In the first Grand Prix practice session of the new ‘Open’ class era it was Espargaro in P1 with his Open entry Forward Yamaha with a 1’55.201 best lap, with Bautista 0.466s behind him.
Espargaro’s pace was over 0.3s slower than he went in testing here two weeks ago. The day was not without incident for him as he received a fine for speeding in the pit lane
At the start of his second season in MotoGP Smith was third by a 0.6s margin, with Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing) and rookie Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech3) also in top five as the riders who tested in Qatar occupying the top end of the timesheet. The younger Espargaro brother appears to be riding smoothly despite his collarbone injury sustained ten days ago at this track.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) were the quickest Factory riders in sixth and seventh, whilst the top ten was completed by Colin Edwards (NGM Forward Racing), Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar).
World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was 11th as he tested his fitness after breaking his right leg in preseason, whilst Yonny Hernandez (Energy T.I. Pramac Racing) finished 15th and went for a scan after walking away from a turn 16 crash which caused a brief red flag due to track debris.
Aleix Espargaro 41 ESP NGM Mobile Forward Racing YAMAHA 1’55.201
Alvaro Bautista 19 ESP Go & Fun Honda Gresini HONDA 1’55.667
Bradley Smith 38 GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 1’55.816
Andrea Iannone 29 ITA Pramac Racing DUCATI 1’55.996
Pol Espargaro 44 ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 1’56.020
Dani Pedrosa 26 ESP Repsol Honda Team HONDA 1’56.332
Valentino Rossi 46 ITA Yamaha Factory YAMAHA 1’56.542
Colin Edwards 5 USA NGM Mobile Forward Racing YAMAHA 1’56.626
Jorge Lorenzo 99 ESP Yamaha Factory Racing YAMAHA 1’56.668
Nicky Hayden 69 USA Drive M7 Aspar HONDA 1’56.670
Marc Marquez 93 ESP Repsol Honda Team HONDA 1’56.682
Stefan Bradl 6 GER LCR Honda MotoGP HONDA 1’56.726
Cal Crutchlow 35 GBR Ducati Team DUCATI 1’57.046
Andrea Dovizioso 4 ITA Ducati Team DUCATI 1’57.100
Yonny Hernandez 68 COL Pramac Racing DUCATI 1’57.623
Karel Abraham 17 CZE Cardion AB Motoracing HONDA 1’57.779
Hector Barbera 8 ESP Avintia Racing MotoGP FTR-KAWASAKI 1’58.394
Scott Redding 45 GBR Go & Fun Honda Gresini HONDA 1’58.495
Mike Di Meglio 63 FRA Avintia Racing MotoGP FTR-KAWASAKI 1’58.732
Danilo Petrucci 9 ITA IodaRacing Project IODA-SUTER 1’59.321
Broc Parkes 23 AUS Paul Bird Motorsport PBM 1’59.328
Michael Laverty 70 GBR Paul Bird Motorsport ART & PBM No Time Set
Repsol HRC Report
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa have completed the first practice session of the 2014 season.
Dani, who struggled with grip in this first session, was anyway the fastest factory rider – with the satellite teams enjoying a clear advantage after testing here two weeks ago. He finished the 45 minute session in 6th place with a time of 1’56.332 recorded on lap 13 of 16.
2013 World Champion, Marc, who climbed back aboard his RC213V for the first time in 6 weeks after breaking his leg, chose not to have any painkillers and managed an impressive 15 laps. He finished 11th for the night with a time of 1’56.682 on lap 13.
Dani Pedrosa – 6th – 1’56.332 – “We had a few problems today with grip, which is something that some of the riders who rode here at the test two weeks ago had commented about before. There isn’t much grip on the track and that means we have to try to get the most out of the bike under these circumstances. We’ll see if the track improves with a little more rubber laid down, giving us more traction. Today we just didn’t really have any, even though the track was in good condition. We still hope to improve session-by-session.”
Marc Marquez – 11th – 1’56.682 – “I am fairly happy with how the first session went, because I haven’t been on the bike in a while. I didn’t think my foot would bother me so much – especially on the right hand corners – although at the end of the session I felt better and this gives me hope of improving tomorrow. We are going to try to follow the same working strategy as today. In terms of the times, we aren’t too far off Jorge, Valentino and Dani – and it’s normal that the riders who were here for the test a fortnight ago are fast right from the get-go”
he first free practice session for the opening round of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship was held this evening at the Losail circuit in Qatar. As has now become tradition, the free practice sessions, qualifying and the race itself on Sunday all take place after dusk, on a track illuminated by floodlights.
In the first forty-five minutes of free practice action, which was briefly interrupted by the red flags following a crash by Pramac Racing Team’s Yonny Hernandez, Crutchlow and Dovizioso completed sixteen and seventeen laps respectively. At the end of the session, the two Ducati Team riders had recorded thirteenth and fourteenth quickest times, and were separated by just a few hundredths of a second.
Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team #35) – 13th (1m57.046s) – “Today was more or less what I expected, and it was difficult because of the track conditions. Obviously a lot of the other guys had already tested here at Losail, and it looks like this made a bit of a difference. We figured some things with the Ducati that we need to improve, but I’m happy with the way the guys worked. We worked in a methodical way, and we are taking baby steps at the moment with the bike, so I look forward to coming back tomorrow with two more free practice sessions. It’s great to get back on track in Qatar, I like this circuit and I’m sure things will steadily improve over the weekend.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 14th (1m57.100s) – “It was a bit of a strange session today, you could see that coming to test at this circuit made a big difference for many riders, especially in this first free practice session. In fact, all those who did the test here at the start of March are ahead in the timesheets, and above all they managed to find the right rhythm to lap at a constant pace. The Losail circuit is a bit strange as well, it’s hard to get dialled in at the start and in fact we struggled a bit. To be honest, I had hoped to begin a bit better than what I did, but in any case we will have time tomorrow to work to improve the bike and especially to get into a good rhythm on this track for Sunday’s race.”
Movistar Yamaha Report
The 2014 MotoGP World Championship finally got underway this evening under the floodlights of the Losail circuit in Qatar. Having launched their new livery just yesterday, the newly named Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders were out feeling their way on the night track for the first time this year.
With little rubber down on the circuit and some sand blowing across from the desert, grip issues became the number one problem to solve for both Valentino Rossi and teammate Jorge Lorenzo. Just 15 minutes in the session was red flagged to allow a clean up of some of the debris on track left by rider Jonny Hernandez’s earlier crash.
Rossi returned to the track in thirteenth position after the clean up and began to work on his set up, gradually moving up the timesheets, running as high as fifth before dropping two places to seventh behind highest placed factory rider Dani Pedrosa in sixth at the end.
In true Lorenzo style, the Mallorcan was one of the first out of the pit lane as the session began, eager to get to work on his set up ahead of this weekend’s opening round of the championship. Unlike the satellite and open class riders who had the fortune to test in Qatar two weeks ago, Lorenzo had no data to go on and struggled to find a way round the lack of grip he encountered on the track. He ended the first practice of the weekend in ninth position, just under 1.5 seconds from the front.
Valentino Rossi – 7th / 1’56.542 / 18 laps – “The track is in quite a bad condition but I think it’s quite normal for a first practice. There is a lot of sand and not a lot of rubber down. Also a lot of riders except the factory riders have been here for three days and have done a lot more km and a lot more laps so it’s normal they are stronger than us. Now the work for the weekend will be hard to reduce the gap. I have a lack of grip front and rear, on corner entry and also on acceleration the bike moves very much. I think the condition of the track is getting better and it will get easier.”
Jorge Lorenzo – 9th / 1’56.668 / 15 laps – “I’m a little disappointed because hearing the comments of the riders that were here two weeks ago it seemed the tyres were working really well. Having arrived here it seems the track is a little worse, the feeling of the rear tyre is more or less the same as in Sepang, with little grip and traction. We didn’t have three days to test here like the top five so our problems are bigger. We must hope that the tyre gets better and we can improve the grip on the rear.”
Team Director Massimo Meregalli – “Since the beginning we were expecting that some of our competitors could be in front of us because they tested here ten days ago. For sure the condition of the circuit didn’t help us either as we couldn’t work properly on the bike because of the lack of grip and the dirt on the track. We have a lot of work to do but I’m optimistic that as the conditions improve we can get our speed back. We know what we have to do as both riders complained about the same issues. Both need more grip front and rear so we will work on this and let’s see what happens next practice.”
Team Manager Wilco Zeelenberg – “The first practice is done so 2014 has officially started! It’s very obvious that many guys have already been around the track because you can see how fast they are. For us there’s some work to do before the race on Sunday. We are struggling for grip so we need to improve but it looks like we are not the only ones. We have some work to do!”
Bradley Smith – 3rd / 1:55:816 / 17 Laps – “Today was a really good start for us. The track conditions were different to when we tested here, probably due to a sandstorm which happened recently. However, the grip improved during the session and I was able to do 1:55 lap times again. As I could keep this rhythm quite easily I decided that it wasn’t worth pushing to the absolute limit, as it was still a bit too risky with the conditions, so I will wait until tomorrow as the grip will improve for sure. Of course, I am happy with 3rd and we are close to Bautista who is on the same tyres. Anyway I’m confident that we will get closer to the top as the track gets better, but the 3 days of testing has definitely helped us. Our aim is to stay in front of the factory bikes, for as long as possible”.
Pol Espargaro – 5th / 1:56.020 / 17 Laps – “I am happy with the performance I made today. My shoulder was still hurting a little but I can ride which I am pleased about. It was a bit painful on the straight when the bike is moving, and also in the long left corner when I had to lean down the outside of the fairing. The track conditions were also a bit different to the test we did here; it’s colder and there is less grip. I didn’t want to ride at 100% because of this as I think tomorrow will be better for traction after the track has been cleaned a bit more. The factory bikes will catch up, but I’m sure we can improve as well and I am just really pleased that the season finally started. At the end a top 5 result during my first ever MotoGP session is not bad at all”
Aleix Espargaro – 1st / 1’55.201 / 13 Laps – “It’s a great start and it’s a good feeling to be on top of the time sheets. We know that we had some advantage compared to the factory riders, because we were testing here two weeks ago and we started the practice session already with a good set up. Anyway I’m happy because I was fast with both soft and hard tyre. I’m sure that tomorrow everybody will improve, but we also have room for improvement so I’m really excited to this start of the season. The most important thing is to keep on working and being focused, it’s just the first free practice and my target is to fight for the podium on Sunday.”
Colin Edwards – 8th / 1’56.626 / 16 Laps – “We tried the soft tyre at the beginning of the session and then we switched to the hard tyre. All in all it was a good session and I did my best lap with the hard tyre. I’m adapting my riding style to the bike instead of trying to change the bike set up. I need to ride the bike on the rear and of course it’s not natural after 22 years but this is a new challenge that I take with great enthusiasm. I’m also very happy with Aleix’s result, he is doing great and I’m really excited for him.”
Drive M7 Aspar Report
The first exchanges of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship took place under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit tonight, where a single free practice session for the premier class saw several surprises and a fast pace that was close to the lap record (1.55.153 – Stoner 2008). Having missed the test here last week there was no sign of Márquez, Rossi, Pedrosa or Lorenzo at the sharp end of the timesheets in the opening session as Aleix Espargaró, Álvaro Bautista and Bradley Smith benefitted from their preseason work and occupied the top three positions.
DRIVE M7 Aspar Team’s new rider for 2014 Nicky Hayden is well known for his work ethic and it was in evidence today as he racked up more laps than any other rider (twenty) within the 45 minutes available. The American clocked his best effort on lap eighteen, stopping the clock at 1’56.670 to secure a place in the top ten overnight and almost match his fastest time from the preseason test at this track. Hayden reported improved performance from his machine thanks largely to some small changes to his gearing and chassis set-up but there were reverse fortunes for his team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama, whose evening was ruined by a series of electronic problems.
10th Nicky Hayden 1.56.670 (20 laps): “At the start of the session I was struggling to get comfortable with the engine braking in corner entry but after a few laps and especially after the red flag we managed to slightly improve the situation. We have more or less got the same setting and feeling that we established by the end of the last test, with some changes to the gearbox setting that have helped us in the straights. That has helped us to close the gap to the guys at the top, the bike is working better in the higher gears and pulling harder down the straights. We also made a chassis set-up change that is helping me get the bike stopped. To be honest it feels better than expected, which is a nice way to start the first Grand Prix of the season. The test we had here was obviously very useful, we are making progress every day and the relationship with the team continues to get smoother and stronger.”
17th Hiroshi Aoyama 1.58.182 (13 laps): “It was good to get the first free practice session of the season under our belts. We started the session with a lot of motivation but unfortunately after just a few laps we had an electronic problems and had to change bikes. We had more problems though and had to come in three times for the electronics. It is a bit of a mystery because we didn’t have anything like this in the test so now we need to work out what the source of this problem is. I am sure my crew will be able to fix it and we will have a good feeling tomorrow. Anyway, if you are going to have problems like this it is better that they happen on the first day!”
Nakagami’s rapid 2’00.522 best effort came in the last minute of the session with Rabat just +0.052 behind.
The 2012 Moto3 World Champion Cortese was 0.15s off P1 in third, whilst the 2013 Moto3 title winner Maverick Viñales (Pons HP 40) was fourth and the ever consistent Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert) completed the top five.
Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2), Alex De Angelis (Tasca Racing Moto2), Johann Zarco (AirAsia Caterham Moto Racing), Jonas Folger (AGR Team) and FP1 leader Mika Kallio Marc (VDS Racing Team) were all present in the top ten.
Sam Lowes (Speed Up) and his fellow rookie Tetsuta Nagashima (Teluru Team JiR Webike) both walked away from crashes during the session, as they learned the way with their respective new machines.
Marc VDS Report
Tito Rabat got the first race weekend of the season in Qatar off to a flying start, finishing tonight’s two free practice sessions in second place and just 0.052s off Takaaki Nakagami’s provisional pole position time.
Mika Kallio posted the fastest lap during tonight’s opening free practice but, despite improving his time in the second session, eventually ended the evening tenth on the timesheet.
The top 15 Moto2 riders were separated by less than one second.
Livio Loi missed the Qatar race last season because he was still underage, but the 16-year-old Belgian quickly got to grips with the Losail circuit during tonight’s two free practice sessions. An improvement of almost two seconds in FP2 saw Loi finish an impressive 13th, just 1.2s off Romano Fenati’s provisional pole time.
Tito Rabat // 2nd // 2’00.574 – “The feeling with the bike was good from the start, the pace was fast and I felt comfortable with the lap times. The track was a little bit dirty today, like always on the first day in Qatar, but it will clean up tomorrow and the lap times will improve further. Tomorrow we will look for further improvements, but the good thing is that we only need to make small changes to the setup of the bike to achieve this. I’m happy to finally get the season underway and I’m pleased with how things have gone today here in Qatar.”
Mika Kallio // 10th // 2’01.039 – “In the first session the feeling with the bike was good from the start, on the base setting we refined during preseason testing. My lap times were consistent and it’s always good to end the first session at the top of the timesheet. In the second session we used the harder option tyre, as there’s a good chance this will be the race tyre and, again, the lap times were consistent. What I didn’t get was a proper flying lap; I was on my fastest lap right at the end, with a red through sector 1, but I got the bike sideways out of turn 10 and lost time. Today was a good way to start the new season and tomorrow we will look for further improvements with the harder option tyre.”
Livio Loi // 13th // 2’07.403 – “I’m happy with the two practices today. This is a new track for me, so I’m still learning my way around, but my lap times improved with every exit in the first session, despite some mistakes at certain parts of the track. I started the second session where I finished the first and, again, my lap time came down as I got a better feel for the track. For sure there is more to come tomorrow, because I was still making the odd mistake here and there in the last session, but I’m pretty pleased with the progress we made tonight.”
The fastest ever Moto3 lap of the Losail Circuit, a 2’06.168s, was registered by Fenati as the lightweight class riders increased the pace in FP2.
Kornfeil was in P1 with a 2’06.190s lap in the final stages before Fenati stepped it up again, having also topped FP1. Miller also looked good in his second session with KTM Ajo as the top three riders all showed their pace with their respective new teams.
Niccolo Antonelli (Junior Team GO&FUN) and Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold) were also in the top five, both within half a second of Fenati.
The top ten was completed by Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0), Isaac Viñales (Calvo Team),John McPhee (SaxoPrint-RTG), Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Francesco Bagnaia (SKY Racing Team VR46).
There was a light crash for Ana Carrasco (RW Racing GP) as she got her second year in Grand Prix underway, but she quickly remounted and rode away.
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.