Portimao Moto2: Salac finds form for first pole position

Filip Salac got his season off to a perfect start with his first ever Moto2 pole in qualifying for the Portuguese Grand Prix in Portimao.

The intermediate class had some surprises up its sleeve with Filip Salac setting a senastional pole lap in the first qualifying session of the season ahead of the Moto2 Portuguese Grand Prix.

The Czech rider took his first Moto2 pole after turning up to the season opener brimming with confidence and was immediately in the mix, working his way up to second in the standings after free practice.

Building on that, the #12 put the QJMotor bike on pole for Gresini with a slipstream behind Pedro Acosta leading to a best of 1m 42.323 - fast - but not bettering Aron Canet’s new lap record set in P3.

Canet showed his hand to finish that session top, but couldn’t quite match his own blistering pace from earlier in the day, finishing second - just 0.058s slower than the pole lap for Pons Wegow Los40.

The final front row slot for the first race of the season went to Acosta, who had a rare fall in P3. Red Bull KTM Ajo bike and rider intact, he bounced back for third, but it could have been more - both he and Jake Dixon had their best laps cancelled as the yelow flags waved for Barry Baltus’ crash ahead of them as the clock ticked down.

Celestino Vietti made late gains to climb from twelfth to fourth on his final run. The Fantic Racing rider will need all the advantage he can gain with a hangover from the previous season to deal with.

Ignoring the black flag with orange disk in the final race in Valencia sees him start with a double long lap penalty carried over.

Manuel Gonzalez (Correos Prepago Yamaha VR46 Team)f ound himself not only in a battle for clear track but also battling a stomach bug. Pushing through he claimed fifth.

The final front row spot went to Jeremy Alcoba , the best of the riders to move up from Q1 for QJMotor Gresini.


Albert Arenas (Red Bull KTM Ajo) slipped back to seventh, with Tony Arbolino also moving up from Q1 to take eighth for Elf Marc VDS Racing, just ahead of teammate of Sam Lowes who was the best of the Brits in ninth.

Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) showed enough pace and improvement to complete the top ten.

Darryn Binder made his Moto2 debut after his MotoGP appearance in 2022 in eleventh for Liqui Moly Husqvarna IntactGP.

Dixon (Inde GasGas Aspar) will line up in twelfth after the fast lap cancellation. Other notable riders further down the grid include Sergio Garcia, the best of the Moto3 graduates in 17th, while his fall saw Baltus finish qualifying in 15th after a punchy start to the season from the Fieten Olie Racing rider.

Alonso Lopez (CAG Speed Up) also suffered a fall, he qualified one place higher in 14th.


What happened in Q1?


Last season Joe Roberts won the Portuguese race, this time out the American just missed out on Q2 in 15th place after free practice. The number 16 then missed out again, tis time for Q2 entry after finishing fifth in the first session.

Arbolino was also surprisingly off the pace, entering the session 16th before moving up along with Binder, Alcoba and Zonta van den Goorbergh, another Q2 faller.

Dennis Foggia couldn’t match fellow Moto3 graduate Garcia who moved straight to the second session. The Italtrans rider finished his first Moto2 qualifying in 23rd.

Also making his full debut was British rider Rory Skinner. After an impressive run in BSB in 2022, which saw him qualify for the showdown and earn two wildcard Moto2 appearances, the American Racing team picked him up. He starts 25th, ahead of replacement riders Jordi Torres and David Sanchis.


Injuries and absentees


There were several notable absences from the grid for the first qualifying session in the intermediate class.

2022 runner-up Ai Ogura is not trackside after he broke his wrist in a motorcross accident shortly before testing. That left Somkiat Chantra as the sole Idemitsu Honda Team Asia rider - he starts 13th.

Also recovering is Moto3 champion Izan Guevara, who was tested and diagnosed with both chronic arm pump symptoms and a triangular ligament injury, with the Spaniard expected to miss at least the first two races. He is replaced by Torres.

Alex Escrig arrived to race for Forward and was due to appear in P1 then be assessed. Taking no part in that session, the team elected to replace him at short notice with Sanchis.

On Saturday morning the Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP team withdrew Lukas Tulovic - he still has pain in his hand from a previous fall in testing.

Kohta Nozane had a crash in the first Saturday session, so took no part in qualifying.

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