Motorcycling: Rain washes away Qatar qualifying, Vinales on pole

Torrential rain forced qualifying at the season-opening Qatar MotoGP to be cancelled on Saturday leaving Yamaha's Maverick Vinales to start Sunday's race from pole position.

The entire practice and qualifying schedule for MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 under the floodlights of the Losail track was postponed as storms lashed the desert venue leaving the circuit dotted with pools of standing water.

There will be no qualifying session on Sunday with starting grid positions based instead on combined practice times.

Vinales, 22, who dominated Thursday and Friday practice in Qatar after also sweeping the board at winter testing, will start from pole ahead of Andrea Iannone on a Suzuki and world champion Marc Marquez on a Honda.

"It's been very strange, and strange that it rains in Qatar," said flying Spaniard Vinales who backed the decision to cancel the day's action.

"It was difficult today, it wasn't ok for wet tyres or dry tyres -- it was too risky to go out. For me it's safety first and it's tricky conditions."

Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, however, is down in 10th place on a Yamaha after being completely overshadowed by teammate Vinales, 16 years his junior.

Jorge Lorenzo, another former world champion, will start in 12th place on a Ducati.

Riders had feared that racing on a wet track under lights would be too dangerous and that such conditions would compromise visibility.

"When it rains here, there is also a strong wind and a lot of sand on the track," said Rossi, a four-time winner at the desert track.

More storms are forecast for Saturday night, raising the prospect that the race could even take place on Monday, as was the case in 2009.

However, for the time being, Vinales was concentrating on racing on Sunday.

"From FP1 (free practice) I've felt really good and I did a great laptime, riding much faster than qualifying from last year so we are happy we can ride like that and have good pace for tomorrow," added Vinales as more rain and even lightning filled the skies.

"We want to try to make our own pace, make some last adjustments in the warm up, it will be important to end that with a good feeling. Try to make the race and hope the weather can be good."