Pol Espargaro on European MotoGP pole

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Pol Espargaro will start from pole in Valencia
Pol Espargaro will start from pole in Valencia

KTM rider Pol Espargaro will start from pole for Sunday's European MotoGP after setting the fastest time in tricky conditions in Saturday qualifying at Valencia.

His fellow Spaniard Alex Rins (Suzuki) and Japan's Takaaki Nakagami (Honda-LCR) join him on the front row.

"In the last lap I said to myself 'it's all or nothing' and even if it was difficult I did it," said Espargaro who came through on top on a wet track that proved extremely awkward for the riders.

It is his second pole position of the season, following the Styrian GP in Austria. He set a fastest lap there as well but failed to win the race, finishing third behind Miguel Oliveira and Jack Miller.

Championship leader Joan Mir, who like Espargaro has never won in the premier division, will start from the second row.

Mir leads Fabio Quartararo by 14 points but only 32 points separate the top six after a roller-coaster season truncated by the coronavirus and thrown wide open by the absence of six-time world champion Marc Marquez.

Placed third in the championship is Maverick Vinales who starts Sunday's race from the pits as punishment over the number of engine changes on his Yamaha.

Valentino Rossi, who missed the last two races and Friday's practise sessions after testing positive for coronavirus, was back in the saddle on Saturday but could only finish eighth in Q1 and failed to progress to the final shootout in Q2.

jld/nr/bsp /nr