Pole for Marquez at the first Grand Prix of 2014

World Champion Marc Marquez will head the grid for Sunday’s first MotoGP™ race of the year at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar with Alvaro Bautista and Bradley Smith also qualifying on the front row.

Despite only returning to riding his Repsol Honda machine on Thursday after breaking his leg in preseason training, Marquez showed his rivals he means business again in 2014 with a great charge to pole with a 1’54.507 lap.

GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Bautista had provisional pole but eventually qualified second by a +0.057s margin, whilst Smith was also close to the top spot missing out by less than a tenth.

That result is Smith’s first ever premier class front row qualifying effort and was a great response to his FP3 horror crash.

Another solid effort for Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) sees him head the second row, with Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) managing to pull something out of the bag in fifth and sixth respectively having struggled for much of the weekend so far.

Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP) leads the third row with a time just 0.364s off the pace, with Q1 participant Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team) improving to eighth.

A disastrous session for Aleix Espargaro (NGM Forward Racing) saw him qualify ninth, having walked away from two crashes, appearing to crack under the pressure of Q2. He had led the way earlier in the weekend and was furious with himself after both falls.

Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) starts in the unfamiliar territory of row four, ahead of Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing) and Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech3).

  1. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team HONDA 1’54.507
  2. Alvaro Bautista ESP Go & Fun Honda Gresini HONDA 1’54.564
  3. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 1’54.601
  4. Andrea Dovizioso  ITA Ducati Team DUCATI 1’54.644
  5. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Yamaha Factory Racing YAMAHA 1’54.661
  6. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team HONDA 1’54.703
  7. Stefan Bradl  GER LCR Honda MotoGP HONDA 1’54.871
  8. Cal Crutchlow 3GBR Ducati Team DUCATI 1’54.888
  9. Aleix Espargaro  ESP NGM Mobile Forward Racing YAMAHA 1’54.986
  10. Valentino Rossi  ITA Yamaha Factory YAMAHA 1’55.096
  11. Andrea Iannone ITA Pramac Racing DUCATI 1’55.127
  12. Pol Espargaro  ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 1’55.152
  13. Nicky Hayden  USA Drive M7 Aspar HONDA 1’55.894
  14. Colin Edwards  USA NGM Mobile Forward Racing YAMAHA 1’56.042
  15. Hiroshi Aoyama  JPN Drive M7 Aspar HONDA 1’56.479
  16. Scott Redding  GBR Go & Fun Honda Gresini HONDA 1’56.555
  17. Yonny Hernandez  COL Pramac Racing DUCATI 1’56.648
  18. Karel Abraham  CZE Cardion AB Motoracing HONDA 1’56.715
  19. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Racing MotoGP FTR-KAWASAKI 1’57.006
  20. Danilo Petrucci  ITA IodaRacing Project IODA-SUTER 1’57.513
  21. Broc Parkes  AUS Paul Bird Motorsport PBM 1’57.574
  22. Mike Di Meglio  FRA Avintia Racing MotoGP FTR-KAWASAKI 1’57.667
  23. Michael Laverty  GBR Paul Bird Motorsport ART & PBM 1’58.254
Marc Marquez - 1st - 1’54.507 - “I’m really happy and this pole position is a special one for me, because after coming back from injury it gives me a boost in confidence. In any case, we know that tomorrow is the day that counts and it’s in the race that points are decided, so we have to be very focused. It is going to be a very tough for me physically, because I don't have much strength in my leg and I have to compensate with my right arm. We are happy with how today went and seem to have found a good setup, with just a few details still to refine in tomorrow's warmup. It will be difficult, because many riders have pace within a tenth of each other, but we shall try to have a good race”
Marc Marquez – 1st – 1’54.507 – “I’m really happy and this pole position is a special one for me, because after coming back from injury it gives me a boost in confidence. In any case, we know that tomorrow is the day that counts and it’s in the race that points are decided, so we have to be very focused. It is going to be a very tough for me physically, because I don’t have much strength in my leg and I have to compensate with my right arm. We are happy with how today went and seem to have found a good setup, with just a few details still to refine in tomorrow’s warmup. It will be difficult, because many riders have pace within a tenth of each other, but we shall try to have a good race”

MotoGP_2014_Rnd1_QualifyingMoto2™: Rabat secures pole start in the desert

Tito Rabat // 1st // 2’00.081 “I’m happy to be on pole position for the first race and on my first weekend with a new team. We were missing rear grip in the first free practice sessions, but we worked together on the problem and we improved the situation; that’s important. It was enough to see me on pole position for the first race, which is a good feeling, but the work isn’t done. Tomorrow we need to see how we go in warm up before making a decision on our strategy for the race.”
Tito Rabat // 1st // 2’00.081
“I’m happy to be on pole position for the first race and on my first weekend with a new team. We were missing rear grip in the first free practice sessions, but we worked together on the problem and we improved the situation; that’s important. It was enough to see me on pole position for the first race, which is a good feeling, but the work isn’t done. Tomorrow we need to see how we go in warm up before making a decision on our strategy for the race.”

The Moto2™ qualifying session at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar saw Esteve Rabat (Marc VDS Racing Team) take pole, ahead of Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Takaaki Nakagami (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)

Rabat took pole with a best time of 2’00.081 to beat the existing pole record, with Cortese just behind him by 0.02s in second.

Cortese later crashed in an incident also involving Jordi Torres (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2) and Mika Kallio Marc (VDS Racing Team) causing a red flag, but each escaped relatively unscathed.

Nakagami (+0.37s) rounded out the front row, with Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2), the impressive rookie Sam Lowes (Speed Up) and Kallio on row two.

Xavier Simeon (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), Alex De Angelis (Tasca Racing Moto2) and Johann Zarco (AirAsia Caterham Moto Racing) qualified on the third row, just ahead of late crasher Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing), who was also ok.

Moto2_2014_Rnd1_Qualifying

Moto3™: Rins best in first qualifying session of 2014

The Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar Moto3™ qualifying session saw Alex Rins secure pole po3sition for the first race of 2014, with his Estrella Galicia 0,0 teammate Alex Marquez and Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Ajo) joining him on the front row of the grid.
The Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar Moto3™ qualifying session saw Alex Rins secure pole po3sition for the first race of 2014, with his Estrella Galicia 0,0 teammate Alex Marquez and Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Ajo) joining him on the front row of the grid.

The Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar Moto3™ qualifying session saw Alex Rins secure pole po3sition for the first race of 2014, with his Estrella Galicia 0,0 teammate Alex Marquez and Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Ajo) joining him on the front row of the grid.

The rider who missed out on the title in the last race of 2013, Rins showed his intentions for this season by posting the fastest ever Moto3 lap of Losail, taking the top spot with a 2’05.973s time at the end of the session.

Battling against the elements in windy conditions Marquez had provisional pole but eventually lost out by 0.152s. Meanwhile, Miller was 0.4s off the pace but looked threatening as he aims to challenge the dominant Spaniards this year.

The second row comprises Calvo Team colleagues Jakub Kornfeil and Isaac Viñales, alongside Englishman Danny Kent in the new Red Bull Husqvarna Ajo structure. That trio all qualified within a second of Rins.

Row three will feature the improving Scotsman John McPhee (SAXOPRINT RTG) and Italians Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Niccolo Antonelli (Junior Team GO&FUN), with Fenati’s teammate Francesco Bagnaia tenth.

There were crashes for Gabriel Ramos (Kiefer Racing), Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold) and Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Ongetta-AirAsia) without consequence – with Masbou qualifying 14th and the other pair much further down the grid.

Arthur Sissis (Mahindra Racing) recovered from a Friday fever to qualify 29th.

The Moto3 race at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar starts at 19:00 local time, with Moto2 following at 20:20 and the MotoGP contest getting underway at 22:00 (GMT +3).

Moto3_2014_Rnd1_Qualifying

GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Bautista had provisional pole but eventually qualified second by a +0.057s margin
GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Bautista had provisional pole but eventually qualified second by a +0.057s margin
Bradley Smith - 3rd / 1’54.601 - “I am really pleased with today, the bike felt great and I’m really satisfied with the setup. The performance during the fourth free practice session was very promising and fortunately I was able to translate that performance to the new tyre. I was slightly disappointed because with the second tyre, Aleix, Marc and I, all waited a bit too long, as nobody wanted to be followed. My tyres got too cold to push again, so I decided to take the bike back to parc fermé instead of taking any more risks, but I felt I still had some margin. However, you don’t get points for qualifying, tomorrow is when it really counts and there are 22 laps to battle in. For sure a good start is the key and I know I’m pretty good at them. I also know that I will be strong on the full fuel load as I worked a lot to improve this during the winter. Having said that, there are a lot of strong riders behind me and it won’t be easy, but I’ll give it my all. Tonight I will rest up, and prepare myself and if the bike feels like it did today, I am confident of getting a good result“.
Bradley Smith – 3rd / 1’54.601 – “I am really pleased with today, the bike felt great and I’m really satisfied with the setup. The performance during the fourth free practice session was very promising and fortunately I was able to translate that performance to the new tyre. I was slightly disappointed because with the second tyre, Aleix, Marc and I, all waited a bit too long, as nobody wanted to be followed. My tyres got too cold to push again, so I decided to take the bike back to parc fermé instead of taking any more risks, but I felt I still had some margin. However, you don’t get points for qualifying, tomorrow is when it really counts and there are 22 laps to battle in. For sure a good start is the key and I know I’m pretty good at them. I also know that I will be strong on the full fuel load as I worked a lot to improve this during the winter. Having said that, there are a lot of strong riders behind me and it won’t be easy, but I’ll give it my all. Tonight I will rest up, and prepare myself and if the bike feels like it did today, I am confident of getting a good result“.
A disastrous session for Aleix Espargaro (NGM Forward Racing) saw him qualify ninth, having walked away from two crashes, appearing to crack under the pressure of Q2. He had led the way earlier in the weekend and was furious with himself after both falls.
A disastrous session for Aleix Espargaro (NGM Forward Racing) saw him qualify ninth, having walked away from two crashes, appearing to crack under the pressure of Q2. He had led the way earlier in the weekend and was furious with himself after both falls.
Qualifying Press Conference
Qualifying Press Conference
Marc Marquez - 1st - 1’54.507 - “I’m really happy and this pole position is a special one for me, because after coming back from injury it gives me a boost in confidence. In any case, we know that tomorrow is the day that counts and it’s in the race that points are decided, so we have to be very focused. It is going to be a very tough for me physically, because I don't have much strength in my leg and I have to compensate with my right arm. We are happy with how today went and seem to have found a good setup, with just a few details still to refine in tomorrow's warmup. It will be difficult, because many riders have pace within a tenth of each other, but we shall try to have a good race”
Marc Marquez – 1st – 1’54.507 – “I’m really happy and this pole position is a special one for me, because after coming back from injury it gives me a boost in confidence. In any case, we know that tomorrow is the day that counts and it’s in the race that points are decided, so we have to be very focused. It is going to be a very tough for me physically, because I don’t have much strength in my leg and I have to compensate with my right arm. We are happy with how today went and seem to have found a good setup, with just a few details still to refine in tomorrow’s warmup. It will be difficult, because many riders have pace within a tenth of each other, but we shall try to have a good race”

HRC Report

Reigning World Champion Marc Marquez bounced back from pre-season injury to make the perfect start to his second season in the premier class, claiming a dramatic last-gasp pole position for tomorrow’s Qatar GP under floodlights in the desert night.

The 21-year-old Repsol Honda RC213V rider, who became the youngest ever MotoGP World Champion last year at his first attempt, waited until 20 seconds before the fall of the flag to start his crucial flying lap. Skittering around the brightly lit Losail circuit, he ousted satellite GO&FUN Honda Gresini rider and fellow-Spaniard, Alvaro Bautista, from a maiden pole position by less than six hundredths of a second.  Bradley Smith (Yamaha) will complete the front row of the grid.

Second Repsol Honda RC213V rider Dani Pedrosa will start the opening round of the 2014 MotoGP season from the second row of the grid, placed sixth. Marquez’s title rival last year, Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), qualified fifth.

Marquez’s race-one pole comes in a remarkable return from injury. He fractured his right fibula (shin bone) in a training crash, missed the last two of three pre-season tests, and had not ridden a motorcycle for six weeks when he got back onto his Repsol machine on Thursday for the first free practice.

He has regained strength and confidence in every session, but still had some reservations about the strength of his leg over full race distance.

The former 125cc and Moto2 World Champion took six race wins in his remarkable debut season last year, breaking every “youngest-ever” record in the book.

Pedrosa’s second-row start means he will need to use all his legendary off-the-line skills tomorrow to make sure he gets away with the leaders. Hard work and steady progress through pre-season tests and the practice and qualifying sessions for the first race have given him confidence for when the chips are down in race conditions.

Pedrosa finished third overall last year, in another season when injury and misfortune blunted his title challenge. Now in his ninth season with the factory Repsol Honda team, he is starting out in top physical and mental condition.

Bautista’s last-minute loss of a first-ever pole position was not enough to erase his smile, after strong performances through all the practice session. The Spanish former 125cc World Champion has a special role on the satellite Honda RC213V, with exclusive use of Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, acting as race-development rider for the Japanese ancillaries, made by companies with strong links with Honda.

Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda RC213V) was seventh, leading the third row of the grid. The only German rider in the premier class, he is aiming to improve on his seventh championship position last year, after a freak late-season injury spoiled his momentum.

Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R rider Nicky Hayden was the fastest of the four new production-racer Hondas, built for the “Open” category for independent teams. The 2006 Honda World Champion narrowly missed out on joining the top 12 for the “senior” Qualifying 2 session, placing 13th, two places ahead of team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama.

Class rookie Scott Redding (GO&FUN Honda Gresini Honda RCV1000R) was 16th at his first attempt, less than one tenth slower than Aoyama; and Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing Honda RCV1000R) was 18th on the 23-strong grid.

In the Moto2 class, Tito Rabat smashed the Losail circuit’s absolute lap record in a strong qualifying performance to claim the first pole of the year. Now riding the Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex, the Spaniard was third overall last year, with the top two in the title having moved on to MotoGP.

Rabat’s scorching lap put him just two hundredths ahead of former Moto3 champion Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex), with Japan’s Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Kalex) completing the front row of the grid

World Supersport Champion Sam Lowes (Speed Up Team), in his grand prix debut, was an impressive fifth behind former 125 champion Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Suter); with Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) sixth to complete row two.

Cortese crashed late in the session, and Kallio was sent flying when he struck the fallen bike. Kallio escaped serious injury, but Cortese suffered a small left leg fracture and a flesh wound, making him a doubtful starter tomorrow.

Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Suter rider Xavier Simeon was seventh to lead row three, from veteran Alex de Angelis (Tasca Racing Moto2 Suter) and France’s Johann Zarco, riding the new AirAsia Caterham-Suter completed row three

Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing Forward-KLX) completed the top ten; Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert Suter) was 11th; Moto3 champion Maverick Vinales 14th in his Moto2 debut with the 2013 title-winning Pons HP 40 Kalex team.

Moto2 is exclusively powered by identical race-tuned Honda CBR600 engines provided by the organisers, guaranteeing close and reliable racing. Different chassis designs and set-up choices are all the riders have to find any margin.

The new Honda RS250FW Moto3 contender made a dream debut at Qatar, claiming the first two qualifying positions at a new record speed. Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda team-mates Alex Rins and Alex Marquez finished the session in that order, with Rins the first Moto3 rider to get under the 2’06-minute barrier, in the closing stages.

Marquez was less than two tenths slower, and a similar distance ahead of third-fastest Jack Miller (KTM).

A mammoth battle for the next two rows in the closing stages of qualifying saw John McPhee (SaxoPrint-RTG Honda) claim a career-best seventh. The next-best Honda rider was Ongetta-Rivacold Honda’s Alexis Masbou, in 14th, fighting back after crashing early in the session on the dusty track. Second SaxoPrint-RTG Honda rider Efren Vazquez was 15th, and Ongetta AirAsia Honda’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin 23rd.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: pole position, 1m 54.507s – “I’m really happy: this pole position is a special one for me, because after coming back from injury it gives me a boost in confidence. In any case, we know that tomorrow is the day that counts, and it’s in the race that points are decided, so we have to be very focused. It’s going to be very tough for me physically, because I don’t have much strength in my leg, and I have to compensate with my right arm. We are happy with how today went, and seem to have found a good set-up, with just a few details still to refine in warm-up. It will be difficult, because many riders have a pace within a tenth of one another, but we shall try to have a good race.”

Alvaro Bautista, FUN&GO Honda Gresini: second, 1m 54.564s – “For me this second place feels like pole position, because I have always struggled at this circuit in the past. Instead this weekend I have always felt comfortable with the bike, closing each session in the top positions, which means we have worked very well in winter testing. Too bad to have lost pole, but in the end Marquez was able to go faster. Tomorrow I expect a very tough race, but also very interesting: there are many riders on the same pace. It will be important to start from the front row. I hope to continue enjoying myself as so far … I will try to stay in the leading group, and to get a podium finish.”

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: sixth, 1m 54.703s – “The qualifying session was really closely contested today – especially in the final laps. Looking at things objectively, we have a good pace and were able to set a fast lap in the session, even though in the end we were sixth by a really narrow margin. We’re going to continue to be positive, to believe in the work we have been doing so far this weekend, and tomorrow we’ll give everything that we have to do well in the first race of the season.”

Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP: seventh, 1m 54.871s – “We improved the gap to the guys at the front, and this is quite positive. It was a very close qualifying, with many riders on the same pace. Our target was the second row, but seventh place is good anyway, and the good thing is we are not too far from the top. Considering the new rules and the actual situation with Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa at the same pace as me, I think it will be an exciting race with many riders in a big group. It’s hard to make a prediction.”

Nicky Hayden, Drive M7 Aspar Honda: 13th, 1m 55.894s – “I didn’t expect to get down to the 1’55s without a tow, especially with the problems we’ve had with corner exit in the fourth section … but it still wasn’t enough to get into Q2! I’d like to be starting the season from a better position on the grid, but considering how new everything is for us we have to be satisfied, and we have to keep working to improve. It will be a tough race. I’ll try to get a good start and keep up a fast and consistent pace for 22 laps. I haven’t been focused on the other riders at all, so the first few laps should be interesting. Hopefully we can learn plenty and gather lots of useful data to help us in the future with the new Honda RCV1000R.”

Hiroshi Aoyama, Drive M7 Aspar Honda: 15th, 1m 56.479 – “From yesterday we changed some things on the bike and now I feel more comfortable in the corners … this was our goal. In qualifying I put in a fresh tyre and was surprised by such good grip at the rear. I could make a good second lap, and I expected even better on my third lap … but unfortunately the chequered flag was out. We made good progress here. We are considering using the softer tyre for the race, if I can manage it to the end.”

Scott Redding, FUN&GO Honda Gresini: 16th, 1m 56.555s – “I am satisfied with the improvements shown today, but unfortunately I was slowed down by a problem with the electronics just as I was getting busy in the qualifying session. When I entered the track, I felt that something was wrong: the engine kept cutting the power. I came back to the pits to try to solve the problem, but it was still there in my second exit, so I got on the second bike, but unfortunately there was time only for one attempt. However I’m happy because I found myself even better with the second bike, which I will ride again tomorrow in the warm up. We will also try to figure out which tyre we can use for the race. It would be nice to get some points tomorrow.”

Karel Abraham, Cardion AB Motoracing Honda: 18th, 1m 56.715 – “Yesterday we had some problems with both tyres, the rear sliding. Today for free practice we had a couple of different settings on the two bikes, and we chose one of the options for qualifying. It started out very good: I managed to make my best time so far on my first flying lap. Unfortunately after that there were some crashes that slowed me down, and then I lost some time restarting the engine after stopping in the box. Then I had to go round a slower rider, which spoiled my next good lap … and then it was too late to improve.”

Moto2 rider quotes

Tito Rabat, Marc VDS Racing Team: pole position, 2m 00.081 – “I’m happy to be on pole position for the first race, and in my first weekend with my new team. We were missing rear grip in the first free practice sessions, but we worked together on the problem and improved the situation, which is important. It was enough to see me on pole position for the first race, which is a good feeling, but the work isn’t done. Tomorrow we need to see how we go in warm-up before making a decision on our strategy for the race.”

Sandro Cortese, Dynavolt Intact GP Team: second, 2m 00.101 – TEAM MANAGER Jurgen Lingg: “Sandro has a small fracture in the left leg. It is not so serious – just a small crack. The problem is he also has an open wound. We will build up a new bike for tomorrow … even the engine was broken. We will see if he has too much pain tomorrow, but at least we want to try, though I think it will be very difficult.”

Takaaki Nakagami, Idemitsu Honda Team: third, 2m 00.451 – “The qualifying was really good. A little big difficult with the wind, but again we made a good step forward. The machine was feeling great: Honda has really upped its game, with Hondas in the first two places … so the bike is really good. I’m feeling comfortable. All weekend I’ve been in the top ten and better every session. Once you start going well, you just want more.”

Honda Moto3 Rider quotes

Alex Rins, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda, pole position, 2m 05.973 – “This is the first pole of the year, and it’s special because we are coming from a very difficult pre-season. We’ve all worked hard, especially HRC, so I want to say thank you. It was quite windy on the straight today and I was alone. If I’d had someone in front of me for reference, it would have helped, but it didn’t happen so I am even happier with the result, having done it alone. Now I just have to wait for the race tomorrow. I think it will be difficult. There will surely be a group of six or seven at the front, and it will be hard to get away. I think the race is going to be decided in the last three laps.”

Alex Marquez, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda, second, 2m 06.125 – “I think we’ve made a good position. We solved some problems we had yesterday but still have to improve some other things during the warm-up tomorrow. I’m happy with how the bike feels, and I see that the pace is good. This is important, because the race is where things spread out. We are happy because we are starting from the front row for the first race, and qualifying is never easy for me. Tomorrow we’ll give the maximum to try to fight for the podium.”

John McPhee, Saxoprint-RTG Honda, seventh, 2m 07.113 – “The qualifying was really good. A little bit difficult with the wind, but again we made a good step forward. The machine was feeling great: Honda has really upped its game, with Hondas in the first two places … so the bike is really good. I’m feeling comfortable. All weekend I’ve been in the top ten and better every session. Once you start going well, you just want more.”

Ducati Report

The two Ducati Team riders demonstrated determination and character today in qualifying for the Grand Prix of Qatar, the opening round of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship, which takes place tomorrow at the Losail International Circuit.

Andrea Dovizioso, who was already fourth quickest following three sessions of free practice, today continued to lap strongly: the Italian rider in fact further improved in qualifying, ending up with a 1m54.644s which propelled him to fourth place on the grid, just a few hundredths away from the front row.

Cal Crutchlow, who had appeared to be in a bit of difficulty on Friday, today had to take part in Q1 and, after immediately qualifying for Q2, also improved his lap time to finish in eighth place, just three-tenths of a second away from pole.

Tomorrow the 22-lap Grand Prix of Qatar will get underway under the Losail floodlights at 10pm local time.

Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 4th (1m54.644s) – “I am very pleased with the lap time I set today, it’s confirmation that we have managed to make a significant improvement, as we had already shown in the recent tests. We are quicker than last year and also closer to the others in race pace. I think that the race will be very difficult however: I’ll try and get a good start from row 2 but for sure we’ll have to grit our teeth for 22 laps. Unlike last year, I reckon we can fight for some good positions. I’m really disappointed about missing out on the front row by just so little, because I made a mistake at Turn 12 losing at least a tenth. In any case, fourth place on the grid is not at all bad.”

Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team #35) – 8th (1m54.888s) – “If you had said to me this morning I would have been three-tenths away from pole, I would never have believed it! Even though eighth place on the grid is not exactly where we want to be, I lapped quicker than last year and so it’s not bad at all. As for my pace, I’d like to be in a position to lap in 56.5 for the whole race, but it’s not going to be easy. Today we found something by lengthening the bike a bit and sacrificing some grip, but the bike now feels more stable and on this circuit that’s important because when the tyres begin to go off after a few laps, you need a stable bike. Yesterday I rode useless and didn’t have the right feeling with the bike, but the guys in the team worked all night and today things went a lot better.”

Yamaha Report

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo fought hard this evening to take fifth on the grid in qualifying for tomorrow’s Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar. Teammate Valentino Rossi made big time improvements and secured tenth under the floodlights of the Losail circuit in a tense session of quick fire hot laps.

Lorenzo had taken another small step forward in the fourth free practice earlier this evening, reducing the gap to the front to under half a second to finish 0.492 from first in seventh position. As usual he was the first man out onto the track for the qualifying heat, scoring a 1’55.036 on his first flying lap. A flurry of quick laps were to follow by his rivals, leaving him in fifth position with just over half the time gone. He returned to the pits for fresh rubber before preparing for the final attack. A frenetic last few minutes saw a huge number of red sections across the track for the top riders, with Lorenzo managing to drop under the 1’55s with a best time of 1’54.661 seconds. The time puts him on the second row of the grid for tomorrow’s race, just 0.154 seconds from pole man Marc Marquez.

Teammate Rossi continued to make improvements today, improving both his pace and hot lap time. The Italian’s first qualifying tyre saw him into sixth position with a 1’55.471, only to drop as a flurry of faster rivals pushed him down the table. The nine-time world champion was back out for the last minutes and pushing hard, dropping nearly a half second to record a 1’55.096 second lap on his seventh and final lap. The time puts him in tenth position on the grid but only just over half a second from pole position.

Jorge Lorenzo – 5th / 1’54.661 / 7 laps – “We are improving little by little to adapt to the situation. Obviously we are still having problems with the rear grip but we are getting closer to the front top riders. We made a good position for tomorrow; fifth on the grid is good for the start. There are six riders within one tenth of a second and the race will be very long so if we can make one step on the bike we can fight for the podium or even a victory, which would be amazing for the circumstances.”

Valentino Rossi – 10th / 1’55.096 / 7 laps – “I’m not very satisfied because I am just in tenth but I am only half a second from pole position and my lap time is not so bad. I have improved a lot. We worked well on the bike and in the end 1’55.0 is not so bad, it’s seven tenths faster than last year for me so we made a good step. The problem is that the balance between everybody is very close; we are 12 riders within half a second. Tomorrow we have to be ready for anything as anything could happen. The pace is very similar between everyone except Marquez who was impressive and did a good job. Also the other guys, Pedrosa and Lorenzo are not very far, so we have to be ready for anything and maybe some strong first laps I think!”

Massimo Meregalli – Team Director – “Even if we are not completely satisfied about the setting of the bike we were able to close the gap, especially with Jorge. He was able to get just one and a half tenths from pole position and starting from the second row is not at all bad. It will be more difficult for Vale to start from the fourth row. It will be crucial to have a good start and push for the first two laps to stay as close as possible to the leading riders. We will try to find something else during the night and tomorrow we will check during the warm up. We will have to wait and see what a hot race it could be tomorrow night.”

Wilco Zeelenberg – Team Manager – “A very hot qualifying and very tight. We’re not really unhappy with the result, of course we are still working and looking for more speed but we are vey close: from first to Jorge is less than two tenths of a second. All in all we can be pleased with the things we’ve done. The race is more important than qualifying and second row is not a bad place to start tomorrow.”

Bradley Smith – 3rd / 1’54.601 – “I am really pleased with today, the bike felt great and I’m really satisfied with the setup. The performance during the fourth free practice session was very promising and fortunately I was able to translate that performance to the new tyre. I was slightly disappointed because with the second tyre, Aleix, Marc and I, all waited a bit too long, as nobody wanted to be followed. My tyres got too cold to push again, so I decided to take the bike back to parc fermé instead of taking any more risks, but I felt I still had some margin. However, you don’t get points for qualifying, tomorrow is when it really counts and there are 22 laps to battle in. For sure a good start is the key and I know I’m pretty good at them. I also know that I will be strong on the full fuel load as I worked a lot to improve this during the winter. Having said that, there are a lot of strong riders behind me and it won’t be easy, but I’ll give it my all. Tonight I will rest up, and prepare myself and if the bike feels like it did today, I am confident of getting a good result“.

Pol Espargaro – 12th / 1’55.152 – “I am happy with how I performed during my first qualifying session today. After yesterday, it took me a little time to rediscover my rhythm, but the most important fact is that I again, have a great feeling with my bike. Of course, tomorrow the race might be different, but after a tough day yesterday I’m really satisfied with my performance during the qualifying. Unfortunately we had to go through Q1 which was not ideal , especially because that meant that we had to maintain an already used front tyre for the final qualifying practice and the grip wasn’t the same anymore. I didn’t feel that I could push quite as much into the entrance of the corner, which is where the Yamaha is the strongest. Still, I was only 6 tenths of a second from the top lap time, almost half a second from Jorge, and less than a tenth from Valentino. After looking at these statistics, I think I can be satisfied, and also because I believe that my fastest lap time today was very similar to what will be my race pace tomorrow”.