Vinales on pole for San Marino MotoGP

World champion Marc Marquez falls during the final free practice session at the San Marino MotoGP. (AFP pic)

MISANO ADRIATICO: Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales snatched pole position for the San Marino MotoGP ahead of fellow Spaniard Pol Espargaro after a thrilling qualifying duel on Saturday.

Vinales, 24, sealed pole with a blistering final lap of 1:32.265s to overtake KTM’s Pol Espargaro, who had been poised to take top spot but was pipped by just 0.295s.

The pair will be joined on the front row in Sunday’s race on Italy’s Adriatic coast by French rider Fabio Quartararo of Yamaha-SRT, who had dominated free practice earlier in the day, but was third fastest at 0.306s.

Vinales is targeting his second win this season after the Dutch MotoGP and is currently fifth in the world championship standings which Spaniard Marc Marquez is dominating.

World championship leader Marquez clocked the fifth-fastest time at 0.477 behind Vinales and will be joined on the second row by Italian pair Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha-SRT) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati).

Marquez spectacularly tumbled in the fourth and final free practice session earlier Saturday but still managed to lead the way into qualifying at the Misano circuit, near Rimini.

The daredevil Marquez showed great pluck by picking himself up and rushing to get back on his bike, apparently unhurt.

Former seven-time world MotoGP champion Valentino Rossi qualified seventh fastest for the race he has won three times, most recently in 2014.

Both Marquez and Italian Rossi had both also been in the running for pole but ended each other’s chances.

After overtaking Rossi into turn 11 the championship leader ran wide, with the pair also close to colliding soon afterwards.

Marquez has won five times in Misano and twice in the MotoGP category in 2015 and 2017.

The Honda rider has a 78-point advantage on Italian Dovizioso in the world championship standings as he closes in on a sixth world title.

The 26-year-old was frustrated in the last two races, being pipped on the line by Rins at Silverstone and Dovizioso in Austria.