Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the second day of practice at Qatar:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after practice at Qatar on Friday :
When was the last time a non-factory rider won a MotoGP race? Any MotoGP fan worth their salt will be able to give you year, track and rider: 2006, Estoril, Toni Elias. Ask them why he won and they will give you all sorts of answers – Dani Pedrosa taking out Nicky Hayden in the early laps, Colin Edwards not being able to maintain his pace to the end of the race, Kenny Roberts Jr misjudging the number of laps left in the race, or, as Valentino Rossi put it, because 'Toni ride like the devil' – but none they can be sure of.
There is a less well-known explanation for Elias' performance, though. Ahead of the Estoril race, Elias was given a set of the overnight special tires shipped in especially for Michelin factory riders. In this case, Elias was handed a set of 'Saturday night specials' destined for Dani Pedrosa, but which Pedrosa had elected not to use, and so were going spare. Elias liked the same kind of soft carcass tire which Pedrosa was being offered, and went on to exploit the advantage it offered.
What does that have to do with Friday at Qatar? Two things. Firstly, it highlights exactly how important tires are in motorcycle racing. Tires dictate a huge amount of the performance of a motorcycle. They are the connection between the bike and the track, but that is a very full and complex function. Tires determine how far a bike can be leaned, how much drive the bikes can get out of a corner, how well the power delivery of an engine transfers to the tarmac, how hard the bike can brake, they provide a certain amount of suspension, and they pass information about track surface, grip conditions and where the limits of braking and turning are for a motorcycle. And that's just the beginning. Tires are (quite literally) a black art. Their complexity cannot be underestimated.
Aleix Espargaro extended his long-term lease at the top of the Free Practice timesheet Friday with fast lap of 1'54.773, a time that left him nearly half of a second clear of the field. The satellite bikes of Andrea Iannone (Ducati, 2nd) and Alvaro Bautista (Honda, 3rd) rounded out the top three during a qualifying session that saw both a brief sprinkle of rain and a five-time Qatar winner languishing until late.
Factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso finished the free practice as the top factory rider with a fourth-fastest time. Current world champion Marc Marquez continued his improving form with a fifth. Bradley Smith, who suffered a massive highside in the middle of the session, managed a sixth followed by the factory Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo.
Lorenzo, a five-time winner here, lingered in 11th for much of the session until he made a strong run with three minutes remaining to put him into seventh place. Stefan Bradl, Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa completed the top ten and now can wait for the second qualifying practice and a chance at the pole position.
Sandro Cortese, on his final lap of FP3, clipped what had been a dominant run by Tito Rabat to take the top practice spot Friday in Qatar. Cortese, at 2'00.579, wasn't the only rider to make a late move. Dominique Aegerter also put in a fast final lap to grab second, leaving Rabat suddenly dropped to third at the end of the final free practice before Saturday's qualifying. Last year's Moto3 champion, Maverick Vinales began to find extra speed on his new Moto2 bike and jumped into fourth with his fastest time of the weekend. Takaaki Nakagami, also quick all weekend, rounded out the top five, two-tenths shy of the leader.
Romano Fenati set the new fastest-ever Moto3 lap at the Losail Circuit to top the timesheet with a 2'06.121 in Friday's third free practice. Second-fastest Alex Rins battled Fenati for much of the session and swapped the top spot before finishing six-hundredths of a second behind. Alex Marquez finished third, another one-tenth back. The news is initially good for Honda which placed two riders in the top three after enduring a 2013 season of KTM domination. Qualifying practice will begin Saturday.
In the second MotoGP practice, open class rider Aleix Espargaro accomplished much of what he did in the first session at the Losail Circuit: Top of the timesheet and well clear of the field. And while Andrea Dovisioso (2nd) closed within three-tenths of a second, he did that lap on a soft tire which he is unlikely to use in the race. Alvaro Bautista rounded out the top three with a 1'55.446, a lap time he consistently ran for much of the session.
The factory Hondas lurk in fourth and fifth. Dani Pedrosa, the quickest factory bke in FP1, managed to close within half a second of the elder Espargaro. World Champion Marc Marquez greatly improved from the first practice session, to claim fifth. Pass through another strata of satellite riders -- Bradley Smith (Yamaha), Stefan Bradl (Honda), Pol Espargaro (Yamaha) -- and there you will find the factory Yamaha of Valentino Rossi (9th) almost exactly a second slower than the open class Yamaha at the top of the charts. Andrea Iannone, just over a second off the pace, rounded out the top ten. Rossi's factory Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo was slower still in 11th.
The rider will practice again on Friday (FP3) to determine who goes straight to Qualifying Practice 2.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at Qatar:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Qatar:
2014 Qatar MotoGP Thursday Round Up - The Open Revolution, Bridgestone's 2014 Tires, And Moto3's Mixed Bag
The old adage about not judging a book by its cover seems particularly apt after the first day at Qatar. Fans and followers were hoping the changes made over the winter might shake things up a little, but they weren't expecting a revolution. At the top of the timesheets in MotoGP sits Aleix Espargaro on the Open class Forward Yamaha, nearly half a second ahead of the rest. In second place was Alvaro Bautista, not on an Open bike, but on a satellite Honda. Bautista, in turn, was ahead of three other satellite machines, Tech 3's Bradley Smith leading Pramac Ducati rider Andrea Iannone, with the other Tech 3 bike of Pol Espargaro behind.
The first factory rider (that's factory rider, not Factory Option) was Dani Pedrosa in 6th, over a second behind the Open class bike of Aleix. Valentino Rossi in 7th, on the factory Movistar Yamaha, could only just hold off former teammate Colin Edwards on the other Forward Yamaha. Even Nicky Hayden was just a tenth off the pace of Rossi, despite the Drive M7 Aspar rider being on the production RCV1000R Honda, a bike which was giving away over 12 km/h to the M1 of Rossi.
Takaaki Nakagami grabbed the lead position in FP2 at the Losail Circuit Thursday with a 2'00.522 -- a time that not only put him clear of the field it also was three tenths better than Pol Espargaro's pole time from the previous year. Tito Rabat, who led much of the late session, finished in second only five hundredths back. Sandro Cortese grabbed third with a fast lap one-tenth of a second behind the leader. Mika Kallio, leader in FP1, managed only 10th in the second session. As nearly always is the case in Moto2, the field is tightly bunched with one second separating the top 15 riders.
Romano Fenati bettered his FP1 time and the entire Moto3 field with a 2'06.168 at the second practice Thursday at the Losail Circuit. As in the first session, Jacob Kornfeil held the second slot, closing within two-hundredths of a second on the leader. Jack Miller improved three places to take the third-best time at the day's final practice. Fenati didn't lead the entire sesion but he managed a fast lap late. Only a second separates the top 10 Moto 3 riders with practice to resume Friday.
Open class Yamaha rider Aleix Espargaro topped the charts to kick off the 2014 MotoGP season with a dominant time of 1'55.201, nearly half a second faster than second-place rider Alvaro Bautista on a satellite Honda. Another satellite rider, Yamaha's Bradley Smith, came in third, six-tenths back from the elder Espargaro. In fact, the salletite and open class riders dominated FP1 taking seven of the top-ten times. Satellite Ducati rider Andrea Iannone grabbed fourth and Tech 3 Yamaha's Pol Espargaro managed fifth. The fastest factory bike, Dani Pedrosa's Honda, claimed only sixth place at slightly more than a second back from the leader.
In part, this is because only the open class and satellite bikes tested at the Losail Circuit during the off-season and so arrived in Qatar with an approximate setup. But that does not entirely explain the difference in times and certainly doesn't entirely account for Espargaro's pace.