These just in from Qatar:
Lorenzo leaves it late to find form in third Qatar practice
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.
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."
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."
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!"
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!"
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."
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".
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".
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".
Aspar Drive M7
DRIVE M7 ASPAR IMPROVE ON DAY TWO
Nicky Hayden shaves three tenths off best time, whilst Hiroshi Aoyama improves by over a second
It's only the start of the Qatar Grand Prix and of course the riders who recently tested here have something of an advantage, with a big debate going on in the paddock about the tyres available for the ?sub-categories' in MotoGP, but the usual order has been upset in the desert and that trend continued on Friday. There were two sessions today with a place in Q2 up for grabs, with the Factory riders having to work extra hard to go through and with some big names still with a lot of work to do on Saturday. It was another interesting day and Aleix Espargaró emerged on top again.
The DRIVE M7 Aspar riders made some setting improvements and were both able to reduce their times on the second day. Nicky Hayden and Hiroshi Aoyama are working hard over the course of the weekend and FP3 was good for both of them. Hayden made a 0.3s step forward to end up 14th, whilst it was a bigger improvement for Aoyama, who overcame some difficulties from Thursday to take a second off his best time and conclude in 16th.
14th Nicky Hayden 1.56.357 (29 laps): "In the second session of the day we slightly improved, despite starting with used tires. It was very strange to see rain here at one point in the last outing. On our third run we made a change in geometry gave me a good feeling, similar to those found in the test week. We knew that today we would improve our times, but we also knew that the test performed here give us some initial advantage, but then the other riders would also catch up. In any case we are working the right way and trying to improve a little more each day. In the second session the grip was better and that helped us work better."
16th Hiroshi Aoyama 1.56.939 (37 laps): "Thanks to the work of my mechanics today we resolved the electronics problems from yesterday, and we were able to work properly in both sessions today. In the first session we worked to improve our set-up, found some things, but were not been able to find the best solution. So in the second session we worked to adjust various aspects of the bike and it seems that the changes have been productive because I improved my times and feeling on the bike. So tomorrow we will continue working in the same direction to see where we can improve."
Dovizioso fourth in today's free practice sessions in Qatar. Crutchlow ends day in twelfth place after a crash
The second and third free practice sessions at the Losail circuit in Qatar saw Andrea Dovizioso put in a good run, the Italian ending up fourth quickest today. His team-mate Cal Crutchlow however had some problems in finding the right set-up on his Desmosedici GP14 and thanks also to a crash, was unable to go any higher than twelfth place.
Dovizioso's day was positive right from the start, the Italian managing to get the best out of the soft tyre, which he tried today for the first time. Already in second free practice Andrea had notched up a time of 1m55.320s, which he then improved on slightly in the third session that was held two hours later.
Crutchlow instead had problems and was unable to find an ideal set-up: a far from perfect feeling with the front end of his bike contributed to him crashing out at turn 10 during the third session. The crash, luckily without any consequences for the rider, left him with very little time to try and clinch a top-10 position and go directly through into tomorrow's Q2 session.
Tomorrow evening will see the final free practice session, which gets underway at 7.55pm local time, to be followed immediately afterwards by the two qualifying sessions for Sunday's race.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) - 4th (1m55.250s)
"It's always a great feeling to find yourself up near the front! Today I'm happy because I didn't expect to improve so much with our hard tyre, which in my opinion is the one everyone will use in the race. I was quick, and even though a lot of riders are all within three-tenths of each other, this was one of our main aims. Then when we put the soft tyre on, I managed to do a good lap. In the first three sessions we've worked really well, but we must improve our race pace."
Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team #35) - 12th (1m56.013s)
"It was a disappointing day and I'm not very happy at all. We didn't find a good setting with the bike, and even though we made a lot of changes from the first session, it felt more or less the same. I also had a crash in the third session, but the positive thing is that we got up and went a little bit faster with the second bike. Unfortunately now we have to take part in Q1 tomorrow, and that's unfamiliar territory for me because I've been used to qualifying close to the front for the last two years. Things are difficult at the moment, but there's no doubt the team are working hard to sort things out."
Great Second position Iannone
The third session of free practice just finished with an excellent second position for Andrea Iannone here at the Losail International Circuit .
Andrea Iannone - Pramac Racing - crossed the finish line with the second fastest time in 1'55"186 . The " Maniac Joe" during the second session of free practice the team and Andrea work on getting to know better soft tire, which in the third session paid off with a good result on the single lap time . This practice session was characterized by a strong wind. Tomorrow the Pramac team will continue the work, searching for the best general setting in view of the race.
Yonny Hernandez - Energy T.I. Pramac Racing - got back on track trying to get back the feeling lost after yesterdays crash, only the hardening of the right forearm muscle stopped him from pushing to the limit. In the last free practice session of the day Yonny improved more than half of a second compared to the previous session finishing in fifteenth place with a lap time of 1'56"633 .
Andrea Iannone ( Pramac Racing)
" I'm very happy with how it went today , I never expected to go so well. Surely it is also thanks to all the guys who worked at home this winter . I am happy that I was able to take advantage of almost one hundred percent of my bikes potential. We still have to continue working to improve some small things on the bike to make sure that I am able to ride better for the race. I thank the whole team for the work done so far and I want to thank again Ducati for all the support they give me. "
Yonny Hernandez (Energy T.I. Pramac Racing)
"At the beginning of the first session I didn't feel at confident with myself, I wasn't able to concentrate on my pace. Lap by lap I felt better but the in first session I just regained confidence. The second free practice session went better, but tomorrow I hope to find the feeling I had during the test here in Qatar. Tomorrow I'll try to push harder than I did today, I hope I improve. "
Progress for Scott on second day in Qatar
Losail, Qatar - 21 March 2014: After the electronic issues yesterday, Scott Redding enjoyed two trouble free practice sessions today in Qatar, finishing 17th but closing to within six tenths of the best placed open class Honda RCV1000R.
Scott's time of 1'56.997 was an improvement on his best lap during the preseason test at Qatar one week ago and the 21-year-old Briton is confident of improving further tomorrow, once the team have addressed an issue with the front-end tucking on corner entry.
Scott Redding // 17th // 1'56.997
"Today was definitely better than yesterday, We fixed the problems with the electronics and we were able to take advantage of both of today's free practice sessions. I am comfortable on the bike, although I still struggle a bit going into the corner. Every time I try to push into the turn, I lose the feeling with the front-end. Tomorrow, during the last free practice session, we will focus on this and try to improve the feedback from the front. We will also try the harder tyre, to evaluate its performance here."
Marquez and Pedrosa work methodicaly on race preparations
Repsol Honda team riders complete two further free practice sessions, with the reigning World Champion in fifth place on the combined timesheet for the day and his teammate eighth.
The second day of free practice for the Qatar Grand Prix ended with Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa in fifth and eighth place, respectively, on a combined timesheet full of surprises at the top. Espargaró, Iannone, Dovizioso and Bautista placed ahead of Marc Marquez who, like Dani Pedrosa, continued to improve his feel for the Qatari circuit.
Despite experiencing less grip on the surface at the Losail track, the Repsol Honda Team riders both lowered their times from yesterday in the first of their two Friday sessions. Pedrosa and Marquez finished in fourth and fifth, respectively, in the opening runout. They undertook various experiments to try and gain further traction on the tricky asphalt.
In the second session, Marquez continued to improve his lap times and stopped the clock at 1'55.446, whilst Pedrosa was 2 tenths off his best time from the first session: 1'55.562.
With the three practice sessions concluded, Marquez and Pedrosa will have another 30-minute run tomorrow before the qualifying session for the Qatar Grand Prix. The 15-minute grid decider takes place at 9pm local time.
Marc Marquez | 5th | 1:55.446 | 16 vueltas | 86 km
"The day went pretty well. Besides not being as high up the timesheet as I would have liked, I'm happy because my leg felt much better than yesterday. We'll see if things continue in this way tomorrow, as I had a little more strength today and less pain. We have also improved our setup, although we still have room for improvement with the bike and also myself. Tomorrow we shall continue working in the same way with a focus on the race. Qualifying is going to be difficult, because the Open class riders have a softer tyre available, but the important thing is the race."
Dani Pedrosa | 8th | 1:55.562 | 16 vueltas | 86 km
"I am working on improving everything a little: my one-off lap times, my overall pace, my feeling with the tyre and also my feeling with different fuel amounts in the tank. We are focusing on many things with very little time available. At the moment we haven't taken a big step forward, so we hope to keep up our steady progress and not to get worse in any aspect. We have chances of getting a top time tomorrow, but I have to work on my fast laps in order to do so. There are riders setting very quick times so far, and I'm sure that the qualifying session will be tough!"
GRAND PRIX OF QATAR
BAUTISTA SHINES AGAIN UNDER LOSAIL FLOODLIGHTS. REDDING IMPROVES HIS LAP TIMES
This evening, at the Losail International Circuit, venue of the first Grand Prix of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship, both riders of the Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini have been able to take advantage of two practice sessions on the track getting positive feedback ahead of tomorrow evening, when will take place the fourth and last free practice session, followed by Qualifying 1 and Qualifying 2.
Aboard the "Factory spec" Honda Factory RC213CV, Bautista was once again the protagonist of a great session, setting the third fastest time with 1'55"240. As a further demonstration of his competitiveness, the Spanish resulted also the fastest with the medium tyre, beaten only by two bikes that can use an extrasoft compound as per regulation.
The second evening in Qatar was positive also for Scott Redding: the English MotoGP rookie closed just six tenths away from the best Honda RCV1000R Open, despite losing almost the entire first practice session yesterday night. 1'56"997 was Scott's fastest lap, which improves the one obtained in the recent Losail tests.
ALVARO BAUTISTA (3rd - 1'55"240)
"I'm happy because at the moment I continue to be the fastest rider with the medium compound tyres, just behind the motorcycles that can use the extrasoft option. In addition, my feeling with the bike has improved slightly compared to the recent tests. We need to further improve the behaviour of the bike with worn tyres, because after only 3 or 4 laps the rear tyre performance drops a lot. Tomorrow we still have one more free practice session to try to improve the situation, then we will give the maximum in qualifying to try to get a good starting position, even though it will be hard to beat the bike that can use the extrasoft rear tyre, which offers an advantage of about 4 tenths of a second".
SCOTT REDDING (17th - 1'56"997)
"Today was definitely better: we fixed the problems with the electronics and we were able to take advantage of these two practice sessions. I am comfortable on the bike, although I still struggle a bit going into the corner: every time I try to push more, I lose the feeling with the front end. Tomorrow, during the last free practice session, we will focus on this aspect, trying to improve the situation. Finally, we will try the harder tyre, to evaluate its behaviour".
"Alvaro is fast and he's also showing a good pace: so far the weekend has been very positive, we worked well making a step ahead each time we went on track. Obviously, it's difficult to beat the bikes that can use a softer tyre, but the fact remains that we are competitive, so we are happy. Redding today managed to complete two good practice sessions, getting a good lap time, not far from the fastest Honda RCV1000R. Unfortunately yesterday Scott lost valuable time to work on the bike, but tomorrow he still have another practice session tomorrow before the Qualifying 1 in which he will take part".
Aleix Espargaro opens up gap on rivals in Qatar Free Practice
Round 1: Qatar MotoGP? - Free Practice One, Two and Three
Losail International Circuit, Friday 21 March 2014
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft & Hard; Rear: Soft, Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
Weather: FP1 - Dry. Ambient 23-23°C; Track 25-26°C (Bridgestone measurement)
FP2 - Dry. Ambient 26-26°C; Track 34-32°C (Bridgestone measurement)
FP3 - Dry. Ambient 23-23°C; Track 26-27°C (Bridgestone measurement)
NGM Mobile Forward Racing's Aleix Espargaro continued his impressive form from the Qatar pre-season test to top the first three Free Practice sessions at Qatar's Losail International Circuit, ultimately setting a best lap time of 1'54.773 to finish 0.413 seconds clear of his closest rival.
Espargaro set his time in today's Free Practice 3 session on the combination of the hard compound front slick and the soft compound rear slick - which is only available to the Ducati and Open-class entrants this weekend. Second overall in the ranked practice sessions was Pramac Racing's Andrea Iannone, who also took advantage of the extra grip of the soft compound rear to set a personal best lap time of 1'55.186. Third quickest on combined practice times was GO&FUN Honda Gresini's Alvaro Bautista with a time of 1'55.240 which the Spaniard set on the medium compound rear and hard compound front slick.
The desert setting of the Losail circuit makes it prone to wind-blown sand and this caused the usual low grip levels, with the first session of the weekend, FP1 creating particularly challenging conditions for the riders. As more sessions were run resulting in more rubber being laid down on the asphalt, grip levels improved slightly but some riders reported they were still at a poor level during FP3. Despite the typically low grip levels, the combination of the latest MotoGP? machinery and the 2014 specification Bridgestone tyres yielded impressive gains in performance compared to last year's Qatar Grand Prix, with Espargaro's best time 1.3 seconds quicker than the best FP3 time last year and all riders in the top ten bettering their 2013 mark by at least half a second.
Losail circuit places a strong demand on cornering and braking stability and this was reflected in a strong preference among the riders for the hard compound front slick in the first three sessions of the weekend. Rear slick choice was more varied, although almost all riders switched to their softer rear slick option; soft compound for the Ducati and Open class, and medium compound for the remaining Factory bikes, to set a quick lap time in their effort to qualify directly for QP2. Tomorrow's FP4 session will be important for the teams as it will provide an opportunity to work on setup for qualifying and identify their optimum tyre combination for Sunday's race.
MotoGP Free Practice 4 starts at 1955 local time (GMT+3) tomorrow before the first qualifying sessions of 2014 commence at 2035 with QP1, followed by QP2 at 2100.
Shinji Aoki - Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department
"The Losail circuit always has poor grip levels at the beginning of the race weekend, and this year was no exception. In FP1 yesterday, many riders commented that the track conditions were poor, and although there was an improvement today, it was still challenging for the riders. This circuit needs high cornering and braking stability, and so most riders preferred the hard compound front slick over the last two days. Riders used both the softer and harder rear slick options available to them and although we expect them to use their softer option for qualifying, still some evaluation needs to be done to find their rear tyre choice for the race. FP3 proved to be an exciting session, and with the Ducati and Open-class riders using the extra grip on offer from the soft compound rear slick, we should be in for an interesting qualifying tomorrow."
BRADL SECURES A Q2 PLACING WITH NINTH PLACE
Losail, 21 March: LCR racer Stefan Bradl ended up in 9thplace under floodlights at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar earning his first Q2 placing of 2014 season thanks to his best time (1'55.676) set at the end of day two at Losail. The German riding the RC213V confirmed to be comfortable on race pace but still struggles to produce a remarkable lap time on soft tyres. He squeezed into the top ten but is looking for more tomorrow.
Stefan: "It was a tough day for us...overall the pace is not bad because our race speed is similar to the rest of the other guys but I am not happy about the fact that I was not able to make a decent fast lap on soft tyre. Between the two sessions we improved the bike but it was not enough to match the lap time that we did in the test. But it seems that also the other guys are struggling to get a good fast lap time. It's not going to be easy for us but we need to see how the track will be tomorrow and how we can adapt with the tyres".