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.
Mika Kallio made a late charge to take the top spot in the opening Moto2 practice of the 2014 season at the Losail Circuit in Qatar. Kallio's 2'01.46 put him one-tenth of a second clear of second place Thomas Luthi. Takaaki Nakagami, who led briefly during FP1, finished third at slightly more than a tenth back of Kallio. Moto2 favorite Tito Rabat came in fourth at the end of the session with Xavier Simeon in fifth. Last year's Moto3 champion, Maverick Vinales sits in eighth a half of a second from the top. All of the top times are similar to the Moto2 FP1 times from 2013.
Before even taking to the Losail Circuit in Qatar Thursday, Valentino Rossi had a reason to smile; His new Sky Racing Team VR46 rider Romano Fenati started the new season by setting the fast time in Moto3 FP1 with a lap of 2'07.176. Jacob Kornfeil was right on his heels at four hundredths back followed by Isaac Vinales at four tenths of a second behind the leader. In all, KTM began the 2013 season the way it ended last year: Dominance at the top of the timesheet.
Alex Marquez (younger brother of MotoGP's Marc) arrived in fourth and Efren Vazquez who led much of the early session, ended the Thursday session in fifth. All of the top 13 rider finished the day faster than FP1 in 2013 when Jonas Folger clocked a 2'08.951 in the opener.
It has been a long and confusing wait for the 2014 MotoGP season to begin. An awful lot has happened since the MotoGP bikes were rolled into their packing crates after the Valencia test and shipped back to the factories and workshops from whence they came. There have been shock announcements, shock testing results, and shock training crashes. There have been last-minute rule changes, made in an attempt to keep all of the different factions in the paddock from rebelling. The final rules for the premier class were only announced on Monday, and even then, they still contain sufficient ambiguity to confuse.
But this confusion and chaos cannot disguise the fact that 2014 looks set to be the most intriguing championship in years. Gone are the reviled CRT machines – unjustly reviled; though slow, they were still jewels of engineering prowess – and in their place is a new class of machinery, the Open entries. A simpler demarcation has been made, between factories running their own software on the spec Magneti Marelli ECU, and the Open teams using the championship software supplied and controlled by Dorna. The latest rule change adds a twist, allowing underperforming Ducati all the benefits of the Open class – 24 liters of fuel instead of 20, 12 engines per season instead of 5, unlimited testing and a softer tire – until they start winning races. But the 2014 grid looks much more like a single coherent class than the pack of racing motorcycles that lined up last year.
There are many questions which will be answered during the 2014 season, but the first, and most important, is whether Marc Marquez can retain his title. The Repsol Honda rider had a record-breaking rookie season, which ended with him taking the title at the first attempt, and becoming the youngest ever premier class champion. At the first test of 2014 in Sepang, he was a cut above the rest, leaving the other riders gasping for breath. A training crash saw him break his fibula, and he arrives in Qatar just five days after he started putting weight on the leg again, and having missed the last two preseason tests.
Yamaha today took the wraps off their 2014 livery, unveiling their Movistar sponsorship for the first time. They issued the following press release, with photos of the new bike:
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP take the covers off to Kick Start the 2014 season
Losail Circuit (Qatar), 19th March 2014
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP kick started the Qatar MotoGP weekend this afternoon by taking the covers off the 2014 YZR-M1 in front of the world’s key motorcycle media.
Riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were joined on the Losail circuit start grid by Kouichi Tsuji, General Manager of Yamaha Motor Co.'s Motorsports Division, Yamaha Motor Racing’s Managing Director Lin Jarvis and Telefónica Spain’s Director of Media, Luis Velo to reveal the new livery.
The first two months of the year have seen a flurry of activity for the team, highlighted by the recent ground breaking five-year title sponsorship agreement that launches the team Yamaha Movistar MotoGP ahead of the 2014 season.