit aided by Dovizioso having a slightly faster time erased for track limits.
KTM rider Brad Binder looked in with a chance of ending Morbidelli’s perfect streak of Q2 appearances in 2020 as he powered to a personal-best lap in the final minutes of Q1, which was on course to demote Morbidelli to 13th after three sectors but ultimately came up a tenth short.
Over three tenths down on Binder, Aleix Espargaro led Aprilia’s efforts in fourth as its Friday prowess proved somewhat deceptive.
Valentino Rossi improved slightly compared to his disastrous Friday but was still nearly eight tenths off making it to Q2, as he qualified 17th, followed by Danilo Petrucci in his final Ducati qualifying, much-improved Aprilia newcomer Lorenzo Savadori and Mir.
|Pos||Name||Team||Bike||Group 1||Group 2|
|1||Miguel Oliveira||Red Bull KTM Tech 3||KTM||1m38.892s|
|2||Franco Morbidelli||Petronas Yamaha SRT||Yamaha||1m39.276s||1m38.936s|
|3||Jack Miller||Pramac Racing||Ducati||1m39.038s|
|4||Cal Crutchlow||LCR Honda||Honda||1m39.25s||1m39.156s|
|5||Fabio Quartararo||Petronas Yamaha SRT||Yamaha||1m39.199s|
|6||Stefan Bradl||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||1m39.204s|
|7||Johann Zarco||Avintia Racing||Ducati||1m39.238s|
|8||Maverick Viñales||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||1m39.26s|
|9||Pol Espargaró||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM||1m39.284s|
|10||Alex Rins||Team Suzuki MotoGP||Suzuki||1m39.467s|
|11||Takaaki Nakagami||LCR Honda||Honda||1m39.531s|
|12||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Team||Ducati||1m39.587s|
|13||Brad Binder||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM||1m39.39s|
|14||Aleix Espargaró||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||1m39.762s|
|15||Francesco Bagnaia||Pramac Racing||Ducati||1m40.019s|
|16||Alex Marquez||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||1m40.049s|
|17||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||1m40.058s|
|18||Danilo Petrucci||Ducati Team||Ducati||1m40.091s|
|19||Lorenzo Savadori||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||1m40.174s|
|20||Joan Mir||Team Suzuki MotoGP||Suzuki||1m40.29s|
|21||Tito Rabat||Avintia Racing||Ducati||1m40.427s|
|22||Mika Kallio||Red Bull KTM Tech 3||KTM||1m41.753s|