Maverick Viñales will start Sunday’s MotoGP race at Motorland Aragon from pole position after topping qualifying for Yamaha as teammate Valentino Rossi made a stunning return from injury.
Having broken his leg during a training accident at the end of last month, Rossi was cleared to race this weekend by MotoGP’s medical officials on Thursday, with the nine-time world champion gingerly returning to action in practice.
Rossi battled through to Q2 by finishing final practice 10th-quickest, before then producing a rapid final lap in the session to secure third place on the grid for Sunday’s race.
Teammate Viñales bagged his fifth pole of the season with a best lap of 1:47.635, lapping one-tenth of a second quicker than Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo. Rossi was a further 0.08 seconds behind in P3.
Cal Crutchlow took fourth for LCR Honda ahead of Marc Marquez, who fell ahead of his final run and was unable to improve his initial lap time in Q2.
Marquez’s chief title rival Andrea Dovizioso will start seventh behind Dani Pedrosa, while Aleix Espargaro, Alvaro Bautista and Andrea Iannone completed the top 10 in qualifying.
Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.
Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.
Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.
“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.
“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”