Aleix Espargaro is confident of a podium charge in Phillip Island after the Catalan qualified an impressive fourth on Saturday.

The Suzuki rider showed well in a damp-but-drying Q2 qualifying session, first when using intermediate tyres, then switching to a slick rear, which enabled him to post a time 1.4s off pole position.

Much of the hype entering the event surrounded team-mate Maverick Vi?ales, but with the 21-year old starting from a disappointing 13th, Espargaro feels he can pick up the Suzuki baton and run toward the front.

"[I'm] Happy overall," he said. "[It's been a] Very tricky weekend, very difficult conditions. Was very difficult to go straight to Q2 this morning, very difficult to avoid the crashes with the wind and the water and everything.

"So finally, P4 is great. I was looking for the first row, but happy overall, because tomorrow's race is going to be crazy, and we start from the top, so I can't wait.

"Tomorrow morning, we will have half an hour warm up which is going to be in dry conditions, but we're ready. I think Marc is going to be stronger than everybody, because when the conditions are difficult, he's able to arrive at the limit quicker than the rest.

"But I think we are ready to fight for the podium, the bike is great, I feel confident. We will see tomorrow. It's going to be important to choose the right tyre, especially regarding the front.

"It's impossible to say anything, to make a prediction. The times were very slow for the dry. The wind is very hard, the track temperature is very low. But even like this, the bike grip is very low, the bike spins a lot, so it's going to be very important to see what happens.

"I think the first ten or twelve laps are going to be fantastic for the people, a lot of people in the front, a lot of overtaking. But the race will start on lap 15. Lap 15 to lap 27, the race will start.

"So it's going to be very important to use tomorrow morning to set the traction control, to decide the tires. Because again, nobody is ready, and the first ten, twelve laps are going to be a crazy race, and then lap 15 will start the real race."

Espargaro felt conditions toward the end of Q2 warranted a slick front and rear tyre, a combination that may have enabled him to qualify on the first row. But with time at a premium, he accepted changing the front tyre with six minutes to spare was simply not possible.

"I started with the intermediate tyre, and then in the last six minutes I changed the rear and I put the slick. Unfortunately I had not time to put the slick front, because the bike was not turning, the carcass of the intermediate tyre is too soft.

"So I couldn't improve the time, but I think with a front slick I could be able to fight for the front row. But anyway, it was safer."

Unlike Vinales, Espargaro is yet to stand on the podium as a Suzuki rider and now has just three more chances to do so before leaving the team.


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment