Rabat leads the charge before home fans at Aragon
Spanish rider Tito Rabat led the charge for Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS in qualifying for Sunday's Aragon Grand Prix.
Rabat will start the 23-lap race at Motorland Aragon from position 18 on the grid, one spot ahead of temporary teammate Nicky Hayden, the 2006 MotoGP World Champion.
Making impressive progress with front-end feel Rabat posted his fastest lap of the weekend so far with his qualifying run of 1'49.319s.
Tyre choice will be crucial for the race on the 5km Motorland layout and both Rabat and Hayden will finalise those decisions in the pre-race warm-up session.
Focussing on the learning curve of coming to grips with a factory Honda RC213V and the latest Michelin tyres Hayden was rewarded for his efforts in qualifying.
With a time of 1'49.490 the 35-year-old American sliced more than one second from his previous best despite the setback of a high-speed crash at turn 14 in the morning FP3 session.
Hayden is making one-off return to the premier class as a replacement for injured Australian rider Jack Miller who is scheduled to return at the next race in Japan.
Qualifying was run in sunny and warm conditions with a track temperature of 42 degrees.
Tito Rabat: 18th – 1'49.319
“It has been a positive day and I improved my time by almost one second from FP3 so this is a good step for the race. The most important job now is to select the right front tyre for the race from the options Michelin have brought to this circuit. My plan is to build on my pace and confidence and try to score some points.”
Nicky Hayden: 19th – 1'49.490
“Finally in qualifying I started to get the feeling with the bike and the tyres and was able to enjoy riding. It has not been easy to find the direction and the limit on the front with the latest Michelin tyres. We made a little tweak to the set-up for my second qualifying run and the bike felt a lot better and I think we have a good direction for the race. I knew coming back for just one race would not be easy but I'm making progress and looking to have a fun race.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“Both riders made a good lap time in qualifying and the improvement by Tito was very satisfying but as we see in MotoGP everyone is always going faster so now we need to build on this for the race. I'm happy with the job Nicky is doing, it is not easy to step back into MotoGP and I expect that with his experience he will make further progress in the race.”