Morbidelli on Valencia MotoGP pole and relief for title-chasing Mir

Madrid (AFP) –


Italian Franco Morbidelli will start in pole position for the Valencia MotoGP, with Joan Mir's closest challengers for the World Championship unable to capitalise on the Spaniard's underwhelming performance in qualifying on Saturday.

Morbidelli of Petronas Yamaha recorded the fastest qualifying time of 1min 30.191sec at the Ricardo Tormo circuit while Australian Jack Miller and Japan's Takaaki Nakagami joined him on the front row for Sunday's race.

On an unexpectedly damp day on Spain's east coast, Mir was able only to secure 12th and last place in Q2 but he would have been relieved to see Frenchman Fabio Quartararo and Spanish rider Alex Rins, who sit second and third respectively in the standings, fail to take advantage.

Mir's 37-point lead means the Suzuki rider only needs to finish on the podium in the championship's penultimate race on Sunday to secure the title, while fourth would be enough if neither Rins nor Quartararo win.

Quartararo will start 11th, just ahead of Mir, with Rins behind him in 14th.

France's Johann Zarco secured fourth spot on the starting grid while another Spaniard, Pol Espargaro completes the front five.

Iker Lecuona will not race for the second week in a row after the Tech 3 KTM rider tested positive for coronavirus.

Lecuona missed last weekend's European Grand Prix, which was also held in Valencia, after his brother and assistant had also tested positive.