Portimao Moto3: Record pace sees Sasaki ease to pole position

The first pole of the season went to Ayumu Sasaki in qualifying for the Moto3 Portuguese Grand Prix in Portimao.

Ayumu Sasaki claimed to top spot on the grid after a confident qualifying performance in Portugal , with Jose Antonio Rueda and Joel Kelso completing the front row for the first round of the Moto3 2023 season.

The Japanese rider found a clean lap behind his new teammate, Collin Veijer, on the Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP bike, making the most of the company after the rookie found his way out of Q1.

His best lap was set early in the session - 1m 46.792 - a new record best at the track.

Both of the Husqvarna bikes spent much of the session in the pits, only exiting again for a practice start.

A rookie ready to rumble

Jose Antonio Rueda arrived full of promise - the seventeen year-old became the first rider to double up and win the Red Bull Rookies championship and Junior GP campaign in the same season in 2022. 

Building on that potential the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider was second in the official test in Portugal and went on to secure the second best overall time in practice. That translated to him coming closest to matching the pace of Sasaki, falling 0.374s short.

It is a stark difference to Rueda’s previous best performace in the championship, where he placed 21st.

The final slot on the front row went to Joel Kelso (CFMoto Racing PreustelGP), his first time filling the front of the grid.

The Australian had been on the pace in every session and didn’t disappoint when it came to the crunch, taking third after being pushed back briefly by the previous group taking the chequered flag.

Daniel Holgado held on to fourth for Red Bull KTM Tech3, with Ivan Ortola, who had previously set a new best ever lap of the Portimao track in P3 only for it to be bettered in this session, fourth for Angeluss MTA Team on the KTM.

The second row is completed By David Alonso on the AutoSolar GasGas Aspar.



Xavi Artigas, who moved into Q2, with the best time, claimed seventh on the grid on the second CFMoto entry.

Dennis Oncu (Red Bull KTM Ajo) starts eighth, Jaume Masia (Leopard) was the best placed Honda in ninth , while Stefano Nepa completes the top ten for the Angeluss MTA Team.

Kaito Toba and Riccardo Rossi were inseparable and both awarded the eleventh best time.

Tatsuki Suzuki had nothing left in the tank after progressing, takinig 15th for Leopard.

What happened in Q1?


The first qualifying session saw Artigas set the pace to progress, with Suzuki fighting back to progress after being briefly knocked out of the top four. They were joined by rookie Colin Veijer (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) who went on to secure 14th and Riccardo Rossi.

It was a surprise to see Rossi in Q1, having recorded the fastest lap in testing just a week ago at the same track.

With times very tight, there were several candidates unable to progress to Q2 with only four slots available. 

Scott Ogden was the best of the Brits over at the VisionTrack team. In sixth in the session he didn’t quite match the promise shown in the private Jerez test, where he finished top of the timesheets, lining up 20th after being raced out of the progression slots in the closing moments.

His teammate Joshua Whatley was slightly further back, filling 24th on the grid on Sunday.

Romano Fenati also failed to move on from the first session, earning a 25th placed start for the Rivacold Snipers Team.

The Italian is one place ahead of Taiyo Furusato, the only faller in that session.

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