These just in from the desert:
Marquez takes Qatar pole with Pedrosa in 6th
Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez has secured the first pole of the season at the Losail circuit in Qatar with a time of 1'54.507, marking his 10th MotoGP career pole, from 19 starts in the class. Teammate Dani Pedrosa, despite being just 0.196s from Marc with 1'54.703, will start from the second row in 6th position.
It was an exciting session with fastest times being traded between several riders. Marc, who is still suffering from the injury that sidelined him from the last two Winter tests, took provisional pole on his first exit in Q2 before securing it with a faster time on his final lap of his second exit. He's now found a setup he is happy with and will work on fine tuning it in tomorrow's warmup session.
Dani was also happy with his pace after making positive setup changes in FP4 and will be looking for one of his trademark starts in tomorrow's 22 lap race, that will begin at 22h00 local time.
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"
6th - 1'54.703
"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 qualified sixth by a really narrow margin. We're going to continue to be positive about things, believe in the work that we have been doing here so far this weekend, and tomorrow we'll give everything that we have to do well at the first race of the season"
Lorenzo Takes Fifth in Tense Qatar Qualifying
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.
Monster Yamaha Tech3's Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro performed impressively during a fiercely competitive qualifying session. Britain's Bradley Smith qualified superbly on the front row in 3rd, while his Spanish teammate Pol Espargaro scored a 12th position for the start of the opening MotoGP World Championship race.
Having previously topped the 4th free practice session and consistently posting quick lap times all week, Smith worked tirelessly with his Monster Yamaha Tech3 team to finish with a best lap time of 1:54.601 around the 5.83 kilometre circuit. The young English rider's emphatic performance was less than a hundredth of a second from the fastest rider, and will put in him in the best possible position to battle with the leading riders tomorrow. The Monster Yamaha Tech3 satellite rider finished as the fastest Yamaha rider and ahead of the Factory Yamaha's of Lorenzo and Rossi.
Pol Espargaro skilfully sailed through Qualifying 1 before heading into the Q2 session where he finished in 12th position on his debut MotoGP appearance for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team. Having fallen heavily, albeit uninjured yesterday, the reigning Moto2 World Champion bounced back determinedly today with a calculated ride which saw him top the Qualifying 1 session, and then set a 1:55.152 in Q2. With the young Spaniard's knowledge of the Yamaha YZR-M1 still growing, his qualifying time is even more impressive after finishing just over six tenths from the leading time in his first ever MotoGP Qualifying.
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."
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!"
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 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."
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 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."
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".
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".
Dovizioso a fraction away from front row start, Crutchlow eighth in Qatar GP qualifying
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."
Up and Down Qualifying for Iannone
The day started on the right foot for Andrea Iannone. During the third free practice session yesterday, he gained direct access to Q2. Unfortunately in the all-important qualifying session he was forced to stop for a technical problem on the last lap.
In the fourth and final free practice session Andrea Iannone - Pramac Racing - concluded with a solid fifth place, less than two tenths of a second from the first position. Thirty-five minutes after the end of FP4, Q2 session started as scheduled. "Maniac Joe" demonstrated immediately that he was competitive, lapping in 1'55''1 and being able to repeat this lap a couple more times. On the last lap available before the end of session , Andrea managed to do an excellent T1, but unfortunately was stopped by a technical problem. Iannone will start eleventh on the grid.
Yonny Hernandez - Energy T.I. Pramac Racing - rode the fourth FP session under par, and was unable to match his lap time from yesterday . During the first lap of qualifying he improved slightly, the lap after unfortunately he crashed without consequences. The Colombian rider returned on track but without improving. Tomorrow Yonny will start the race from the seventeenth position .
Andrea Iannone ( Pramac Racing)
"I'm confident! This morning I went well in FP4 did good lap times. In Q2 I was fast from the start , unfortunately I was forced to slow down a couple of times because of traffic, and on the last lap while I was improving I had to stop for a technical problem. The race is tomorrow, I think I can do well. I thank the team and Ducati. "
Yonny Hernandez (Energy T.I. Pramac Racing)
"I'm very disappointed, I have crashed too many times this weekend. It is not a good weekend for me, now I hope for the race. I'm happy with the bike, I feel good with the setup. I'll work to improve tomorrow, I have no physical pain. In the race I want to finish in the points. "
BRADL TAKES 7th SPOT ON THE GRID BEFORE QATAR GP
Losail, 22 March: the opening round of 2014 season continued today under the lights of Losail circuit with Reigning World Champion Marc Marquez taking the pole position of the starting grid followed by Bautista and Smith. LCR racer Stefan Bradl used free practice four to prepare his RC213V for the 15 minute shootout - QP2 which saw the German leading the third row (7thoverall) with a time just 0.364s off the pace (1'54.871).
Stefan: "We improved the gap to the guys on 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 P7 is good anyway and the good thing is that we are not far from the top. Considering the new rules and the actual situation with Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa riding on 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 prevision...".
Scott all set for MotoGP race debut in Qatar
Losail, Qatar - 22 March 2014: Scott Redding will make his MotoGP race debut from the sixth row of the grid in Qatar tomorrow, after qualifying in 16th position this evening. Tomorrow's race start will also be Scott's 100th Grand Prix appearance since making his World Championship debut in 2008.
Scott declared himself satisfied with today's qualifying performance, especially as he had to contend with a misfiring RCV1000R throughout the 15-minute session after a stone smashed the front wheel speed sensor on the bike.
Scott Redding // 16th // 1'56.555
"I'm pretty satisfied with the improvements we've made today but, unfortunately, I had a problem with the bike during qualifying. As soon as I took to the track I felt there was something wrong with the bike. The engine kept cutting out continuously and I had no option but to return to the pits. I jumped on the second bike with little time remaining and just about managed to put in a flying lap. The second bike actually felt a bit better, so we'll use it in warm up tomorrow, when we will also make a decision about which tyre to use for the race. I would be happy if I could finish in the points tomorrow."
Top Ten Moto2 Qualifying Debut for AirAsia Caterham Moto Racing
Circuit: Losail International Circuit
Circuit Length: 5.380 km
Bike # 5 - Johann Zarco
Qualifying: P9; 2:00.806
Bike # 2 - Josh Herrin
Qualifying: P27; 2:02.258
Qualifying: (Conditions) Dry; (air temp) 22°, (track temp) 21°
Today marked AirAsia Caterham Moto Racing's first qualifying session in the Moto2 Championship.
Under the floodlit Losail circuit, experienced rider Johann Zarco came out strong holding a top five position for the first half of the session. With the top fifteen riders separated by less than one second, the Frenchman finished in P9, giving AirAsia Caterham Moto Racing their first top ten qualifying position, starting tomorrows race from row three.
Despite being unable to progress on his time from free practice three, Moto2 rookie Josh Herrin made a positive start to his debut into the championship. The young American adapted well to his new Caterham Suter and pushed hard to improve but struggling with chatter was unable to advance, qualifying in P27.
Johann Zarco: "After qualifying in 9th position initially I was disappointed for sure. I did my fastest lap in the beginning but then we had some issues with bike set-up. The team worked hard to fix it and in the end I was able to repeat the same lap time, so this is the most positive thing.
"For sure how we are working we are going to improve step by step so I cannot be upset. We will aim to get many points tomorrow and the podiums will come as soon as possible."
Josh Herrin: "We made a couple of initial changes which didn't work so we set the bike back to how it was in FP3. I struggled to get back into a rhythm so I was unable to improve my time from yesterday.
"Hopefully tomorrow we can get a good start and mix with the guys in the top twenty. All the practice starts I've done on the bike have been good and I'm a much better racer than a qualifier. I'll try as hard as I can so hopefully we will have a real solid race and be able to leave here positive and ready for Austin."
Johann Stigefelt: "First practices and qualifying here in Qatar. For Zarco I think we have done a good job. The bike is not 100% perfect but we can see that we are OK in average speed and I believe we can have a good race tomorrow from the results in qualifying.
"The session started out very well for Johann but unfortunately the conditions were not exactly the same as yesterday but that's the same for everyone. In any case he did his fastest time on lap three and we are still on the third row. With a good start we can be fighting for a top six position. This is the target for tomorrow and to take home some good points.
"I'm sure we can improve the bike a bit more in morning warm up so we will see how that works out.
"For Josh we are quite disappointed because we were expecting more after yesterday's free practice three where he looked very good and he was very positive.
"We did a small change at the beginning which wasn't good so we changed back to how it was in FP3. Unfortunately this didn't work out for him either as he experienced a lot of chatter, so he was not so happy with how the bike was working. Now we need to go through the data and see how we can improve things and make the package better for him tomorrow. It will be difficult from 27th position but he is a good starter and he is a racer so we will see what happens, as anything can happen in the race."
DRIVE M7 ASPAR RIDERS READY TO RACE AFTER QUALIFYING IN QATAR
Nicky Hayden and Hiroshi Aoyama improve lap times to seal thirteenth and fifteenth respectively
The first qualifying session of the 2014 season provided a memorable night in the history of the MotoGP World Championship as the top three riders on the grid qualified within a tenth of a second and the top nine were covered by less than half a second. With up to twelve riders showing podium potential here the first race of the new season promises to be as spectacular as the last lap from Marc Márquez that saw him snatch pole from Alvaro Bautista.
DRIVE M7 Aspar riders Nicky Hayden and Hiroshi Aoyama both saved their best laps of the weekend so far for the all-important qualifying session, the American clocking his best time on his penultimate effort and the Japanese on his last. Nicky even managed to light up a red third sector on his fast lap but, as he later admitted, he lost out in the fourth. A 1'55.894 was still four tenths quicker than his best lap yesterday and is enough for thirteen on tomorrow night's grid. Hiroshi made an improvement of half a second to his best lap and lines up two places behind his team-mate on the fifth row.
13th Nicky Hayden 1.55.894: "I didn't expect to get down to the 1.55s without a tow, especially with the problems we have had in corner exit in T4, but it still wasn't enough to get into Q2. I would like to be starting the season from a better position on the grid in the first race but considering how new everything is to us we have to be satisfied and now 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 other riders while riding this bike so the first few laps should be interesting tomorrow night. Hopefully we can learn plenty and gather lots of useful data to help us in future with this bike."
15th Hiroshi Aoyama 1.56.479: "From yesterday to today we made some set-up changes and I was able to ride more comfortably. Yesterday we knew exactly what we had to change and to be honest it had the desired result. We put a new tyre in at the end of the session that gave us a bit more grip and confidence. I was quite surprised actually, I didn't expect to have such a good feel for the rear end. The last two laps were very positive and we were able to take a big chunk out of the lap time. I felt we could have improved again with another lap but unfortunately we ran out of time. Anyway, I am happy with our improvement and finally now it's time to go racing."