Maverick Vinales tops Marc Marquez as MotoGP 2017 gets underway in Qatar
Jack Miller 17th on day one while Remy Gardner was 22nd on the Moto2 charts
After Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was quickest out the box, it was a familiar scene from preseason by the end of the first track action at Losail International Circuit – Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) on top and Repsol Honda Team’s reigning Champion Marc Marquez in second, 0.596 off P1.
67% humidity and a temperature of 22 degrees Celsius greeted the grid on Day 1, with a single practice session on Thursday at the Grand Prix of Qatar due to the altered timetable.
Viñales’ stunning chart topper of a lap was a 1:54.316 on a new tyre – only four tenths off the pole lap record set by then-rookie Jorge Lorenzo on his MotoGP debut in 2008, making a record-breaking weekend look even more likely.
Viñales fell right back into his winter testing groove and smoothly built up his pace as he circulated the track under the floodlights.
With all 23 MotoGP riders eager to start the 2017 World Championship, traffic offered an extra obstacle, but the young Spaniard was unfazed and stormed to the top of the standings with a 1‘55.668s lap and more than 30 minutes remaining.
Feeling confident with his progress, Viñales worked on the bike‘s electronics around the 5.4km circuit. His time set in the early stages was untouchable for the competition until the pace picked up in the final minutes of the session. However, he wasn‘t shy to respond and dropped a 1’54.739s for the provisional lead in the standings. Showing he meant business, he followed it up with a 1’54.316s lap to extend his lead after day one to +0.596s.
“I‘m feeling good. During the last part of the test I felt confident and today I felt the same. I went out on the same bike and the track was looking good, so I just pushed and tried to do my best. The bike is working great and the team is doing a good job all the time and we improved the electronics a bit, so that helped to set today‘s lap time. At the end, I put in a new tyre and set that 1‘54.316s. The important thing is that tomorrow we‘ll work really hard on the race pace. Today we were feeling good on the medium tyres and I was able to set nice lap times, but we decided to put in the new tyre anyway, so in case it rains tomorrow we‘ll be in Q2. The track was little bit dirty and windy on the first couple of laps, but then the wind calmed down so we had more power on the bike and that helped a lot. The first laps were quite difficult with the wind, the bike was wheelying and there wasn‘t a lot of grip on the circuit, but suddenly the track improved a lot and when I put in the new tyre I just had to push and go for it.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“We have officially completed the first timed session of the MotoGP season and we are satisfied with today‘s results. Maverick started exactly in the same way as he finished the winter testing. He continues to show his fast and consistent pace whilst trying different settings. His 1‘54.316s lap time was impressive and boosts our confidence, but we believe there‘s still a margin for improvement. Vale started this free practice with a different weight distribution than during the test a fortnight ago, because they are still working on improving his feeling with the bike. Even though he‘s still not 100% satisfied, they found some important information, so we are quite confident that he will be making improvements in FP2 and FP3. Tomorrow the riders will be putting their attention towards making another step concerning the race distance.”
Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa commenced their 2017 MotoGP campaign positively this evening in Qatar, setting the second- and third-fastest lap times, respectively, by the end of a single free-practice session that got underway at 1955 local time.
The Repsol Honda riders constantly improved their speed throughout the 45-minute stint, with Marc recording his best effort in 1’54.912” on his 17th lap of 18, and Dani setting his fastest time of 1’55.212” on lap 15 of 16.
Marc Marquez – P2 – 1’54.912
“This first day was positive enough because two weeks ago we hadn’t finish the test so well, while today I had a better feeling with the bike. We started with a different setup compared to then and we did a good job. We have some work to do, especially on the electronics side, but that said I’m quite happy. Maverick is really fast but it was to be expected, and on our side we’re working hard in our garage to try and find a good compromise with the setup.”
Dani Pedrosa – P3 – 1’55.210
“I’m happy with today. Even if the track conditions and the grip weren’t the best, we tried to push hard in case the weather gets worse tomorrow as the forecast says. It was important to be up front, because everybody is expecting some rain. I’m generally happy and I think we have already gathered a lot of good information. We’ll see how things go and keep working to do our best.”
The Monster Yamaha Tech3 pair ignited their rookie campaigns with two highly impressive performances on the opening day of action in Qatar. Young German rider Jonas Folger turned heads by storming to 4th in the solitary practice which he superbly concluded as the top independent rider after setting his rapid time in the final moments of the session.
Jonas Folger – P4 – 1’55.587
“I’m very pleased to finish the first free practice in this way. Having said that, the conditions were tricky because of the strong winds and this made the bike feel so different. Now we have to rebalance the suspension, especially as we were on soft tyres, and we also have to adjust the electronics so that I can hold the line better on the track, and therefore, ride the corners in a smoother manner. Nevertheless, we did a great job and the team and I started my first Grand Prix on the YZR-M1 in a really solid way. I can’t wait to get back on the asphalt tomorrow where I will continue to do my best.”
Jorge Lorenzo was classified in fifth place, with a time of 1’55.607
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99) – 1’55.607 (5th)
“Today’s result is quite good, but we are still some way off the fastest times. Our aim for tomorrow will be to try and find the same sensations with the hard tyre, with which we are still struggling to set some competitive times, and have the confidence required to achieve a good race pace.”
Reale Avintia Racing’s Loris Baz was sixth fastest after in the 45 minutes of the season and he was the second fastest Ducati rider, just 0.017s behind Jorge Lorenzo. This was a great start for the French rider who finished inside the top 10 and, if the rain forecast for tomorrow is right, he will be already in the first Q2 of the season.
Loris Baz – P6 – 1’55.624
“The grip was really bad at the beginning of the session, and the feeling was very different from the test, so we wait a little bit until the track was cleaned. The wind was also stronger than in the test, so we had to find the best braking point on the main straight. We could not test something for the race as my second bike had some issues, but overall I’m really happy because I was fast with the soft tyres. And honestly I did not expect to do this lap time on the first day. This is a good track for Ducati, because are fast on the straight. This is not my case because I’m too tall, but today we demonstrated that this bike is not just fast on straight line.”
LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow put in a solid opening showing, despite some issues with his Honda RC213V, as he finished the day in seventh place.
The Briton – who is hoping to build on his two race victories in 2016 – endured an oil leak at the start of the session which hampered his progress. Further issues with the bike meant Crutchlow wasn’t at his best, but he still produced a very respectable result and ended the session less than half a second behind Dani Pedrosa in third spot.
Cal Crutchlow – P7 – 1’55.639
“It was not a bad day overall. Obviously, you could see we had a technical problem at the start, it was an oil leak due to a oil plug not properly tightened. After that we tested a setting on which the bike was only meant to be ridden for one lap as it was an incorrect setting, and that meant I didn’t feel very comfortable and wasn’t able to ride at my best. But we are happy enough with our progress today and hopefully we can improve tomorrow.”
Double Moto2 World Champion Johann Zarco surged to 8th after ending up only two-tenths of a second behind his teammate.
Johann Zarco – P 8 – 1’55.792
“The first day went well for me and I am happy that I ran consistently inside the top ten. You never know what the weather will do during the other sessions, so the team and I used some strategies which enabled me to be quick straight away. At the moment, finishing day one in this position is positive and I felt good on the bike. I am pleased that we tested here not long ago and thanks to this, I could make full use of the references that we made. I don’t feel that the circuit is as rideable as it was during the test, but Maverick is very quick so this means that the track is ok, which raises my confidence. Tomorrow’s aim is to reduce the gap to Viñales, because he is top and also a Yamaha rider, so although he has more experience, if I can close in on him I will stay inside the top ten and that is important for the rest of the weekend.”
Valentino Rossi was inside the top three in the early parts of the session but then focused on getting his YZR-M1 completely ready for the first race of the season, he worked on improving his feeling with the front while the pace of the field quickened.
He ended the day with a 1‘55.799s lap for sixth place, 1,483s from the leading time of his teammate, but was pushed to ninth position as a few riders left their flying lap to the last minute.
Valentino Rossi – P9 – 1m55.799
“The performance was not fantastic, but I‘m in the top ten and this is good because we don‘t know what the conditions will be like tomorrow. With the softer tyre I thought I would be able to push a bit more and improve by some tenths, but with the race pace we are a bit far behind and we have to find something better. At the end of the practice we did some modifications that could be not so bad, so tomorrow we will try to understand if we‘re closer. I hope we can improve. “
Aleix Espargaró finished in a good position, tenth with a time of 1’55.872, despite the fact that a lack of grip at the front penalises the Spaniard’s riding style. Tomorrow, with conditions that promise to be better, Aleix is confident that he will be able to improve his performance.
Aleix Espargaro – P10 – 1m55.872
“The feeling today wasn’t the best. I had a lot of trouble stopping the bike, probably because of how dirty the track still was. These are conditions similar to the first day of the last tests. With my riding style, relying a lot on the front, I struggle particularly with the lack of grip. Being in the top 10 despite the situation is a good sign, anyway. Tomorrow we will definitely be able to improve both in terms of settings and thanks to a more rubberised and cleaner track.”
Andrea Dovizioso, who celebrated his 31st birthday on the opening day of practice in Qatar, was eleventh quickest.
Andrea Dovizioso – P11 – 1m55.873
“Today, as expected, the track conditions were not at their best, with wind and dirt during the only weekend session that will probably be dry before the race. At the start of the session I set a good time, and so I didn’t want to fit a soft tyre at the end because I thought I could stay in amongst the top ten: instead I missed out by a fraction. It was my mistake, and a pity because when I was using the same tyre as the others I was third, and so I know I am amongst the quickest riders.”
Álvaro Bautista stopped the clock at 1:56.128, completing 19 laps of the Qatari track. He and his crew dedicated the session to trying out various adjustments that had been left over from preseason, and also experimented with the tyres that had given them the worst feeling at Losail last week. Bautista hopes to continue his improvement tomorrow evening.
Álvaro Bautista – P14 – 1:56.128
“The track was very different today compared with the conditions in the test. We used tyres which I hadn’t liked so much, because we had to try out some things that we hadn’t been able to in testing. We used today for that. I felt more or less comfortable, but I hope to continue gaining confidence tomorrow and get back the feeling that I had in the tests. It was a good first night’s work, and I hope that for the rest of the GP we can be stronger.”
Karel Abraham placed fifteenth, but was just 8 tenths off fourth place. He suffered a light crash at Turn 2, just minutes before the end of the session. He escaped unharmed, but the Czech rider was unable to improve his top time of 1:56.399.
Karel Abraham – P15 – 1:56.399
“The track was still a little bit dirty from sand, and it was difficult to clean it. I felt very good on the bike on the last stint. I was trying to set a fast lap time, which immediately worked out for me on the first attempt. On the second time, I was pushing but not excessively so -and on the second corner I crashed. We’re looking at why that happened, because I wasn’t braking as hard as in the test -nor was there as much lean angle. I saw Miller crash in front of me, so we’ll see what really happened because I’m a little bit confused. I think we can be happy with fifteenth, but maybe if we hadn’t crashed we could have made the Top 10. When I set my best lap time I really felt that I wasn’t pushing 100%. I was sure that I could get up to a 1:56.2 on the next lap, but unfortunately I had the crash.”
Pramac Racing’s Scott Redding and Danilo Petrucci finished in twelfth and sixteenth respectively, both with positive feelings.
Scott completed 16 laps registering in the time attack of his third run a time of 1’56.000, only one tenth of a second behind the Top 10.
Scott Redding- P12 – 1’56.000
“To be honest I struggled a little bit more than I did on the last day of testing. With the soft tyre I felt the front locking and this took me a bit of confidence as during testing the feeling was really good. I decided to put the medium at the front end and things have got better lap after lap. We need to improve a few things but I’m pleased with the way we started”.
Petrux set his best lap-time (1’56.419) during the second run in which he managed to stay with the leading group, then chosing to put off until tomorrow his time attack attempt with the soft tyre.
Danilo Petrucci – P16 – 1’56.419
“I did not want to use the soft tire in FP1. As a result I lost some positions during the time attack of the last run. This could be a disadvantage only if it will rain tomorrow, but in the end I am very happy because from the beginning I was with the others in front. This gives me much hope for the race. I immediately found a the right feeling with the bike as I had a few days ago, even though the track conditions were a bit different from the last testing”.
Team Suzuki Ecstar riders Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins made their 2017 MotoGP racing debut in Suzuki colours with a new aerodynamic fairing on their GSX-RRs, further proving the machine’s evolution; and something the team will further-evaluate in the coming days.
Iannone began his work from the same place he left-off less than two weeks ago, with the new set-up at the final test. This allowed him to get back the feeling of improvement he had, but he wasn’t able to make an effective finish that would have allowed him to improve his lap-time. His focus now remains on finding a good overall feel with the bike that will allow him to better fulfil his potential before the race.
Andrea Iannone – P13 – 1m56.027
“At the moment we are struggling and we will need to stay focused and work hard. I really hope we can make some steps forward. I don’t expect a big leap from one session to another, but for sure we have to improve, and at the moment we haven’t found the right direction. There are many positive points about the bike and some others which are negative, but this happens to any bike. So, our problem now is that I cannot really take advantage of the positives. We used the aerodynamic fairing to get some more information, as we couldn’t use it intensively during the test. And, the more data we can collect, the better it is. We still don’t know if we will use it for the race. For the moment, we have to continue working on it and we will decide during the weekend.”
Rins took to his first session in the main class in his usual method; getting as much information as possible, without concentrating too much on the time, as it’s more important for him to gain experience and to have data to analyse.
Alex Rins – P18 – 1m56.502
“This first day here in Qatar was a little difficult for me. I felt really excited when I started. Although I had no pressure on me and nobody had expectations of my first session, I felt enthusiastic for myself and this probably affected my performance. I need to gain more experience in this as well. Anyway, just one session is not very much for trying out new things or to get a real feel for the bike. We definitely need more time to continue working on it, and tomorrow I’ll give my best to recover my cool head and improve my riding.”
Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager
“Finally, we have started the first race weekend of the season, but still we have some work to do in order to try to give the riders a better feel for the bike. Especially Andrea, who doesn’t feel comfortable with his machine. We have to understand what we can work on to improve his sense of the bike. If we could do this, then he would be able to live up to his potential, which he cannot now do. Alex started his first MotoGP race weekend, and his approach has been the same as it was in the tests; he started quietly, to test and verify settings and feeling, and so he could collect a lot of information which we will analyse and discuss with him in order to see where and how we can help him to improve. It’s the working method we set up with him and we believe it will pay back pretty soon.”
After a positive pre-season of testing Jack Miller was 17th with a best lap of 1’56.453 and was closely followed by Rabat in 19th at 1’56.725.
Miller’s momentum was slowed when he had a sudden front-end crash at T2 but the Australian rider returned to the track on his spare Honda RC213V to finish the opening 45-minute session with a series of solid race pace laps.
Track temperature peaked at just 22 degrees with dry conditions despite the threat of rain.
Jack Miller – P17 – 1’56.453
“The crash came on my first flying lap after I switched to the medium front tyre. I just got a big front-end lock in a straight line; the bike just disappeared from under me. It was cool and there was some wind. But it’s a reasonable start and I feel good on the bike, I went back out on used tyres and did decent lap times on my second bike although I was a bit shaken from the fall. But overall I’m happy with how we are working this weekend for the opening race.”
Ramon Aurin – Chief Engineer for Jack Miller
“Jack had a good feeling on the bike although the wind was a small issue for him. We are expecting some rain tomorrow so we put in a soft tyre to try and be in the top ten but on the first flying lap in turn two a gust of wind hit him and perhaps the tyre was not quite up to temperature and he crashed. But Jack is in a positive frame of mind and he has a strong rhythm already for the race.”
Rabat continued to make progress from preseason injuries, which forced him to miss the Phillip Island test. The Spaniard completed 18 laps as he worked towards an ideal race set-up.
Tito Rabat – P19 – 1’ 56.725
“I am very happy with my physical condition for first official practice of the season although the track conditions were not so good, it was cold, windy and the track a little dirty. We decided to use the soft tyre in the front although it moves a lot in the middle of the corner when turning but it also gives me a better feeling with the bike. I am very happy with the chassis and electronics and I am in a positive mood for the rest of the weekend.”
After not even a month recovering from a collarbone fracture, and with three days less at this track comparing with his rivals, Hector Barbera did well to finish 20th on day one.
Hector Barbera – P20 – 1’56.725
“My feeling was quite positive, and although the collarbone obviously hurts under acceleration, braking and changing direction, it is something I can handle. The biggest gap for me was loosing the last test, because the rest of the riders have done three more days and we just had 45 minutes to set up de bike. The electronics are important and my electronic engineer need to know what I need to go faster, but in just one session this is impossible. But I’m happy because with one test less I finished just one second behind the fastest Ducati, and this is something positive. I also spend a lot of time sitting in my garage, I need to keep energy for when I will really need to push hard.”
Sam Lowes, in his first official session astride the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini RS-GP, fell victim to a harmless slide just as he was becoming familiar with the Losail track. For the rest of the session, the English rookie preferred not taking any risks, without using the soft tyre which he will try tomorrow.
Sam Lowes – P22 – 1m57.887
“The conditions today were very different than those in the tests. Starting with the same setting I did not have the same sensations. I think it was the same for everyone. I didn’t use the soft tyre, which seems to make the difference in terms of lap times, so all things considered, the situation is not alarming. Also considering the crash, I preferred not to push too hard and to wait for the sessions tomorrow to look for more speed.”
The leading KTM rider was Pol Espargaro in 21st position, while Bradley Smith brought up the rear of the field, 3.798-seconds behind Vinales’ marker.
MotoGP 2017 – Round One – Day One Practice Times
- VINALES Maverick 25 SPA Yamaha Factory Racing Team 1’54.316
- MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA Repsol Honda Team 0.596
- PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA Repsol Honda Team 0.894
- FOLGER Jonas 94 GER Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1.271
- LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA Ducati Team 1.291
- BAZ Loris 76 FRA Reale Avintia Racing 1.308
- CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR LCR Honda 1.323
- ZARCO Johann 5 FRA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1.476
- ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA Yamaha Factory Racing Team 1.483
- ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1.556
- DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA Ducati Team 1.557
- REDDING Scott 45 GBR Octo Pramac Racing 1.684
- IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA Team Suzuki Ecstar 1.711
- BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA Pull&Bear Aspar Team 1.812
- ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE Pull&Bear Aspar Team 2.083
- PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA Octo Pramac Racing 2.103
- MILLER Jack 43 AUS Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS 2.137
- RINS Alex 42 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 2.186
- RABAT Tito 53 SPA Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS 2.409
- BARBERA Hector 8 SPA Reale Avintia Racing 2.409
- ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 3.314
- LOWES Sam 22 GBR Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 3.571
- SMITH Bradley 38 GBR Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 3.798
Tom Luthi starts 2017 Moto2 campaign on top of the table
Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) topped the first practice session for Moto2 in the #QatarGP, with the Swiss rider’s time then enough to keep him top by the end of Day 1 on a 2:00.916 – despite a crash. Second was the fastest man at the Official Moto2™ Qatar Test, Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), with Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) completing the top three in a close fight.
Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS pairing Franco Morbidelli and Alex Marquez completed the top five overall, with all the first five posting their fastest laps in FP1. FP2’s superstar improver was Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46), who topped the second session to go sixth overall – fastest rookie with a 2:00.793.
Fellow rookie Fabio Quartararo (Pons HP 40) was another who improved in FP2 to end the day in P8 overall, just behind Italtrans Racing Team’s Mattia Pasini. Axel Pons (RW Racing GP) and Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team) completed the top ten.
Second Forward rider Lorenzo Baldassarri was P11, with Danny Kent (Kiefer Racing), Xavier Simeon (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2), and Dynavolt Intact GP pairing Marcel Schrötter and Sandro Cortese locking out the top 15.
Remy Gardner dug deep as he worked hard to improve the grip issues of his intermediate class bike before he wrapped up FP2 a mere 0.043 behind his teammate, with his time leaving him in 22nd in the combined standings. Both riders will seek to make further strides forward in tomorrow’s solitary Moto2 practice, which begins at 19:55 local time.
Remy Gardner – P22 – 2’01.456
“We made some progress this afternoon from FP1, and I am positive about what we accomplished. The wind in the second session obviously didn’t help us, and I am still having a little bit of trouble with the front end of the bike as I am experiencing some chatter. However, the rear grip is good and Mistral is turning well which is what we were working to improve before. If we are able to amend the front end, then I am sure that we can have a good package. Overall, we are pleased with the work that we did and I look forward to getting back on the track tomorrow.”
Germany’s Philipp Oettl inaugurates the Moto3 season on top of the charts
After proving fastest in FP1, Südmetall Schedl GP Racing rider Philipp Oettl remained top on Day 1 of Moto3 action at Losail International Circuit after FP2 as the wind set in and the field found it hard going in the lightweight class. Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) was second, with third placed rider Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Racing) in third but since declared unfit. The Argentine RBA BOE Racing rider crashed in the latter minutes of FP1 and broke his collarbone.
Rodrigo’s teammate Juanfran Guevara had more luck to end Day 1 in P4, with returning Romano Fenati locking out the top five for new team Marinelli Rivacold Snipers. Marcos Ramirez, despite two incidents in FP1, kept his P6 overall on Day 1 in an impressive showing for the Platinum Bay Real Estate rider.
Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) topped FP2 but remained seventh overall, ahead of rookie rocket Ayumu Sasaki (SIC Racing Team) in eighth. There were a number of incidents in FP1 and FP2 as the wind proved a tough adversary, including a crash for Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo), but the Italian remains ninth overall after a solid FP1.
Adam Norrodin (SIC Racing Team) completed the top ten with his time from the first session, despite a late crash in the second.