Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo left it to the last minute in today’s final practice, taking seventh to secure a spot in tomorrow’s second qualifying session within the top ten riders for Sunday’s Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar.
Lorenzo continued today where he finished yesterday, battling a severe lack of grip on the Losail circuit as he struggled to set up his YZR-M1 for Sunday’s race. Having completed the second practice of the weekend in 11th earlier in the evening the double MotoGP champion came in to the third session sitting outside the top ten and so provisionally relegated to the first of tomorrow’s two qualifying sessions. As the minutes wound down a mid-session smattering of rain threatened to complicate matters further. In the final moments Lorenzo rose to the occasion under pressure, pulling out a 1’55.495 lap on the medium rear tyre to climb several places and take seventh at the end of the practice, securing a place in the second qualifying session.
Although also finding the lack of grip a real challenge, teammate Valentino Rossi spent most of today’s two practices one step ahead of Lorenzo. The nine-time world champion was working hard to ride round the grip issues the Movistar Yamaha riders were facing, and finished the first session of the day in ninth position, just under a second from the front. The final session of the day initially saw more of the same with the Italian pushing his M1 hard to stay in the top ten. With 25 minutes to go he had moved to ninth and looked able to hold the position until the last moments when Lorenzo’s late surge from 11th to seventh dropped him to tenth.
The final combined times mean both Lorenzo and Rossi will go through to the second qualifying session tomorrow to fight for their grid positions for Sunday’s race.
Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro continued their bright start to the season by improving on the second day of free practice ahead of the qualifying sessions tomorrow.
Bradley Smith furthered his impressive progress during the two 45min sessions at the 5.38 km circuit in Qatar today, with the Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider improving his best time from yesterday’s practice by 0.342 of a second. The young English rider had a breath taking high side crash during the final free practice session, which luckily inflicted no injuries to him. Smith remounted to finish 6th with a best time of 1:55.474 which was quicker than both factory Yamaha riders and will see him progress to the Q2 session tomorrow.
Pol Espargaro continued his solid start as a rookie in the premier MotoGP class by lowering his lap time again today. The 2013 Moto2 World Champion suffered a fall in the second practice session. Fortunately he did not sustain any further injuries, nor aggrivate his shoulder injury any more, and determinedly used his second bike to run his fastest lap times in the third period. His best lap time was a 1:55.793, an improvement of 0.227 from the first practice session which left Espargaro in 11th place and just 0.091 behind Factory Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi. Espargaro’s time will see him enter the QP1 session tomorrow.
It was another fantastic day for Aleix Espargaro who was the fastest rider in both practice sessions. The Spaniard rider of the NGM Forward Racing Team was quick to find a competitive pace with hard tyres and he was able to use at the best the soft tyre to close on top of the time sheets, recording 1’54’73, +0.413 ahead of Andrea Iannone, second and Alvaro Bautista, third.
It was a positive day also for team mate Colin Edwards who was satisfied of his race pace with hard tyres, while he needs to improve the bike set up with the soft tyre in order to make a step forward tomorrow during the qualifying session.
Jorge Lorenzo - 7th / 1'55.495
“We had the same feeling today with little grip on the rear with the soft tyre. We tried to adapt to the situation and the positive thing is that we are closer to the faster riders with race pace, maybe three or four tenths instead of one second so let’s see if tomorrow we can improve a bit more.”
Valentino Rossi - 10th / 1'55.702
“The bigger problem for us is the new tyre from Bridgestone that provides a lot less grip on the edge of our bike so it’s difficult. I’m just tenth which is the minimum target, to stay in the top ten. A lot of riders are on the same pace though; we are very, very close. Espargarò remains one step ahead and also with race pace he is very fast. I think on Sunday we will all use the same tyre, Open Class and Factory but he remains the favourite for the race. The target is to try to start more in front in the race because it’s very difficult to overtake so tomorrow in the qualifying I have to go faster.”
Wilco Zeelenberg - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Manager
“The second day of practice is gone, after three practices we are still struggling to find rear grip. The pace and the speed have improved a little bit but we are still quite far from an ideal situation. We still have one more day to find more grip and confidence for Jorge. It’s not easy but we won’t give up!”
Massimo Meregalli - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
"We are suffering more than we expected because of the fact that we did not come here to test with the other teams. We are also suffering a loss of grip on the rear, the same problem we had in Sepang. We are trying to improve the situation, especially on the rear, that is not allowing us to be as fast as we'd like to. Two sessions are missing and we are quite confident that we will be able to fix the issue. The race pace is not bad and this makes us pretty optimistic. Tomorrow, during the last free practice session we will try something new, following the analysis of our data and hopefully we'll get to qualifying ready for the best possible position on the grid. We'll play all our cards on Sunday!"
Bradley Smith - 6th / 1'55.474
“I am happy with today’s performance and I feel that I am close to where I want and need to be. Today the track conditions improved, and the Bridgestone tyres were working more effectively. It was unfortunate to have the high side, especially as we were trying a new setting with the bike at that time. I know I am very lucky to be walking away without any injury from such a big crash and am thankful that I wasn’t hurt. I then went straight back out on my second bike, went faster and got into the top six which I am pleased about. However, now we need to find a balance between both of my bikes, as they have each big positives, and afterwards we see what we can do tomorrow, but I’m really confident and ready for the qualifying.”
Pol Espargaro - 11th / 1'55.793
“Today has not been our best day. We could have improved more but in the first session we had quite a big crash and I have been fortunate that I escaped unhurt and that my shoulder injury did not worsen. The session itself was a bit strange and unfortunately because of the crash we had to use an additional tyre, which makes things a bit trickier now as we have to go through QP1. I lacked grip throughout today because of the track surface, and that did not help. Moreover I was a bit confused after the crash as there were too many thoughts in my head. Nevertheless, I am pleased with how the bike felt and happy that I was able to ride some competitive lap times. There is another practice session tomorrow and I am confident of qualifying well for my first MotoGP race on Sunday, but I am in need of a good rest tonight”.
Aleix Espargaro - 1st / 1’54.73
“I’m really happy to close the second day here in Qatar on top of the time sheets. We have a good race pace with the hard tyre and then we could make another step forward with the soft tyre. We have a good set up but we need to keep on working. Tomorrow our target is the front row in order to fight for the podium on Sunday. We know that it won’t be easy as we loose a lot in terms of top speed on the long straight, but finishing on top for two days in a row is already a fantastic result. Together with the team we are all very excited and motivated”.
Colin Edwards - 13th / 1'56.238
“All in all it was a positive day. I have a good race pace with the hard tyre, but we need to adjust the bike set up to use all the potential with the soft tyre. This will be very important for tomorrow in the qualifying session. I’m really happy for Aleix, he did a great job and in the team we are all very excited”.
Free Practice Three Results
1. Aleix Espargaro ESP NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha) 1m 54.773s
2. Andrea Iannone ITA Pramac Racing (Desmosedici) 1m 55.186s | +0.413s
3. Alvaro Bautista ESP GoFun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 1m 55.240s | +0.467s
4. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici) 1m 55.250s | +0.477s
5. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1m 55.446s | +0.673s
6. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 1m 55.474s | +0.701s
7. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 1m 55.495s | +0.722s
8. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) 1m 55.676s | +0.903s
9. Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 1m 55.702s | +0.929s
10. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1m 55.754s | +0.981s
11. Pol Espargaro ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 1m 55.793s | +1.020s
12. Cal Crutchlow GBR Ducati Team (Desmosedici) 1m 56.013s | +1.240s
13. Nicky Hayden USA Drive M7 Aspar (RCV1000R) 1m 56.357s | +1.584s
14. Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha) 1m 56.373s | +1.600s
15. Yonny Hernandez COL Pramac Racing (Desmosedici) 1m 56.633s | +1.860s
16. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Drive M7 Aspar (RCV1000R) 1m 56.939s | +2.166s
17. Scott Redding GBR GoFun Honda Gresini (RCV1000R) 1m 56.997s | +2.224s
18. Karel Abraham CZE Cardion AB Motoracing (RCV1000R) 1m 57.345s | +2.572s
19. Broc Parkes AUS Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART) 1m 57.665s | +2.892s
20. Mike Di Meglio FRA Avintia Racing (Avintia) 1m 58.204s | +3.431s
21. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Racing (Avintia) 1m 58.219s | +3.446s
22. Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART) 1m 58.378s | +3.605s
23. Danilo Petrucci ITA IodaRacing Project (ART) 1m 58.651s | +3.878s
Combined Practice Times, Top Ten:
1. Aleix Espargaro ESP NGM Forward Racing
2. Andrea Iannone ITA Pramac Racing
3. Alvaro Bautista ESP GoFun Honda Gresini
4. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team
5. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team
6. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3
7. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
8. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team
9. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP
10. Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP