Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class at Qatar:
Andrea Iannone ended the final session of free practice at the top of the timesheets, leading Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso to a Desmosedici 1-2. Marc Marquez was the only other rider to get close, ending the session just over a quarter of a second slower than Iannone.
Jorge Lorenzo lead the Yamaha armada in 4th, the Movistar Yamaha man nearly seven tenths slower than Iannone, and ahead of Valentino Rossi, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith. Cal Crutchlow ended eighth.
With FP4 being the best indication of race pace, and the last chance to work on race set up, everyone was out on race tires, mainly the medium rear. Dovizioso's race pace was surprising, as good as or better than that of Marquez. The Italian and the Spaniard appear to have the jump on the rest of the field.
Results and summary of Moto2 qualifying:
Results and summary of Moto3 QP:
"It's just nuts to be separated by one second over the 5 km around this place." It is hard to argue with Eugene Laverty's assessment of just how close the times are after free practice for MotoGP. Laverty is either really close to Marc Márquez, or a long way behind Marc Márquez, depending on how you measure it. The Irishman had a solid day of practice to come up just over a second shy of Márquez' best time on Friday evening. His problem is that as impressive as his time was, there are eighteen riders ahead of him.
It is, quite frankly, ridiculously close. "I don't know when was the last time you saw down to 21st was inside 1.3 seconds," Jack Miller said in awe. "It's almost like we're in Moto3 again." The closeness of the field was a frustration for everyone on the grid. Miller, Scott Redding, Nicky Hayden, even Valentino Rossi cannot believe how tough the field is. "This practice is unbelievable, because there are ten bikes in three tenths!"
That does not make it any easier to pick a winner, however. Marc Márquez is the least troubled of the riders on the grid, fast both in race trim and on a single lap. The Repsol Honda man spent the day working on his race pace, dropping his lap time to around 1'55.3. He could not make the same step for his single lap pace, but as Márquez has topped every session so far, that should not be too much of a concern. It is too early to be handing him the pole, however: with Aleix Espargaro managing fourth on the soft tire, Andrea Iannone getting to within two tenths of Márquez while still running the medium tire, and Cal Crutchlow and Dani Pedrosa showing some real pace on a single lap, the front row is not a given. Márquez fears the Ducatis and Pedrosa most, but warned also against writing off the Yamahas. "In one lap, they can be there," he said.
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 the second day of practice at Qatar:
Marc Marquez has topped the final session of free practice for the MotoGP class at Qatar. The Repsol Honda rider led from the start of the session, going on to improve his time as the session ended. However, the dominance he showed in previous sessions was very much at an end. In the final five minutes of FP3, almost everyone chased a fast time, cutting the gap to Marquez drastically. By the end of FP3, half a second covered the top 10, and the top 15 were all within a second of the Repsol Honda man.
It was Cal Crutchlow who got closest to Marquez, the LCR Honda rider getting with a tenth of a second of the Spaniard with a blistering lap. Andrea Iannone set the third fastest time, but more impressively, set it on a medium tire, rather than the soft the Ducatis are allowed to run. Iannone crashed in Turn 2 with ten minutes to go, leaving him no time to go out for another shot with the softer rear.
Sam Lowes has topped the third session of free practice for the Moto2 class, after a scintillating battle for supremacy with Johann Zarco. Lowes and Zarco kept pushing each other to the limits, swapping the lead all the way down to the wire. It was Lowes who ended up on top, the Speed Up rider finishing just ahead of the Ajo Racing man at the end of the session.
Tito Rabat took 3rd behind Lowes and Zarco, the reigning world champion becoming the third rider to break the two minute barrier. The gap was large, however: Rabat is three tenths slower than Zarco, and nearly half a second slower than Lowes. He is still a third of a second quicker than the man in 4th, however, Sandro Cortese ending the day three quarters of a second behind Lowes, and a couple of tenths ahead of Axel Pons.
Alex Marquez had a much better session in FP3, the reigning Moto3 champion starting to find his feet in Moto2. At one point, the Spaniard was up to 8th, before slipping down the field to 11th. Former teammate Alex Rins finished ahead of him once again, ending the session in 9th, after missing much of the first part of FP3 with clutch problems, an issue he shared with his HP Pons teammate Luis Salom.
Danny Kent has continued to impress in the Moto3 class, topping the timesheets of the final session of free practice. Kent and Miguel Oliveira swapped places at the top for most of the session, Kent eventually winning out with a very fast lap at the end.
Kent leads his Leopard Honda teammate Hirokl Ono, the Japanese rider making good use of a large group to jump up at the end, first to 4th, then to 2nd, pushing Miguel Oliveira down into 3rd, and the first of the KTM riders. John McPhee followed the Estrella Galicia riders around on his fast lap to get up to 4th, while Fabio Quartararo once again impresses at a track he has never seen, ending the session in 5th.
Marc Marquez has put some distance between himself and his rivals, topping the second session of free practice by nearly half a second. Marquez got a quick lap in early, then concentrated on race pace. Worryingly for his rivals, Marquez' race pace was mostly faster than 2nd place man Dani Pedrosa's best lap.
If the gap from 1st to 2nd was large, it was much closer behind Marquez. Dani Pedrosa was 0.447 behind his Repsol Honda teammate in 2nd, but the same gap covers 2nd place to Mike Di Meglio in 8th. In fact, an entire second covers Pedrosa in 2nd down to Stefan Bradl in 18th, showing just how tight the field is behind Marquez.
The group behind Pedrosa was illustrative of that. Andrea Dovizioso ended FP2 in 3rd, less than a tenth slower than Pedrosa. Dovizoso's GP15 once again sprouted wings, Ducati continuing to experiment with the anti-wheely devices, though only on the bike of Dovizioso. Cal Crutchlow put in an impressive lap on the LCR Honda to take 4th spot, just a few hundredths behind Dovizioso, while Andrea Iannone was just seven thousandths of a second slower than Crutchlow.
Casey Stoner is make a brief return to motorcycle racing. The Australian is to compete in the Suzuka 8 Hour race as part of Honda's factory MuSASHI RT HARC-PRO team, racing alongside Pata Honda WSBK rider Michael van der Mark, and Honda test rider Takumi Takahashi.
The first inklings that Stoner might try his hand at another form of motorcycle racing came when Stoner tested the Honda CBR1000RR bike HRC is preparing for Suzuka. He rode the bike while testing Honda's RC213V MotoGP bike, in his capacity as official test rider for HRC. In a press release afterwards, he was very positive about the experience, saying, "in general it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed being able to feel the rear of the bike step out!".
In early March, in a blog on the website of Italian broadcaster Sportmediaset, Italian journalist Max Temporali claimed that Stoner was preparing to enter the Suzuka 8 hour race. Three weeks later, Temporali has been proved right.
2015 Qatar MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Racing For Real, And The Strange Consequences Of Sponsorship Falling Through
When the flag drops, the speculation stops. Though usually, a rather more forthright word is used instead of speculation. After the long winter of testing, of trying to assess who was trying what on which lap to try to compare lap times, MotoGP is underway for real. Everyone on track is looking for race pace, and a fast lap to ensure they get into Q2. It is a whole lot easier to comprehend, and infinitely more thrilling.
Conditions had not looked promising ahead of practice. Strong winds blew down the front straight in the late afternoon, raising fears that they would coat the circuit in dust and sand. Then shortly before the action was due to kick off, a few drops of rain started falling, threatening to at least delay proceedings should it continue. But the wind dropped and the rain stopped, and the 2015 MotoGP season got underway as planned.
Fears about the track were unfounded, lap times quickly heading towards something resembling race pace. Danny Kent's fastest lap in Moto3 was seven tenths off the lap record in the first session of the day, and when Moto2 hit the track, Sam Lowes set about destroying the existing pole record, becoming the first ever Moto2 rider to break the two minute barrier at the circuit. In MotoGP, Marc Márquez was lapping a few tenths off lap record pace, a record still held by Casey Stoner from 2008.