Maverick Viñales will make his Yamaha MotoGP debut from pole position after qualifying at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit was rained off on Saturday evening.
Viñales claimed his maiden MotoGP race win last year with Suzuki, prompting a move to Yamaha in place of three-time champion Jorge Lorenzo, who made a switch to Ducati.
After impressing throughout pre-season testing, Viñales laid down an early marker in Qatar by setting the pace in practice.
His performances would prove key as rain on Saturday in Qatar forced officials to cancel qualifying, leading them to combine the times from practice to form the grid.
Viñales’ time of 1:54.316 from FP1 handed him his first MotoGP pole by half a second from Suzuki replacement Andrea Iannone, while defending world champion Marc Marquez will start third for Honda.
2015 and 2016 Moto2 champion Johann Zarco will make his MotoGP debut from fourth on the grid, with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso fifth ahead of Scott Redding.
Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi will begin his search for a 10th title from P10 on the grid, two places ahead of perennial rival Lorenzo, whose Ducati debut will come from P12.
Marco Andretti wanted to do something really special to honor the 25th anniversary of grandfather Mario Andretti’s final Indy car win in 1993 at Phoenix International Raceway (now known as ISM Raceway).
So the third-generation Andretti, along with his team, Andretti-Herta Autosport, came up with a plan and design that will take longtime race fans back in time when it appears early next month for the Phoenix Grand Prix.
Marco Andretti’s No. 98 Oberto Beef Jerky Circle K/Curb Honda will be decked out in the colors of the car his grandfather won his last race on the one-mile short track 25 years ago.
“When the idea of a throwback livery celebrating my grandfather’s final win was thrown around, Oberto was ready to get to the drawing board,” Marco Andretti said in a media release. “The black, white and red car resembles many of my family’s race cars and was a big part of my life growing up.
“It’s really cool to be able to add one of my cars to that family legacy.”
The car is a virtual double of the legendary Newman-Haas Racing and Texaco/Havoline-sponsored car Mario drove on that celebratory day in the Valley of the Sun 2 ½ decades ago.
Various events and ceremonies during the April 6-7 race weekend will honor the senior Andretti. That includes several of his former competitors who will be on hand to celebrate with Mario, including Emerson Fittipaldi, Bobby Rahal, Jimmy Vasser, Paul Tracy, Arie Luyendyk, and of course, son Michael Andretti and grandson Marco Andretti.
Check out what happened on that day 25 years ago: