Danny Kent was on pole for the Moto3 race at the 2015 Pramac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix – and then he wasn’t.
Kent, on the Leopard Racing Honda, produced a sizzling lap of 1:36.180 to claim what would have been his fifth pole position of 2015 and the seventh of his career. But along with a gaggle of other riders the Englishman was penalised by Race Direction for slowing down on the racing line as he allegedly sought to find a tow and a faster time.
Worse news still: Kent is alleged to have done it twice and therefore picked up a three-place penalty for both infringements. That means he will now start from the third row – and that Scotsman John McPhee will start from his first-ever world championship pole position.
McPhee’s SaxoPrint RTG Honda set the early pace in qualifying, and the 21-year-old went faster again right at the end to post a 1:36.540. With Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Miguel Oliveira unable to do better than a 1:36.606, he will start in the middle of the front row and Kent’s team-mate Efren Vazquez finds himself promoted to the outside of the front row.
Long-time session leader Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia Honda, 1:36.705), Italian Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46 KTM, 1:36.822), who took his maiden pole at Motegi last week, and Belgian Livio Loi (RW Racing Honda, 1:36.942) now make up the second row.
Less negative news came for Kent when his main championship rival Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Honda) failed to fire in qualifying.
Bastianini will start from 28th position in tomorrow's 23-lap race — the 10th row of the grid —which means that Kent is still a raging favourite to become the first British GP champion since Barry Sheene in 1977.
Kent is currently 56pts (244 to 188) in front of Bastianini, followed by Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo, 179pts) — the only other rider with a mathematical chance of becoming world champion in 2015 with three races to go.
The fastest rider in free practice, South African Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), broke down with 16 minutes to go in qualifying, and he will start the race from the fourth row of the grid.
It was also a sticky session for two of the three Aussie riders, with Remy Gardner (CIP Mahindra) taken out at turn five early on in an incident caused by an errant Francesco Bagnaia (Mapfre Mahindra), while wildcard Matt Barton (Suus Honda) crashed at the high-speed turn one.
Gardner (1:37.644) will start from 26th position on the grid, with Barton (1:42.588) in 36th — and well inside the 110 per cent qualifying cut-off, which is a major achievement in itself after a slew of problems over the last two days.
The third Australian, Olly Simpson (KTM), will start from 35th after setting a best lap of 1:39.201.