Jorge Lorenzo tops day one in Qatar

Due to the Losail International Circuit’s location, the first sessions of the day are frequently hindered by a dirty track as a result of sanding blowing over the circuit. Fortunately for riders in the MotoGP World Championship, the Moto2 and Moto3 class riders did most of the work to prepare the track during their first sessions. However, the junior classes also have a different tyre supplier, thus leaving a different rubber on the track surface that in the past has changed grip levels.

During the Qatar Test, Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) had set a best time of 1’54.810, but riders were aware this would be an ambitious time due to rain between the test and FP1 changing the track significantly. The reigning MotoGP World Champion pushed from the start of the session, stringing together fastest lap after fastest lap in the first ten minutes. A best time of 1’55.440 on his 15th lap saw Lorenzo lead the way.

Jorge Lorenzo – P1 – 1m55.440
Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo

“I had a good start. From the first run I was able to have the best lap time and probably also the best pace, but we still have a margin for improvement both in lap time and pace. We will keep working on the setting and the electronics to improve in some areas for tomorrow. The track will also be better with more grip level tomorrow and the lap times will be faster.”

With a total of 17 laps in the first practice session, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was able to work his way to second. A lap of 1’55.707 put him 0.267s back on his teammate as the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team asserted themselves over the rest of the field. Both Rossi and Lorenzo looked comfortable throughout testing and have continued their rapid pace into the race weekend.

Valentino Rossi – P2 +0.267
Valentino Rossi
Valentino Rossi

“The first practice was positive. I‘m quite satisfied, it was a strong way to start the season, because the second position is good and also the lap times are already not so bad. They’re in the 1‘55s and the pace is quite good. We start working from what we did in the test. This means that we did a good job during pre-season and we begin with a good base, but now we have to keep focus. The condition of the track changes a lot session by session and together with the team we have to deliver good work so we will be ready when the grip becomes better. I‘ll try to improve the feeling and also try to make the right decision for the tyres.”

Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team

“The new MotoGP season is now well and truly underway and we can be very satisfied with the results of today’s first free practice session. Whenever we arrive at this track it takes a few sessions to get the initial dust and debris from the desert off the track, but today the conditions and level of grip were OK. Jorge started the season where he left off the previous year and showed his fast and consistent pace throughout the whole session. Vale was also fast right from the get go and his motivation showed in the lap times. Though there are still areas of the setting that we aim to improve on, we will try to sort this out before tomorrow’s FP2.”

Try as he might, Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) who set a 1’55.736, was unable to get within a quarter of a second of Lorenzo. Iannone’s MotoGP podium debut came here in Qatar in 2015, many are expecting the Ducati man to be in contention for victory at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar, the long straight playing to the strength of the new Ducati.

Andrea Iannone – P3 +0.296
Andrea Iannone
Andrea Iannone

“Today we went well but didn’t improve on the time we set in the tests and so we still need to find something extra in order to be quicker and more competitive. It was in any case a positive session, even though towards the end we made a modification that didn’t give the results we had been hoping for but did help us get a clearer idea of the direction to take and the work we will have to do to make more improvements in corner turn-in under braking. I preferred to only use the hard rear tyre, seeing as we’ve still got a bit more margin, and tomorrow we’ll try and understand if we can also do the race on the soft tyre.”

Another impressive Ducati was the Avintia Racing Ducati GP14.2 of Hector Barbera, the Spaniard clearly benefitting from the more level field created with the introduction of the spec ECU and unified software. Barbera, known for his ability to produce a single flying lap, ending fourth with a 1’55.810.

Hector Barbera – P4 +0.370
Hector Barbera
Hector Barbera

“We started better than we had planned. Our aim tonight was to end up between the fifth and tenth place, so finishing fourth is like a gift for us and I’m very happy. We did a great job during the winter and now we can see the results, we are strong and this year we can fight for good results. The track condition was worse than two weeks ago, it was dirty and the bike had more spinning, especially in the middle of the turn when you start to open the throttle. But the best thing about this sport is that the conditions are the same for everybody and you have to adapt. My team is doing a great job and although we are only a few people inside the garage, we understand each other very well. We spent two weeks off the bike and I crashed twice on the last day of the test, so at the beginning the feeling was not the best. Nonetheless, this fourth place is a price win for us.”

The final rider in the 1’55s was Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar), the young Spaniard over a second faster than his teammate Aleix Espargaro who was 16th. While Espargaro has the fully seamless gearbox, Viñales is still undecided over which to use and is hoping to make a decision before the race.

Maverick Viñales – P5 +0.407
Maverick Vinales
Maverick Vinales

“It’s been a positive first session, we started from where we left-off at the tests and I feel quite confident with the bike. Today I tried only one set of tyres, with the harder compound, both to verify the performance consistency and to keep some softer for the next sessions. Although they got worn I managed to improve my lap times consistently and I scored my best at the last one, which is positive for me both for the race and for the feeling that I have. I have also tested the full seamless, but we still need to work on its set-up, our objective is to adopt it definitively as soon as possible, this is why we will continue testing and try to find a good set -up. It’s only the beginning, but my feelings are positive and the improvements are consistent, which gives me good hopes for the next days.”

Aleix Espargaró – P16 +1.656
Aleix Espargaro
Aleix Espargaro

“It’s been a hard first session, I can’t find the feeling with the front end and this prevents me braking hard and enter fast into the corners, which is a peculiarity of my riding style. This is the main problem, but the confidence with the front is also one of the hardest parts in motor racing. Today there was the problem that the track was much slipper, we tested only with the hardest tyre in order to keep the softer for better conditions on the track, which will for sure improve tomorrow. I spoke a lot with my engineers, my trust in them is total and we have already some ideas about what to change to improve the feeling. I’m sure we will get in better places soon because we only need time to find the right direction, the technical package and my potential are much higher than where we are now.”

Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager

“Obviously it has been a positive beginning of the weekend for Maverick who could be very fast especially at the end of the session using hard tyre. This is a good sign, but we still have work to do; there is room for improvements in the electronics and we will test the different options in tyres and some more little details we want to check. A little harder for Aleix, we thought to start a little better but with him we are still trying to find a better set-up for the bike. Today we have done only one session, we have the whole night to work on the data and we definitely want to deliver him a machine that could better suit his needs, as this performance his not where he belongs and we believe his potential is much higher.”

After several difficult tests, Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) turned his fortunes around and was able to finish sixth, and ahead of both the factory Honda machines in FP1. The Spaniard set a 1’56.051 while his teammate, Bradley Smith, ended down in 11th. Smith also suffered a crash at Turn 13, the Brit unhurt in the fall but forced to end his session early.

Pol Espargaro – P6 +0.611

“Finally, the winter is over and we can get back to doing what we love to do best – MotoGP! I am more determined than ever about this year and it will be a very important season for me as a rider. I’m happy to be part of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team once again and I intend to make everyone proud in 2016 after the difficulties that we had to face last year. The winter tests were a bit different this time because we had to adjust to our updated Yamaha YZR- M1 but also get used to the Michelin tyres and the new electronics. However, I am feeling confident about all of these aspects after the thorough job the team and I did in February and earlier this month. Although the bike is not quite 100%, we are close and I am particularly confident of our race setup this year so I’m sure I can fight to some strong results. I will give my all at the first GP to start the season with a positive finish. The time has come and I’m ready for the contest.”

Bradley Smith – P11 +1.084

“The winter months have passed, so now it’s finally time to switch on to race mode and get ready for the first GP of 2016, which I am very excited about. We’ve had a really constructive off-season, which kicked off in Malaysia and despite the tricky weather there, as well as later again at Phillip Island, I feel we completed a lot of valuable work. This is just what we needed before the start of what will be a very competitive year. I intend to continue from where I left off last season, but I am under no illusions that it will be any less competitive than last year. Still, we have taken every necessary step to be prepared and I’m feeling optimistic about my chances. This GP is always unusual due to it being at night and also over four days, but I am confident of starting strongly in FP1 and then go from there. It will great to be back racing again and I can’t wait to get going.”

Teams were able to make several adjustments between the Qatar Test and Free Practice 1, the Repsol Honda Team bringing a larger set of winglets for the opening round. Dani Pedrosa led the Repsol Honda Team charge in seventh, no Honda machines inside the top five as they continue to struggle with the RC213V, especially in Qatar. Marc Marquez was 0.160s back on his teammate, ending the session eighth and 0.810s back on Lorenzo’s time.

Dani Pedrosa – P7 +0.658
Dani Pedrosa
Dani Pedrosa

“Luckily, the track was in good condition and this practice was a useful start for us to gather information, because we started working on the setup we used on the last day of test and then decided to try a big change. We need to work more on this idea and I hope tomorrow we’ll be able to build on it. We’ll study the data we’ve gathered very thoroughly in order to improve in the direction we feel could make the bike faster. We’ll try to reduce the gap, tenth by tenth, working on power delivery and chassis settings.”

Marc Marquez – P8 +0.818
Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez

“Today the 2016 season started for real. It was not the easiest FP1 I’ve ridden in, but we tried to improve gradually. The feeling was not very good, but we worked hard and we tried a lot of things out, so now we have to see what has changed between the test and today. We know that in Qatar the track conditions change a lot, so we will try to continue to evolve and get close to the top riders.”

Andrea Dovizioso used the softer rear tyre option and he ended up 0.947s off the pace of fastest runner Lorenzo, and ninth overall on FP1 times.

Andrea Dovizioso – P9 +0.947
Andrea Dovizioso
Andrea Dovizioso

“It was a bit of a strange session because the conditions were quite different to the ones we found here during the tests at the start of the month. We started off by using tyres that today produced a bit of front-end vibration and so now we will have to work to try and understand the cause. However I am not worried about my position because I still had some margin and in some corners I preferred not to take too many risks in this first practice session because I still haven’t reached a perfect feeling with the bike.”

Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) finished the session in tenth and led a trio of British riders with Smith and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) just behind.

Scott Redding – P10 +0.972
Scott Redding
Scott Redding

“The feeling is a bit different from that of the tests. But I must say that with the team we have very clear ideas about what we should do and we know the direction we need to take tomorrow. With hard tyre things have not gone very well and this is to work. But with the soft tire we did better and tomorrow we want to start from this point. The track? Conditions are different from those of the tests. Probably not better or worse, just different. At the end the laptime it is not bad but tomorrow I expect to do better.”

Cal Crutchlow – P12 +1.156
Cal Crutchlow
Cal Crutchlow

“The first practice wasn’t too bad to be honest, we went through a few things that we needed to try, but nothing special. We used the hard rear tyre, but we were still struggling a bit going into the corners. Overall we’re happy enough though, taking into account the sand on the track and a few people changing tyres at the end of the session. For us there was no real point to do that. We knew this race was going to be difficult, and though it wasn’t the best session, it wasn’t the worst either.”

Unable to emulate the speed of his teammate, Loris Baz (Avintia Ducati) finished the first day of MotoGP practice in 13th but only 1.343s off Lorenzo’s time.

Loris Baz – P13 +1.343
Loris Baz
Loris Baz

“The World Championship has started and the first free practice session at Qatar is the moment where I feel the most pressure of the entire season. You arrive here two days before and you have to put your leathers on just to make pictures, but not to ride the bike, so the desire to start is always incredible. Because of all of this, I don’t ride as usual and I’m always a little bit stressed. Overall we had a good start, but the track was dirty after the rain ove the last few days and I was able to do just two fast laps because the exhaust of one bike broke and we also had a small issue with the other bike. But nevertheless, we are only 1.3s from the fastest guy. Last year I would have opened a bottle of champagne with a gap that small! I think Dorna did a great move with the new rules. It’s really good for us.”

Having worked hard to improve his fitness over the off-season, a lighter than ever Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) was able to improve on his best time from testing almost immediately. The Australian managed a1’54.939 to end the session 14th, a decent result given his still healing leg. Tito Rabat was down in a disappointing 20th and almost a full second slower than his Australian teammate.

Jack Miller – P14 +1.499
Jack Miller
Jack Miller

“I am feeling better on the bike with my right leg compared to the test here two weeks ago but I’m still not satisfied, I want to be closer to the front. But we have made some positive steps in the set up to find a direction that should be good for qualifying and the race. I need to get the front-end more stable and have the confidence to push for faster times. The track was a little bit dirty from the rain yesterday and it was windy but overall a good start to the weekend.”

Tito Rabat – P20 +2.476
Tito Rabat
Tito Rabat

“We tried a different direction from the test but I still lack confidence on the front, I feel I am always on the limit. We made some big changes but we need to look at some different set up options for tomorrow.  At the moment it makes no sense to push and have another crash, we still have two more sessions and plenty of time to find some solutions.”

Michael Bartholemy – Team Principal – Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS

“It was difficult session for Tito because we made some big changes to the bike, we needed to do something after his crashes during the test here. He feels he is sitting too much over the bike and we will make some more adjustments for this tomorrow but we made some positive steps. For Jack it was a nice practice session and he is not that far behind the other Honda riders. He did a good job considering he is not yet 100% fit so we are yet to see his full potential.”

Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) was also out on track for the first time since breaking his hand at the Phillip Island Test. He was able to complete 17 laps, but wasn’t as competitive as he had been during the Sepang and Phillip Island Tests as he ended 15th.

Danilo Petrucci – P15 +1.541
Danilo Petrucci
Danilo Petrucci

“After a month off the bike it was difficult to start again. I confess that until one hour before the start of the Fp1 I was very worried. After the first lap I removed the brace and things got better. Now I’m really happy. I have to recover confidence and obviously overcome the fear of crashing. There is always a little fear, especially in right-corner entry. But I’m happy because I did not think I could run so well. I thank those who helped me in this difficult time, the doctors that I have operated me in Australia, Dr. Zasa and the Clinica Mobile who followed me in therapies, Dr. Catani for medical consultations and valuable advice. As for the feeling with the bike it was immediately positive. My team have done a great job during testing. Now I just have to find the courage and confidence to brake a little later and open the throttle a bit before.”

Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) led the charge for the new RS-GP in 17th while teammate Stefan Bradl ended the day down in 21st. Both riders are aware that it will be a difficult year and are treating this first round as an extended test session.

Alvaro Bautista – P17 +1.689
Alvaro Bautista
Alvaro Bautista

“We lapped for the entire session without any problems and that is very important since our top priority is gaining familiarity with the bike. Today we made a few changes to continue development so I didn’t have the same feeling as the last tests because with these changes the character of the RS-GP was slightly altered, but that is all part of the testing that needs to be done. Tomorrow we’ll glean from what we learned today”.

Stefan Bradl – P17 +2.549
Stefan Bradl
Stefan Bradl

“This was a good day of practice for us. We got a lot of laps in. At the beginning of the session we were a bit shaky, but toward the end my feeling began to improve both with the bike and with the tyres. I’m pleased because we got off to a good start. Now we will have to try and push to improve in tomorrow’s sessions”.

The Aspar Team MotoGP duo of Yonny Hernandez and Eugene Laverty were 18th and 19th respectively.

Yonny Hernández – P18 +1.752
Yonny Hernandez
Yonny Hernandez

“We have had some problems that made it a tricky session for us. The traction control sensor gave us a little work at the start of the session and I had to come in and change the bike. We were able to try out the new front tyre that Michelin have brought here but I didn’t like it much and so I came back in to switch bikes again. After that I started picking up my pace when I realised that the front brake wasn’t working as I like. Every now and again I had to let it cool so I could stay on track The positive thing is that we have set a decent lap but I am sure that tomorrow when we solve the little setbacks we’ve had today we will be able to improve a lot more.”

Eugene Laverty – P19 +1.981
Eugene Laverty
Eugene Laverty

“It was a really positive first night of the season for us. We have started the first Grand Prix with a new engine, which is the first time I am riding with the same engine as the other riders on the Desmosedici 14.2 and now I understand the problems I have had up to now – it changes so much on the bike. It is braking better and turning better, which are the areas I was struggling with, so now we have reason for optimism and we understand how we can move forward. Even with the rain yesterday the grip wasn’t so bad tonight. It is hard to get up to speed in just one session but the lap time was similar to the test on an old tyre so that’s good. We have some work to do because the change in characteristics of the engine means we have to alter lots of other parameters with the bike, so this will be our main focus tomorrow night.”

MotoGP are back on track at 18:00 Local Time on Friday the 18th of March for FP2.

MotoGP 2016 Riders
MotoGP 2016 Riders
MotoGP 2016 – Round One – Thursday Practice Times
  1. Jorge Lorenzo – Yamaha 1m55.440
  2. Valentino Rossi – Yamaha 1m55.707
  3. Andrea Iannone – Ducati 1m55.736
  4. Hector Barbera – Ducati 1m55.810
  5. Maverick Vinales – Suzuki 1m55.847
  6. Pol Espargaro – Yamaha 1m56.051
  7. Dani Pedrosa – Honda 1m56.098
  8. Marc Marquez – Honda 1m56.258
  9. Andrea Dovizioso – Ducati – 1m56.387
  10. Scott Redding – Ducati 1m56.412
  11. Bradley Smith – Yamaha 1m56.524
  12. Cal Crutchlow – Honda 1m56.596
  13. Loris Baz – Ducati 1m56.783
  14. Jack Miller – Honda 1m56.929
  15. Danilo Petrucci – Ducati 1m56.981
  16. Aleix Espargaro – Suzuki 1m57.096
  17. Alvaro Bautista – Aprilia 1m57.129
  18. Yonny Hernandez – Ducati 1m57.192
  19. Eugene Laverty – Ducati 1m57.421
  20. Tito Rabat – Honda 1m57.916
  21. Stefan Bradl – Aprilia 1m57.989
MotoGP 2016 Machines
MotoGP 2016 Machines
MotoGP 2016 – Round One – Thursday Practice Top Speed
  1. Iannone 346.9
  2. Dovizioso 344.3
  3. Barbera 339.7
  4. Rossi 338.4
  5. Laverty 336.8
  6. Pedrosa 336.4
  7. Marquez 335.9
  8. Vinales 335.5
  9. Lorenzo 334.7
  10. P Espargaro 334.5
  11. Hernandez 334.4
  12. Petrucci 334.3
  13. Crutchlow 334.3
  14. Redding 334.3
  15. Miller 334.0
  16. Smith 333.8
  17. Bautista 331.8
  18. Baz 330.7
  19. A Espargaro 327.8
  20. Rabat 327.8
  21. Bradl 327.3
Folger the fastest rider in Moto2 after FP1 and FP2

Moto2 riders settled into the rhythm of a race weekend with Jonas Folger leading the first day from Lowes and Rins.

Jonas Folger
Jonas Folger

Track conditions continued to improve as the Moto2 World Championship headed out on track for Free Practice 2, their final session of the opening Thursday at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar. Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) set the bar at a 1’59.731 during Free Practice 1, but his fellow competitors made sure that time was quickly pushed to the limit.

Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) was on of the first to improve when he dropped down to s 1’59.566, improving his time from FP1 by over half a second to lead both FP2 and the day overall. The German won the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar in 2015 and if his early pace is anything to go by, he could very well repeat victory in 2016.

Despite a fall at Turn 7, Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) was able to recover and set the second fastest time of the day with a 1’59.657s in the final minutes of practice. Even with his off the Brit managed to complete 18 laps, amongst the most of any rider.

The third and final rider to go under Luthi’s time was Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) thanks to a 1’59.678. Many are expecting the former Moto3™ front-runner to challenge for the Moto2™ title in 2016 after his great debut back in 2015, solid points in the opening round would be ideal.

Luthi was unable to improve on his FP1 time, the only rider inside the top ten failing to do so. Despite this the Swiss rider nestled into fourth, ahead of Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport). The French rider continued to progress well throughout both sessions and is looking much stronger than in testing.

The top ten were completed by Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team), Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) and Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) all within an incredible half a second of each other. All of the top 20 riders were within a second of Folger, Moto2™ looking closer than ever in 2016. There was also a heavy off for Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) at Turn 1 but the Italian walked away unhurt.

Moto2 2016 Riders
Moto2 2016 Riders
Moto2 2016 – Round One – Day One Times
  1. Folger 1m59.566
  2. Lowes 1m59.657
  3. Rins 1m59.678
  4. Luthi 1m59.731
  5. Zarco 1m59.889
  6. Morbidelli 1m59.896
  7. Baldassarri 1m59.979
  8. Nakagami 1m59.996
  9. Corsi 2m00.038
  10. Marquez 2m00.049
First day of Moto3 wraps up with Loi on top

After two 40-minute practice sessions, Loi leaves Thursday in Qatar as the fastest rider from Mir and Bulega.

Livio Loi
Livio Loi

The Moto3™ World Championship came into FP2 after Livio Loi (RW Racing GP) and Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) had taken a substantial lead in FP1, the duo over half a second faster than the rest of the field. With conditions improving with each lap, riders were quickly able to close the gap to their initial times.

Navarro was again strong from the start of the session with Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) behind him for much of the session, neither rider able to surpass the 2’06.456 benchmark set by Loi in FP1 in the opening stages.

With half of Free Practice 2 complete riders retreated to their pits for adjustments before a late assault. While the riders may change year-to-year, other aspects of the Moto3™ World Championship such as the tactics and close racing remain the same. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was one of the first riders to improve during the second half of the session. This started a flood of personal best laps.

The slipstream proved as critical as ever for riders hunting for a fast time, almost all teammates spending at least a handful of laps together to make the most of the it, worth over half a second a lap.

As the final ten minutes ticked down, times rapidly fell with Livio Loi (RW Racing GP) setting a 2’05.832 and a new circuit record in the process. This saw the Belgian rider lead not only FP2, but also the day overall.

Truly it was the rookies in the class who shone the brightest in FP2, Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) managing to circulate the Losail International Circuit in 2’06.160 to end 0.328s back on Loi. Having only previously ridden at the Qatari track in testing, things are already looking positive for the former Moto3™ Junior World Championship front-runner.

Third fastest in FP2 and for the day was Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46), the rookie setting his fastest lap and the crashing at Turn 16 soon after. Bulega, like Mir, is a product of the FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship, which continues to make young talent after young talent.

The Italian was ahead of Sky Racing Team VR46 teammate Romano Fenati who was just 0.011s slower. Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) made it three Italians in the top five as he finished as top Mahindra.

Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing), Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team), Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) and Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) completed the top ten as Thursday practice ended.

Moto3 2016 Riders
Moto3 2016 Riders
Moto3 2016 – Round One – Day One Times
  1. Loi 2m05.832
  2. Mir 2m06.160
  3. Bulega 2m06.184
  4. Fenati 2m06.195
  5. Bagnaia 2m06.257
  6. Binder 2m06.268
  7. Locatelli 2m06.277
  8. Kornfeil 2m06.329
  9. Antonelli 2m06.337
  10. Bendsneyder 2m06.477
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