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Joe Roberts becomes Moto2’s first American pole-sitter in 10 years

Joe Roberts’ record-breaking Moto2 run continued Saturday in the Grand Prix of Qatar.

The 22-year-old from Malibu, California, became the first American in nearly a decade to win a pole position in MotoGP’s intermediate class (Kenny Noyes was the most recent in 2010 at the French Grand Prix).

“It’s awesome,” said Roberts, who had qualified in the top 15 only once in 41 previous Moto2 starts (10th in Argentina 2018). “It’s a dream for me to bring Americans to the world stage and especially do it in a great way and be really fast. To be back on pole position for America, it’s awesome.”

CAREER BEST: Roberts leads, finishes fourth from pole position

Roberts did it with a lap of 1 minute, 58.136 seconds on his No. 16 Kalex bike around the Losail International Circuit near Doha, Qatar. The American Racing rider narrowly edged Luca Marini, who set the same time. Roberts won the pole because his second-fastest lap was better Marini’s.

WATCH: Moto2 season opener, Sunday, 12:30 p.m., NBCSN

Roberts’ pole lap broke the track record he set a day earlier in practice on the 16-turn, 3.34-mile course.

“It’s crazy; I wasn’t sleeping too much last night because I was thinking about this lap (Saturday),” said Roberts, who won the MotoAmerica Superstock 600 championship in 2015 before moving full time to Europe in ’17. “Just trying to imagine myself doing the perfect lap and making everything exactly how I wanted to, and honestly, it’s so amazing to have my first pole. This weekend is filled with firsts, and I still have my lap record.”

The Grand Prix of Qatar will continue with Moto2 and Moto3 season openers Sunday. The Moto2 race from Qatar will air Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN (and also will stream on and the NBC Sports App).

Moto2 & Moto3 GP Of Qatar - Previews

DOHA, QATAR - MARCH 05: Joe Roberts of USA and American Racing smiles in pit during the Moto2 & Moto3 GP Of Qatar - Previews at Losail Circuit on March 05, 2020 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Roberts, who has been riding since 3 and started in flat track before moving to road racing, said he likes his chances starting first.

“It’s one thing to do a lap, and it’s another racing for 20 laps,” he said. “I’m going to try to get the best start I can and just try to stay with these guys. Who knows, maybe I’ll have the pace to pull away. I know Luca is going real fast and obviously other riders as well.

“It’s going to be a fight, and I’m looking forward to a fight because I love racing it’s actually my favorite part of the weekend is racing.”

The premier MotoGP class canceled its season opener at Qatar because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions. The season’s second race in Thailand also has been postponed.