'Too dangerous to ride' as Vinales takes Qatar MotoGP pole

Maverick Vinales of SAG Team answers reporters questions at the Losail International Circuit, north of the capital Doha on March 25, 2017, one day before the 2017 Qatar MotoGP

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.

Marquez, who has captured three of the last four world titles, agreed with Vinales that riding in the wet and under lights would have been dangerous.

"I would have liked to have time today to work more for the race, but you can't control the weather and we must think about safety first," said the Spaniard, a two-time winner in Qatar.

"It was too dangerous to ride, as it had rained quite heavily both overnight and this morning. In the end, we've done more than 300 laps on this track, when you consider the recent test and this week; that means everybody already has the setup and his own pace, and everybody already knows where he is for the race."