Perfect start to title defence for Lorenzo with Qatar pole

Q2 was a great unknown for the riders with the new Michelin tyres, most riders feeling the new French rubber would take five or six laps before they were in an ideal operating condition. But come Q2, riders were able to immediately push and set some of their best times of the weekend during their opening assault. All riders opted for a two run strategy, most coming in with just over five minutes of the session remaining. It proved tense till the end as a multitude of riders were setting red sectors until the flag came out.

For the 36th time in his premier class career, Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) will line up in pole position. The Majorcan set a 1’54.543 on his second lap to secure the first pole of 2016. He had been pushing for a fast time during his second run but a moment forced him to sit up, ending his chances of improving. Lorenzo now heads into the race looking for his first podium finish in Qatar since 2013. His title defence has gotten off to a perfect start, but the triple MotoGP World Champion now needs to convert his pole to a strong race result as he has a gaggle of riders right behind.

After Thursday few would have expected Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) to start on the front row, yet alone challenge for pole position. Due to the hard work of his team and Marquez’s undeniable ability to push any motorcycle to its limit, the Spaniard set a 1’54.634s to line up second on the grid.

Completing an all Spanish front row was Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) who managed a 1’54.693 on his final lap of the session, 0.004s back on second. This is Viñales’ second front row start in the premier class, his second place start at the Catalan GP in 2015 producing a sixth place finish. Under a tenth of a second split the front row, one of the tightest Qualifying sessions in recent years.

Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) had been on track for a front row start until Viñales bumped him back. Known for his aggressive style, a second row start will likely not hinder Iannone come Sunday as both he and Lorenzo have been able to make the new Michelin tyres work within just a few laps.

Fresh off announcing a new two-year contract with Yamaha, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) completed the top five. He, Viñales and Iannone were some of the last riders to set their fastest times, Rossi losing out in the final sector.

In sixth was Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), making it an all-Spanish front row followed by an all-Italian second row. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) and Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) were on the third row, making for another entirely Spanish row.

Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) completed the top 12, and formed an entirely British fourth row. All of the top 12 were within 0.965s, the new tyres and electronics producing a stunning show for all the fans both at the track and watching the action.

With a top speed of 349.7km/h, Andrea Iannone proved that the Ducati is still a force to be reckoned with on the straights. His teammate, Andrea Dovizioso, was the second fastest rider down the kilometre long straight, hitting 344 km/h, Lorenzo the 10th fastest rider in a straight line during the Q2 session. Top end speed could play a defining role in the race with the finish line being a substantial distance from the final corner.

There was an unfortunate fall during Q1 for Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) as he slid off at Turn 1, sprinting back to the pits for his second bike. He was able to head back out with four minutes of Q1 remaining. Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) suffered a late fall during the session at Turn 14. Both were unhurt. There were no crashes during Q2.

MotoGP Qualifying Results

1 – Jorge Lorenzo      (SPA)    YAMAHA    1’54.543

2 – Marc Marquez    (SPA)    HONDA    + 0.091

3 – Maverick Viñales   (SPA)   SUZUKI    + 0.095

Folger takes his second Moto2 pole ahead of the Qatar GP

Almost as soon as riders in the Moto2 World Championship hit the Losail International Circuit, times began to plummet. Sam Lowes’ (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) best time from Friday practice, a new lap record, was bested by Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) on the German’s third lap.

The top ten contenders were able to consistently lap in the 1’59s lap after lap, even as traffic increased towards the end of the session. As has been the trend in Moto2 in recent years, early banker laps proved invaluable as two of the top three riders set their fastest time within their first five laps.

On pole for just the second time in his intermediate class career, Jonas Folger’s early lap proved unbeatable as the German set a new pole record with a 1’59.052. Folger’s previous pole came at the French GP in 2014, starting on the front row a further three times in 2015.

0.072s behind the German was Lowes, the Brit unable to repeat his 2015 pole but still improving his best time to a 1’59.124. Lowes will be looking to add to his five previous podium finishes in the intermediate class. Throughout the weekend Lowes has been quick over multiple laps as well as one offs, frequently setting his best times at the end of longer runs.

Completing the front row is Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40), setting a 1’59.354 on his third lap. The Spaniard was unable to improve after he suffered a bike crunching crash at Turn 2, his Kalex tumbling through the gravel after losing the front. His team worked feverishly to repair the bike, sending him back out with just five minutes remaining.

Reigning Moto2 World Champion, Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) wrestled his way up to fourth on his last lap, only 0.065s off a front row start. No defending Moto2™ champion has ever taken victory in the opening race of the year, the Frenchman aims to change that on Sunday.

Fifth was Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), the Italian initially struggling during testing and practice with his new team. But when it mattered the Italian was able to produce a 1’59.509 and end 0.457s back on pole. One thing is certain for Sunday’s race; Morbidelli’s aggressive all or nothing style will see him towards the front for at least part of the race.

There was an early involving both Luca Marini (Forward Team) and Ratthapark Wilairot (Idemitsu Team Asia) at Turn 16. Both were unhurt but Marini’s session was reduced to just five minutes.

Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) also suffered his second fall of the weekend at Turn 1. Rins was not the only victim of Turn 2, Lorenzo Baldassarri falling at the same corner with one minute remaining. Baldassarri was taken to the medical centre for checks after his crash. He was declared unfit due to dislocating both his shoulders.

Moto2 Qualifying Results

1 – Jonas Folger   (GER)   KALEX    1’59.052

2 – Sam Lowes    (GBR)   KALEX    + 0.072

3 – Alex Rins   (SPA)   KALEX   + 0.302

Fenati snatches first lightweight class pole of 2016

High winds saw riders unable to improve on the fastest times of the weekend in Qualifying as Fenati takes pole from Loi and Binder.

With conditions slightly warmer than previous days and a high wind, the Moto3 World Championship headed out for their first Qualifying session of 2016. Livio Loi (RW Racing GP BV) was the rider to beat heading into the session with the provisionally fastest time of the weekend, a 2’05.832 set on Thursday.

Ahead of the session it was announced that both Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) were handed a three-place grid penalty for riding slowly in three sectors in excess of the 110% limit of their fastest sector times in Free Practice 3.

Riders were out for a slipstream, a tow down the 1,068-meter long straight worth over half a second, an eternity in Moto3™. As a result formation flying between teammates was a common sight throughout the session.

A lap in the dying seconds rocketed Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) to pole position, just the second pole of his long career in the lightweight class. His first came at the Japanese GP in 2015, where he went on to finish 28th. The young Italian set a 2’06.131 to end 0.047s ahead of Loi.

Loi had been in control of the session until Fenati’s lap but the Belgian remains pleased with his second place start, having never started on the front row before. His time from the opening day of practice still remains as the fastest time of the weekend and he knows there is more to come on race day.

Completing the front row was Brad Binder, the South African setting a 2’06.245 but due to his penalty he will start sixth. This promoted Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) to the front row of the grid for Sunday’s Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar.

Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0), Brad Binder, Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold), Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3), Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) and Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) rounded out the top ten. In classic Moto3™ style, the top 19 riders were split by under a second and there’s little indication that Sunday’s race will be anything other than a battle of bravery and wits.

Rookie Bendsneyder had been eighth but like his teammate Binder, was demoted three places.

There was a fall mid session for Niccolo Antonelli at Turn 13, his third crash of the weekend. This was quickly followed by Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) going down at Turn 6 and Lorenzo Petrarca (3570 Team Italia) falling at Turn 14. Joan Mir also fell after setting his fastest time. All riders were unhurt.

Moto3 Qualifying Results

1 – Romano Fenati    (ITA)   KTM   2’06.131

2 – Livio Loi    (BEL)   HONDA   + 0.047

3 – Brad Binder (RSA)  KTM    + 0.114