Andrea Dovizioso dazzles under lights to take pole position for MotoGP season opener
Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso showed he will be a force to be reckoned with this season after the Italian set a stunning time of 1’54.113 during Qualifying Practice 2 to claim pole position for tomorrow’s Qatar Grand Prix. At the end of the session you could see how much this pole meant to Luigi Dall’Igna (Ducati Team General Manager) who oversaw the development of the new GP15 from scratch.
Andrea Dovizioso P1 – 1’54.113 – “I am very pleased because today’s pole position is the result of the work of an entire team of people: after two years in which we have suffered, finally we have succeeded in making a really competitive bike, and to be honest I did not think that we would be immediately so fast with the GP15. We worked really well during all the tests, even though we did not have much time available to develop the new bike. With the soft tyre, we managed to set a really awesome time, but even in the fourth free practice session with the medium tyre the feeling with the GP15 was something special, so I’m confident and I think that tomorrow we can fight for the podium. I want to thank Ducati and all the engineers who worked day and night in Bologna to get the bike ready for the Sepang 2 test, and I hope that I have been able to repay them with today’s pole position.”
Earlier in Q1 Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci led right from the start, setting a time seven-tenths quicker than his best from practice and claiming top spot. The battle for the second automatic qualifying spot was won by Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith in dramatic fashion. The British rider pinching 2nd place from Maverick Viñales on the Team Suzuki Ecstar GSX-RR right at the end of the session, after the checkered flag had been shown.
Dovizioso’s pole-winning time was set on his second run in QP2 and saw him out-qualify Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa, whose best time was a 1’54.330, to the top grid spot.
Dani Pedrosa P2 – 1’54.330 – “I am very happy with today’s qualifying session and it was very important to get onto the front row. It was fantastic, because I think that it was one of my fastest laps at this track. It was vital to set a good lap time today, without making any mistakes, due to the fact that at this track all the times are very close together. Now we have to focus for the race.”
Rounding out the front row was Marc Marquez on the other factory RC213V, the Spaniard securing third place on the grid with a time of 1’54.437.
Marc Marquez P3 – 1’54.437 – “Our objective was to get onto the front row and we succeeded, so I’m happy. Of course, you always want to do more, and I would have liked to have set a better lap, but we have a good setup for tomorrow and a good pace, which is the most important thing. It will be difficult to keep up with Andrea because, besides a fast one-off lap, he also has good race pace. We will try to ride our own race and fight for the win.”
Both Pedrosa and Marquez set their best lap times using medium compound slicks front and rear, while Dovizioso stormed to pole using the soft compound rear in conjunction with the medium compound front slick.
Andrea Iannone will start from the front of the second row in 4th on the other factory Ducati, with Pramac Racing’s Yonny Hernandez (+0.562s) making it three Ducati’s in the top five, in 5th place.
Andrea Iannone P4 – 1’54.521 – “I am satisfied with the way things went today, because in FP4 we were very quick with the medium tyres, even though I had possibly hoped to obtain something a bit more in qualifying. I would have liked to have started on the front row, but as I had hardly ever used the soft tyre I didn’t have much of a feeling with it and in addition we had a bit too much power on my bike and the set-up wasn’t the best. However, we must be happy with the way we are working and improving, so it wasn’t bad as a first qualifying session of the year. Congratulations to Andrea, who managed to set pole. Overall I am pleased, especially regarding the race tomorrow: it will be important to have the right set-up to be able to make up a few tenths on Andrea and Marc, who both have a very good pace.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi took sixth and eighth respectively on the grid in qualifying for tomorrow‘s Grand Prix of Qatar. Splitting the two Factory Yamaha entrants was Bradley Smith who heads the third row on the satellite Monster Tech 3 Yamaha finishing ahead of the Factory YZR-M1 of Valentino Rossi (+0.738s), who will start from 8th.
Lorenzo was the last rider to start the 15-minute qualifying heat to be ensured of some clear track space to push out his flying laps. He immediately dropped under the 1‘55 mark on his first hot run before posting a 1’54.803, to move up to provisional fourth in the timesheets. With less than five minutes left he came in for a fresh set of tyres to have another go at a time attack only a minute later. The double MotoGP Champion gave his all on his third flying lap of the day and improved his time with a 1’54.711 lap to finish the session in sixth place, 0.598s off the front.
Teammate Rossi continued to make progress today. The nine-time World Champion was quick to get out on track, making the most of the short time given to post a flying lap. His first stint saw him briefly take provisional fourth position with a 1’55.192 lap, but a flurry of activity then pushed him down four places. Rossi moved back up to sixth in the timesheets with a 1’54.995 before he returned to the pits. He came back out on track with five minutes of the session remaining for a last hot lap. Now back in eighth place, he gave his all and clocked a 1’54.851, 0.738s from pole position. This time briefly put him in seventh place, before the pace of the field picked up. Rossi will start tomorrow‘s race from the third row of the grid in eighth place.
Jorge Lorenzo P6 – 1’54.711 – “My position is not so bad, considering that a lot of riders have an extra tyre. Winning is very difficult here, because for the moment we haven‘t found the perfect set-up. In FP4 we got a tyre that didn‘t have any grip, but in qualifying, luckily, we got the first tyre working very well. The second tyre had less grip, but wasn‘t too bad. I made quite a good time considering the condition of the track. We have to work. We don‘t know what‘s going to happen tomorrow on the long distance with the softer tyre. It‘s going to be hard to maintain our pace throughout the whole race, but I‘m physically and mentally prepared to give the maximum.”
Valentino Rossi P8 – 1’54.851 – “I hoped to achieve a better position on the grid, but it‘s not so bad. For sure the second row would have been better than the third, but the bike‘s pace was good and I had quite a good feeling. The pace was not so bad, though Marquez and Dovizioso‘s was better, but it‘s just Saturday. We have to work, try to improve and save the tyres as much as possible to have a better pace at tomorrow‘s race.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha Team Director – “Another step has been made by both our riders today. We will try to find something for the warm-up to increase the rear tyre’s life. The riders are comfortable on the bike and quite satisfied about the way the bike is behaving. I think it‘s going to be a really tough race tomorrow, especially at the beginning, when a lot of riders will be fighting for the front group. In the end, I expect that only a few riders are going to be able to fight for the victory. We will try to find something in the warm-up to perfect the bikes‘ set-ups so we‘re ready to compete.”
Aleix Espargaro worked hard in Q2 after yesterday’s strong performance with fourth position on the timesheets aboard his 2015 GSX-RR and series rookie Viñales came close to the top of the Q1 qualification, but just lost-out on getting into Q2 by a fraction of a second.
Espargaro will start tomorrow’s Qatar MotoGP in 11th place from the fourth-row with a best lap of 1’55.035 today – less than a second off the Pole Position – and Viñales is in 13th place and on the fifth-row with a best-lap of 1’55.246.
Aleix Espargaro P11 – “I’m satisfied with the last free practice session. I found a confident pace while testing a hard tyre over a distance – which is even longer than the race – so I’m happy with that. However, I’m more disappointed with my performance with the soft tyre as I couldn’t find a proper feeling with it. I did make some mistakes in qualifying and this resulted in a poor lap. Of course it is important that we have a good overall condition for the race, so I’m looking forward to the green light come tomorrow.”
Maverick Viñales P13 – “I’m pretty happy with my performance, apart from not getting into Q2, but I managed to cut nearly half-a-second from yesterday, so we are quite happy overall. For tomorrow we need to work on pace with the hard tyre to cut some tenths off our time and be closer to the top. I’m curious to see how the race will be. I’m a rookie in this class and the other competitors are very tough, but we have clear idea on our objectives and we will stick to them.”
Britain’s Cal Crutchlow went into the session as one of the surprise favourites to score a front row start, having been second-fastest after free practice. The 29 year-old looked well on the way to achieving that feat with his second attempt at a fast lap, but although he was on a scorching lap, he slid out at the fast turn 14 right-hander. Thankfully the Coventry-born rider was unhurt and will start the race in 12th position on the grid, having set a best lap of 1’55.123 with his first qualifying run.
Cal Crutchlow P12 – 1’55.123 – “Thankfully it’s just my pride that is hurt today, but obviously I’m not happy. I made a stupid mistake. The positive is that we were very fast and we had a great chance to get on the front row and my ideal time would have put us there. But hey, that’s racing! The other guys did a better qualifying and we were 12th. The race is going to be very difficult now, because I know how these guys are at the start of the race – they push so hard. We need to come up with our strategy; whether we relax and wait to pass them later, or just hammer on from the start of the race. There’s not too much to lose, so my instinct is to try and battle hard immediately!”
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda rider Scott Redding will kick off the 2015 MotoGP World Championship in Qatar from 14th position on the grid. Working tirelessly again to try and improve front-end confidence and rear grip with his Honda RC213V machine, Redding narrowly missed out on a place in the QP2 shootout when he finished fourth fastest in the earlier 15-minute QP1 session. The 22-year-old Briton was less than 0.2s from progressing into QP2, which would have been a morale-boosting accomplishment after a difficult weekend searching for the optimum set-up with the RC213V machine.
Scott Redding P4 – 1’55.428 – “It was another difficult night, so it was a shame I was so close to moving into the second qualifying session. That was my target to make it into QP2 but I don’t have the feeling from the front I need to push with confidence and I’m lacking rear grip too. I am confident I can fight for the top 10 but the pace is really fast and everybody is really close. I’m yet to 100% gel with the Honda, so it will be a difficult race, but one that will be great to gain data and experience from to help us make progress in the future.”
The upward trajectory of the Aspar Team riders continued today at Losail, as they again improved their times during the qualifying session, although the tight competition between all the riders saw them end up towards the back of the grid. Nicky Hayden was caught out by chattering in the qualifying session which made him lose confidence. The American, who concluded 17th, will try to solve his problems in warm up tomorrow in order to ace at full capacity. Across the garage Eugene Laverty, 19th in the end, enjoyed his first MotoGP qualifying session. The Irishman is ready for his first race in the premier class.
Nicky Hayden P17 – 1.55.756 – “I’m a little bit surprised by the result of this qualifying session. We had greatly improved in the last free practice, especially with used tyres. That made me think that the QP times could improve a lot, but it wasn’t possible. There was quite a bit of chattering. At first it was only a couple of corners, but the faster we wanted to go the worse it got. We weren’t able to solve our problems quickly. I’m not happy with the position, but in any case it is the first race of the year and I am very motivated. Tomorrow we will have a very exciting and unpredictable race, as we have seen throughout the weekend the gaps are small and everyone will want to be in front. For our part we will try to solve our problems during the warm-up session to achieve a good result.”
Eugene Laverty P19 – 1’55.848 – “Certainly I would have liked a better position, but I think we did a good job. For my first MotoGP QP I believe that our times were quick. I’ve realized that I still need to learn to be faster on a single lap and learn to squeeze the tyre. Step by step we’re improving, but we have to continue working. The bike is performing with, I feel comfortable with it and tomorrow I will try to enjoy my first race in MotoGP. Today we have again improved the feeling with the front end, I am very happy with braking. Tomorrow the aim will be a good start and to try to be consistent throughout the race. I’ve never completed 22 laps in a row with this bike, so probably tomorrow I will learn more than I’ve learned during the preseason.”
Jack Miller was one of 15 riders out in the first qualifying session, hoping to take one of the two slots in the final, but a front end crash on his first run consigned him to 22nd position on the grid. The young Australian rookie picked himself up from the gravel and sprinted back to the garage, but he was unable to improve on his previous best of 1’56.287, which means he will start from the head of row eight on the grid.
Jack Miller P22 – 1’56.287 – “I’ve been struggling all weekend just rolling through the corner, and just as I got on the gas it took a bit of load away from the front and it just seemed to tuck on me. I managed to get back to the pit but we got caught a bit off guard and we had to rush to put things together on the spare bike – I had to ride it a bit more ‘manually’ than normal. We did the best we could, I was just pushing that little bit too hard. I still haven’t quite worked out how to use the soft tyre, but I’m looking forward to the race because I’m much happier on the harder option. It’s just a shame we’re starting a little further back than I would like.”
Alvaro Bautista put his best time of the weekend on the sheets in Q1 with 1’56,187, whereas Melandri lagged a bit behind with 1’57,934. With these times Alvaro earned a spot on the seventh row and Marco took a place on the ninth for the race tomorrow.
Alvaro Bautista – “My feeling on the bike hasn’t changed a lot but we have improved on the electronics front. During the qualifiers I was only able to get two fast laps in, but in any case we were able to improve our times. When I tried to take a bit more of a risk on the flying lap the bike responded well at the front going into turns and I was able to lap fairly fast. We still don’t have much information in this area, so we would like to be able to gather more in order to test and achieve that good feeling consistently. For everything else we’ll keep working on the electronics and the way the frame performs in turns, particularly going in, as well as trying to find better grip. The race will be difficult tomorrow without and doubt, but we will be looking at it as a test. Our goal is to get to the end with good sensations, trying to maintain as consistent a pace as possible. After a complicated day like yesterday today went better and I want to thank the team for that.”
Marco Melandri –“Despite our hard work, even today we didn’t gather as much as we had hoped. We need to lap, accumulate information and translate it into the evolution of the bike. Right now I’m not riding to my full potential and I can feel that. The Championship level is incredibly high. As rookies we have a very difficult challenge before us.”
Track conditions today were good and track temperatures peaked at 27°C during Free Practice 4, before dropping to a low of 25°C during QP2. It was during the thirty minute FP4 session that many riders did race simulations on their preferred tyre choice in preparation for tomorrow’s Grand Prix. The most popular tyre combination during the final free practice session was the medium compound rear paired with the hard compound front slick, although the medium compound front, and hard compound rear are also likely to figure on the grid for tomorrow’s race. In Qualifying Practice 1 and 2, the riders opted for the softest rear slick available to them; medium compound for the Factory Honda and Yamaha riders, and soft compound for the rest of the field.
The twenty-two lap Qatar Grand Prix starts under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit at 2100.
MotoGP 2015 – Round One – Losail – Qualifying
DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA Ducati Team 1’54.113
PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA Repsol Honda Team 1’54.330
MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA Repsol Honda Team 1’54.437
IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA Ducati Team 1’54.521
HERNANDEZ Yonny 68 COL Pramac Racing 1’54.675
LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1’54.711
SMITH Bradley 38 GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’54.732
ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1’54.851
PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA Pramac Racing 1’54.876
ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’55.004
ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 1’55.035
CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR CWM LCR Honda 1’55.123
VINALES Maverick 25 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 1’55.246
REDDING Scott 45 GBR Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS 1’55.428
BARBERA Hector 8 SPA Avintia Racing 1’55.604
DI MEGLIO Mike 63 FRA Avintia Racing 1’55.729
HAYDEN Nicky 69 USA Aspar MotoGP Team 1’55.756
BRADL Stefan 6 GER Athina Forward Racing 1’55.791
LAVERTY Eugene 50 IRE Aspar MotoGP Team 1’55.848
ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE AB Motoracing 1’55.892
BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1’56.187
MILLER Jack 43 AUS CWM LCR Honda 1’56.287
BAZ Loris 76 FRA Athina Forward Racing 1’56.454
DE ANGELIS Alex 15 RSM Athina Forward Racing 1’56.793
MELANDRI Marco 33 ITA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1’57.934
Briton Lowes takes Moto2 pole ahead of Zarco & Rabat
The first Moto2 QP of the season saw Sam Lowes, Johann Zarco and Tito Rabat immediately resuming their battle from free practice. The three riders swapping fastest times throughout the session, until Sandro Cortese also joined the party with just 5 minutes to go.
Lowes crashed while in provisional pole position with just 3 minutes to go, as he lost the front at turn 4, ending his session early. This gave Zarco and Rabat the incentive they needed to challenge for pole, but neither could improve their times, and it was the British rider who took the first pole position of the season with a 1’59.423.
Frenchman Zarco (+0.332s) on the Ajo Motorsport machine will start from 2nd, with reigning Moto2 Champion Rabat (+390s) on the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Racing Kalex completing the front row. German Sandro Cortese (+0.422s) and his compatriot Jonas Folger (+0.515s) were in 4th and 5th respectively, ahead of Belgian Xavier Simeon (+0.809s) who will start from 6th.
Alex Rins once again impressed on his Moto2 debut, and will start from 9th place on the grid on the Paginas Amarillas Kalex, while last year’s championship runner-up Mika Kallio could only manage to get on the 6th row for his new Italtrans Racing Team, as he ended the session in 16th.
Anthony West qualified 22nd out of the 30 rider field.
Moto2 Qualifiying Practice Classification
Sam LowesGBRSPEED UP1’59.423
Johann Zarco FRA KALEX 1’59.755
Tito Rabat SPA KALEX 1’59.813
Masbou claims career first Moto3 pole in Qatar
The first Moto3 qualifying session of the season did not disappoint with three-tenths of a second the difference between pole and 10th place, and just 0.929s separating the top 17. In an incredible final ten minutes, as riders took advantage of fresh tyres, the lead was constantly being swapped.
Most teams used “formation riding”, where teammates lap in groups around the circuit to allow them to take advantage of each others’ slipstream to set faster times, and it almost seemed like a race as riders chopped and changed position out on track trying to take advantage of the racing line.
Masbou finished with a 2’06.170 ahead of the Husqvarna Factory Laglisse of Isaac Viñales (+0.067s), with Niccolo Antonelli (+0.075s) completing the front row on his Oncetta-Rivacold Honda. Francesco Bagnaia (+0.083s) was the leading Mahindra in 4th, in front of Masbou’s teammate, Scottish Rider John McPhee (+0.084s), in 5th. The man who set the fastest time in practice, Leopard Racing’s Danny Kent (+0.256s) will start from the 3rd row in 9th.
Remy Gardner continues to make progress, the youngster qualifying 19th in the 34 rider field.
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.