Eight times world champion Tony Cairloli came from behind to win the MXGP qualifying heat at Ottobiano in Italy but the Brits were left cheering as Max Anstie took third. But it was bad news for Shaiun Simpson, in his comeback race since breaking his hand, as he fell in the first turn and pulled out immediately.
The KTM man Cairoli, fastest in qualifying, got badly boxed in in the first corner and was left floundering mid pack as Max Nagl led from Armenas Jasikonis, Tim Gajser, in his first race since hurting his shoulder, and Jeffrey Herlings.
Cairoli made a heroic charge through the pack, as Gautier Paulin went down and Herlings pitted with a damaged front wheel. At the last GP, his 250 KTM team-mate Pauls Jonass had to do exactly the same.
Jasikonis passed Nagl and started to pull away, but had no answer for Cairoli who came past everyone to take the lead on the penultimate lap.
Cairoli, who took his fourth qualifying win of the year, said: “I had a decent start but in the first corner I almost crashed with Paulin. I had to come from the midl pack. It’s going to be a tough race tomorrow as it will be ten minutes longer.”
Anstie was on a charge, fighting his way past a slowing Gajser to catch his team-mate Nagl and take third place from him. Gajser was fifth from Glenn Coldenhoff, Arnaud Tonus and Romain Febvre who fought through from a first turn spill. Briton Ryan Houghton was 30th.