MotoGP

2015 Qatar MotoGP Sunday Round Up: The Unexpected And The Expected, That's Why They Line Up On Sunday

"That's why we line up on Sunday. You never know what's gonna happen." Nicky Hayden was replying to one of my typically stupid questions after the race in Indianapolis in 2009. The day before, I had asked him if he had given up hope of a good result after qualifying in 6th on the Ducati in front of his home crowd. That Sunday, he had ridden a solid race and taken advantage of the misfortunes of others, ending the day on the podium. The heady mixture of hope, determination, talent and a smattering of luck put him where he wanted to be. Or close to it at least.

Hayden's phrase is one of the most succinct and accurate descriptions of motorcycle racing, as the events of the season opener at Qatar go to show. The script which we all thought had been written on Saturday got torn up and thrown out the window on Sunday. Because you never know what's gonna happen.

The Moto3 race was the usual barnstormer, where the race looked like it was anybody's, yet it still ended up with two of the most experienced riders sharing the podium. Moto2 saw one bizarre incident follow another, until the last man left standing took victory. And MotoGP turned into a heart-stopping thriller, with the favorite catching himself out, and the winner coming from halfway down the grid.

2015 MotoGP Championship Standings After Round 1, Losail, Qatar

MotoGP Championship standings for round 1, 2015

Dani Pedrosa Suffering Intractable Arm Pump Problems, Facing Uncertain Future

Dani Pedrosa is to seek urgent treatment for a severe arm pump problem. After the race at Qatar, in which Pedrosa could manage just a sixth place, the Spaniard revealed that he has been suffering with severe arm pump for the past year, which has badly affected his results. Pedrosa spoke to a lot of specialists over the winter, all of whom suggested avoiding surgery, as the Spaniard has already had surgery to try to fix the problem last year, which has not proved successful.

The less aggressive treatment he tried over the winter has failed to solve the problems, which arose immediately during the very first race. Pedrosa will now try to find another solution to this problem, and will seek further medical advice on treatment. His main priority, he told the media, was to fix the problem with arm pump, before trying to race again.

2015 Qatar MotoGP Race: Battle Royal Crowning Glory Of Great Night's Racing

Results and summary of a thrilling MotoGP race at Qatar:

2015 Qatar MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Of Ducati's Revival, An Underrated Dovizioso, And Yamaha's Struggles

A Ducati on pole? Three Ducatis on the first two rows? Four Ducatis in the top ten? Cheater tire! The only logical explanation for the grid positions the factory and Pramac Ducati secured at Qatar is the fact they have the special soft tire available to them. And that tire, we are told by everyone who is not on a Ducati, is worth a second a lap. So the grid positions of the Ducati are a travesty, right? Come the race, they'll be rolling road blocks holding up the rest once their tires go off, right?

Wrong. This narrative, current among everyone who sees their favorite rider further down the grid than they had hoped for, bears only a very passing resemblance to the truth. The soft tire may offer some advantage to those who are allowed to use it, but it takes experience and data to get the best out of the softer rubber. Ducati have plenty of data they can pass on to the Pramac team, but the Desmosedici GP15 of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone has barely had more than two or three laps on the soft tire. The bike is so new that they simply haven't got around to spending much time working on qualifying.

The real story is a lot more complex than just the soft tire. It starts in FP4, when Marc Márquez realized that the Yamahas were still struggling to match race pace, but showing real signs of improvement. It was time to do something about that, and he decided to deploy a trick he picked up last year. The Repsol Honda man allowed both Pramac Ducatis to get into his draft, and towed them round to help their fast laps. His ploy paid off, though not entirely. Yonny Hernandez was catapulted up into fifth, but Danilo Petrucci got a little too close and was forced into mistakes. Petrucci ended up only ninth, losing out in the second half of the track. If he had got the last two sectors right, Petrucci could have been as high as fourth.

2015 Qatar MotoGP Saturday Post-Qualifying Press Releases

Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying at Qatar:

Round Number: 
1
Year: 
2015

2015 Qatar MotoGP Qualifying Practice Result: Thrilling Qualifying Shakes Up Grid

Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class at Qatar:

2015 Qatar MotoGP FP4 Result: Ducatis Dominate, Marquez Follows

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:

Scott Jones In The Desert: Friday Photos From Qatar


Pol Espargaró beat brother Aleix last year. That may not be so easy in 2015


Can this bike...


... stop this man? So far it has been advantage Márquez

2015 Qatar MotoGP Friday Round Up: How To Pick A Winner When A Second Separates The Top Nineteen?

"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.

2015 Qatar MotoGP Friday Post-Practice Press Releases

Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the second day of practice at Qatar:

Round Number: 
1
Year: 
2015

2015 Qatar MotoGP FP3 Result: Marquez Leads Very Tight Field In Scintillating Session

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. 

2015 Qatar MotoGP FP2 Result: Marquez' Reign Continues

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.

Scott Jones In The Desert: Thursday Photos From Qatar


Suzuki came back to MotoGP, and they came prepared


The world's most expensive snowglobe: the onboard gyroscopic rotating camera


All's fair in love and motorcycle racing. Especially espionage

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.

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