Reuters Misano, San Marino
Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales took pole position for the San Marino Grand Prix yesterday after a qualifying flare-up between Honda’s championship leader Marc Marquez and Italian great Valentino Rossi.
Vinales lapped Misano’s Marco Simoncelli circuit with a best lap of one minute 32.265 seconds, ahead of fellow-Spaniard Pol Espargaro for KTM and Frenchman Fabio Quartararo on the non-works Petronas Yamaha.
Marquez, the five times MotoGP champion who has a 78 point lead over Ducati’s Italian Andrea Dovizioso in the standings after 12 of 19 rounds, will start fifth with Yamaha’s Rossi seventh.
Dovizioso qualified between the two in sixth, with Petronas Yamaha rider Franco Morbidelli fourth. Marquez and Rossi traded overtakes on their final laps, almost colliding, with both ending up compromising their efforts. Both were subsequently summoned to the stewards.
The pole was Vinales’ first since the season-opener in Qatar, while Espargaro’s front row appearance was a surprise for a rider only 11th in the championship.
The Spaniard gained a tow from Quartararo at the end before missing out to Vinales in the dying seconds.
Aprilia’s Italian Andrea Iannone missed qualifying after injuring his shoulder in a final practice crash.
Meanwhile, MotoGP could expand to 22 races after 2021 with a rotational system catering for a potential five rounds in Spain and Portugal, according to series boss Carmelo Ezpeleta.
Spain already has four races — Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, Jerez, Valencia and Motorland Aragon — on a 19-round calendar but Portugal’s Portimao circuit is interested in joining them.
Finland is set to join next year and Indonesia the season after.
Ezpeleta, chief executive of the commercial rights holders Dorna, told the MotoGP.com website that one region could not host a quarter of the races.
“We can do it another way, like a tender and say who is paying more and do that, but we will not do that. We will first talk to the people to see if they are interested or not to continue with this situation,” he added.
“We think the best way to do it is to make a rotation between the five GPs in the Iberian Peninsula. Every circuit will have three races in five years but this is the case if anything stays as proposed.”
Ezpeleta said there was a lot of interest in hosting races, particularly in important south Asian markets for the manufacturers.
He said Italy would retain two races since it was home to two of the manufacturers.
“Obviously the calendar cannot be unlimited. In 1992 it was 13 grands prix and now we are 19 and next year it will be 20. Twenty is the maximum number of grands prix we agreed in the period to next year,” said the Spaniard.
“We discussed the situation and agreed a maximum number of races for the period between 2022 and 2026 will be 22 races.”
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