The revelation of the winter and of the Qatar weekend so far, Espargaro posted a 1’54.773 best time on the ‘Open’ Forward Yamaha, with Iannone and Bautista trailing him by 0.413s and 0.467s respectively. The non-Factory riders who tested at Losail two weeks ago are enjoying this Grand Prix so far, as the usual order has been upset in the desert.
Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso and World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) completed the top five, neither of them having attended the test visit.
There was a big crash for Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Bradley Smith at turn 5, but the Englishman limped away from the huge highside and was able to post the sixth best time of the evening.
Former World title winner Jorge Lorenzo’s woes continued as he looked uncomfortable outside the top ten for most of the session and he was potentially heading for Q1 participation before pulling out a 1’55.495 to go seventh.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) was eighth on Friday courtesy of his best FP2 time, whilst Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) squeezed into the top ten, Rossi with a late best time in the final minutes.
Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech3) and the man he replaced on the Tech3 Yamaha, Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team), were the two big names to miss out on automatic Q2 participation. Crutchlow walked away from a crash at turn 10 and will look to improve on Saturday.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo left it to the last minute in today’s final practice, taking seventh to secure a spot in tomorrow’s second qualifying session within the top ten riders for Sunday’s Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar.
Lorenzo continued today where he finished yesterday, battling a severe lack of grip on the Losail circuit as he struggled to set up his YZR-M1 for Sunday’s race. Having completed the second practice of the weekend in 11th earlier in the evening the double MotoGP champion came in to the third session sitting outside the top ten and so provisionally relegated to the first of tomorrow’s two qualifying sessions. As the minutes wound down a mid-session smattering of rain threatened to complicate matters further. In the final moments Lorenzo rose to the occasion under pressure, pulling out a 1’55.495 lap on the medium rear tyre to climb several places and take seventh at the end of the practice, securing a place in the second qualifying session.
Although also finding the lack of grip a real challenge, teammate Valentino Rossi spent most of today’s two practices one step ahead of Lorenzo. The nine-time world champion was working hard to ride round the grip issues the Movistar Yamaha riders were facing, and finished the first session of the day in ninth position, just under a second from the front. The final session of the day initially saw more of the same with the Italian pushing his M1 hard to stay in the top ten. With 25 minutes to go he had moved to ninth and looked able to hold the position until the last moments when Lorenzo’s late surge from 11th to seventh dropped him to tenth.
The final combined times mean both Lorenzo and Rossi will go through to the second qualifying session tomorrow to fight for their grid positions for Sunday’s race.
Jorge Lorenzo – 7th / 1’55.495 / 13 laps – “We had the same feeling today with little grip on the rear with the soft tyre. We tried to adapt to the situation and the positive thing is that we are closer to the faster riders with race pace, maybe three or four tenths instead of one second so let’s see if tomorrow we can improve a bit more.”
Valentino Rossi – 10th / 1’55.702 / 16 laps – “The bigger problem for us is the new tyre from Bridgestone that provides a lot less grip on the edge of our bike so it’s difficult. I’m just tenth which is the minimum target, to stay in the top ten. A lot of riders are on the same pace though; we are very, very close. Espargarò remains one step ahead and also with race pace he is very fast. I think on Sunday we will all use the same tyre, Open Class and Factory but he remains the favourite for the race. The target is to try to start more in front in the race because it’s very difficult to overtake so tomorrow in the qualifying I have to go faster.”
Team Director Massimo Meregalli – “We are suffering more than we expected because of the fact that we did not come here to test with the other teams. We are also suffering a loss of grip on the rear, the same problem we had in Sepang. We are trying to improve the situation, especially on the rear, that is not allowing us to be as fast as we’d like to. Two sessions are missing and we are quite confident that we will be able to fix the issue. The race pace is not bad and this makes us pretty optimistic. Tomorrow, during the last free practice session we will try something new, following the analysis of our data and hopefully we’ll get to qualifying ready for the best possible position on the grid. We’ll play all our cards on Sunday!”
Team Manager Wilco Zeelenberg – “The second day of practice is gone, after three practices we are still struggling to find rear grip. The pace and the speed have improved a little bit but we are still quite far from an ideal situation. We still have one more day to find more grip and confidence for Jorge. It’s not easy but we won’t give up!”
Bradley Smith – 6th / 1’55.474 – “I am happy with today’s performance and I feel that I am close to where I want and need to be. Today the track conditions improved, and the Bridgestone tyres were working more effectively. It was unfortunate to have the high side, especially as we were trying a new setting with the bike at that time. I know I am very lucky to be walking away without any injury from such a big crash and am thankful that I wasn’t hurt. I then went straight back out on my second bike, went faster and got into the top six which I am pleased about. However, now we need to find a balance between both of my bikes, as they have each big positives, and afterwards we see what we can do tomorrow, but I’m really confident and ready for the qualifying.”
Pol Espargaro – 11th / 1’55.793 – “Today has not been our best day. We could have improved more but in the first session we had quite a big crash and I have been fortunate that I escaped unhurt and that my shoulder injury did not worsen. The session itself was a bit strange and unfortunately because of the crash we had to use an additional tyre, which makes things a bit trickier now as we have to go through QP1. I lacked grip throughout today because of the track surface, and that did not help. Moreover I was a bit confused after the crash as there were too many thoughts in my head. Nevertheless, I am pleased with how the bike felt and happy that I was able to ride some competitive lap times. There is another practice session tomorrow and I am confident of qualifying well for my first MotoGP race on Sunday, but I am in need of a good rest tonight”.
Aleix Espargaro – 1st / 1’54.73 – “I’m really happy to close the second day here in Qatar on top of the time sheets. We have a good race pace with the hard tyre and then we could make another step forward with the soft tyre. We have a good set up but we need to keep on working. Tomorrow our target is the front row in order to fight for the podium on Sunday. We know that it won’t be easy as we loose a lot in terms of top speed on the long straight, but finishing on top for two days in a row is already a fantastic result. Together with the team we are all very excited and motivated”.
Colin Edwards – 13th / 1’56.238 – “All in all it was a positive day. I have a good race pace with the hard tyre, but we need to adjust the bike set up to use all the potential with the soft tyre. This will be very important for tomorrow in the qualifying session. I’m really happy for Aleix, he did a great job and in the team we are all very excited”.
Dovizioso fourth in today’s free practice sessions in Qatar. Crutchlow ends day in twelfth place after a crash
The second and third free practice sessions at the Losail circuit in Qatar saw Andrea Dovizioso put in a good run, the Italian ending up fourth quickest today. His team-mate Cal Crutchlow however had some problems in finding the right set-up on his Desmosedici GP14 and thanks also to a crash, was unable to go any higher than twelfth place.
Dovizioso’s day was positive right from the start, the Italian managing to get the best out of the soft tyre, which he tried today for the first time. Already in second free practice Andrea had notched up a time of 1m55.320s, which he then improved on slightly in the third session that was held two hours later.
Crutchlow instead had problems and was unable to find an ideal set-up: a far from perfect feeling with the front end of his bike contributed to him crashing out at turn 10 during the third session. The crash, luckily without any consequences for the rider, left him with very little time to try and clinch a top-10 position and go directly through into tomorrow’s Q2 session.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 4th (1m55.250s) – “It’s always a great feeling to find yourself up near the front! Today I’m happy because I didn’t expect to improve so much with our hard tyre, which in my opinion is the one everyone will use in the race. I was quick, and even though a lot of riders are all within three-tenths of each other, this was one of our main aims. Then when we put the soft tyre on, I managed to do a good lap. In the first three sessions we’ve worked really well, but we must improve our race pace.”
Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team #35) – 12th (1m56.013s) – “It was a disappointing day and I’m not very happy at all. We didn’t find a good setting with the bike, and even though we made a lot of changes from the first session, it felt more or less the same. I also had a crash in the third session, but the positive thing is that we got up and went a little bit faster with the second bike. Unfortunately now we have to take part in Q1 tomorrow, and that’s unfamiliar territory for me because I’ve been used to qualifying close to the front for the last two years. Things are difficult at the moment, but there’s no doubt the team are working hard to sort things out.”
Repsol HRC Report
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa enjoyed a productive second day of the 2014 season at the Losail Circuit in Qatar.
Marc, who took some painkillers today (but no injection) to ease the pain from his injury, completed a total of 32 laps today, recording his fastest time of 1’55.446 in FP3 placing him 5th in the combined times.
Teammate Dani, recorded his fastest time of 1’55.562 in FP2 and completed 34 laps in total, finishing 8th for the day. Both Marc and Dani remained on the soft rear tyre in both sessions.
Marc Marquez – 5th – 1’55.446 – “The day went pretty well. Besides not being as high up the timesheet as I would have liked, I’m happy because my leg felt much better than yesterday. We’ll see if things continue in this way tomorrow, as I had a little more strength today and less pain. We have also improved our setup, although we still have room for improvement with the bike and also myself. Tomorrow we shall continue working in the same way with a focus on the race. Qualifying is going to be difficult, because the Open class riders have a softer tyre available, but the important thing is the race”
Dani Pedrosa – 8th – 1’55.562 – “I am working on improving everything a little: my one-off lap times, my overall pace, my feeling with the tyre and also my feeling with different fuel amounts in the tank. We are focusing on many things with very little time available. At the moment we haven’t taken a big step forward, so we hope to keep up our steady progress and not to get worse in any aspect. We have chances of getting a top time tomorrow, but I have to work on my fast laps in order to do so. There are riders setting very quick times so far, and I’m sure that the qualifying session will be tough!”
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft & Hard; Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro continued his impressive form from the Qatar pre-season test to top the first three Free Practice sessions at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit, ultimately setting a best lap time of 1’54.773 to finish 0.413 seconds clear of his closest rival.
Espargaro set his time in today’s Free Practice 3 session on the combination of the hard compound front slick and the soft compound rear slick – which is only available to the Ducati and Open-class entrants this weekend. Second overall in the ranked practice sessions was Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone, who also took advantage of the extra grip of the soft compound rear to set a personal best lap time of 1’55.186. Third quickest on combined practice times was GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista with a time of 1’55.240 which the Spaniard set on the medium compound rear and hard compound front slick.
The desert setting of the Losail circuit makes it prone to wind-blown sand and this caused the usual low grip levels, with the first session of the weekend, FP1 creating particularly challenging conditions for the riders. As more sessions were run resulting in more rubber being laid down on the asphalt, grip levels improved slightly but some riders reported they were still at a poor level during FP3. Despite the typically low grip levels, the combination of the latest MotoGP™ machinery and the 2014 specification Bridgestone tyres yielded impressive gains in performance compared to last year’s Qatar Grand Prix, with Espargaro’s best time 1.3 seconds quicker than the best FP3 time last year and all riders in the top ten bettering their 2013 mark by at least half a second.
Losail circuit places a strong demand on cornering and braking stability and this was reflected in a strong preference among the riders for the hard compound front slick in the first three sessions of the weekend. Rear slick choice was more varied, although almost all riders switched to their softer rear slick option; soft compound for the Ducati and Open class, and medium compound for the remaining Factory bikes, to set a quick lap time in their effort to qualify directly for QP2. Tomorrow’s FP4 session will be important for the teams as it will provide an opportunity to work on setup for qualifying and identify their optimum tyre combination for Sunday’s race.
MotoGP™ Free Practice 4 starts at 1955 local time (GMT+3) tomorrow before the first qualifying sessions of 2014 commence at 2035 with QP1, followed by QP2 at 2100.
Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department – “The Losail circuit always has poor grip levels at the beginning of the race weekend, and this year was no exception. In FP1 yesterday, many riders commented that the track conditions were poor, and although there was an improvement today, it was still challenging for the riders. This circuit needs high cornering and braking stability, and so most riders preferred the hard compound front slick over the last two days. Riders used both the softer and harder rear slick options available to them and although we expect them to use their softer option for qualifying, still some evaluation needs to be done to find their rear tyre choice for the race. FP3 proved to be an exciting session, and with the Ducati and Open-class riders using the extra grip on offer from the soft compound rear slick, we should be in for an interesting qualifying tomorrow.”
Cortese set down a 2’00.579s marker towards the end of the only outing for the intermediate class on Friday, but Takaaki Nakagami (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) stays fastest on combined times by 0.057s from the German.
Behind Cortese, Aegerter was just 0.016s off P1 whilst third placed Rabat provisionally led the session and finished 0.067s off the top.
Both in the top five, meanwhile, were impressive rookie Maverick Viñales (Pons HP 40) and the quickest Thursday rider Nakagami
Completing the top ten were Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2), Xavier Simeon (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), Johann Zarco (AirAsia Caterham Moto Racing), Mattia Pasini (NGM Forward Racing) and Mika Kallio Marc (VDS Racing Team).
There was a crash for Gino Rea (AGT REA Racing) at turn 6 but he walked away unhurt and ended up 26th.
Fenati battled for the top spot with the Spanish pair as they pushed their Honda bikes towards the business end of the timesheet and ultimately the Italian KTM-equipped rider prevailed with a 2’06.121 hot lap.
In fourth place another KTM rider Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was on a fast lap at the end of the session but missed out by 0.159s, slowing in the final sector.
Behind the Australian on the timesheet were provisional pacesetter Jakub Kornfeil (Calvo Team), John McPhee (SAXOPRINT RTG) and Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold) in fifth to seventh respectively. Kornfeil remained third overall in the combined times, but was unable to match his Thursday best.
The top ten was completed by Fenati’s teammate Francesco Bagnaia (SKY Racing Team VR46), rookie Karel Hanika (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Niccolo Antonelli (Junior Team GO&FUN).
There was a big crash for Efren Vazquez (SAXOPRINT RTG) towards the end of the session but he walked away without serious injury.
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