Maverick Viñales has topped the final session of free practice for the MotoGP class at Qatar, and goes into qualifying on Saturday as the fastest man of the field. The Movistar Yamaha rider did not chase a fast lap like the other riders, comfortable as he was knowing that he had already qualified for Q2.
Dorna is working on several different scenarios to ensure the MotoGP race at Qatar goes ahead this weekend. All options are still open: the race could be held at night, on a wet track, on Sunday during the day, and even, if the worst comes to the worst, moved to Monday.
The main priority is that the race should take place, as long at it can be done so safely. "The basis is that the worse thing we can do from everyone's point of view is to cancel the race," Race Director Mike Webb told MotoMatters.com. "So from there, we are sorting out what the best options are to be able to have a safe race."
The Marc VDS riders have ended at the top of the timesheets in the final session of free practice for the Moto2 class. Franco Morbidelli leads the way, just holding off a late challenge from Alex Marquez. Danny Kent finished the session as third fastest, the Kiefer Racing Suter performing well on the cold track at Qatar.
Tom Luthi finished fourth fastest, just ahead of the second Suter of Dominique Aegerter. Xavi Vierge put the Tech 3 bike into sixth, ahead of Fabio Quartararo, while Miguel Oliviera made it four chassis makes in the top eight on the KTM.
Jorge Martin has topped the final session of free practice for the Moto3 class. The Gresini Honda rider took a big lead towards the end of the session to finish nearly two tenths ahead of Romano Fenati on the Rivacold Honda. Philipp Oettl was the quickest KTM rider, ending the session in third, just a fraction ahead of Bo Bendsneyder.
This was the only session of practice for the Moto3 class tonight. They reconvene again on Saturday, for qualifying.
Scott Redding has topped the second session of free practice for the MotoGP class, with riders chasing a place in Q2 with an eye to the weather later this evening. With forecasts showing a chance of rain in FP3, almost everyone put on soft tires at the end and pushed for a fast lap.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at Qatar:
MOVISTAR YAMAHA PUSH THE LIMIT IN FIRST QATAR FP SESSION
The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team showed its hand at the first outing of the Grand Prix of Qatar today. Riders Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi took little time to get refamiliarised with the Losail International Circuit, wrapping up the first timed practice session in first and ninth place respectively.
DOHA (QATAR), 23RD MARCH 2017
Press releases from some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice:
Consistency the key for McPhee
British Talent Team get the #QatarGP in gear
Racing is back. No more messing about trying to extrapolate data points from testing to hypothetical performance on race weekends. This is a race weekend. Now, we have actual data from free practice to extrapolate data points from to hypothetical performance during the actual race. Yes, it sounds identical, yet it is subtly different. There are only three more sessions of free practice, qualifying, and then the warm up before the race. No more engine updates, no time to test new parts. Only time to nail down a decent set up and give it everything you've got, or "my 100%", as non-native English speakers like to say.
The MotoGP field were lucky to get a session of free practice in. The weather in Qatar has been extremely unstable, and storms keep blowing in and out of the peninsula. The possibility of rain has caused a bevy of emergency measures to be taken. Previously, racing in the wet had been regarded as impossible, due to the reflection of the floodlights on the wet surface, but last month, FIM and Dorna safety representatives Franco Uncini and Loris Capirossi did some laps of the track at night.
Capirossi and Uncini decided that the track as safe enough to ride, even in the wet. But the race would only happen if the riders had all had time on a wet track under the floodlights, to judge the situation for themselves. "[Capirossi] has been behind a car," Cal Crutchlow said on Wednesday. "But it's different when there are 23 people on the grid. A lot more can happen."
Pecco Bagnaia has topped the timesheets in only his second ever free practice session in the Moto2 class. The Sky VR46 rider put in a late charge to dislodge Taka Nakagami from the top of the timesheets, who just inched ahead of Fabio Quartararo. With Bagnaia and Quartararo in first and third, that puts two of the Moto2 rookies in the top three.
Bo Bendsneyder has topped the timesheets in the second session of practice for the Moto3 class. The lanky Dutchman put in a fast lap towards the end of the session that would not be challenged at the end, in conditions which were significantly more difficult than FP1, the wind having picked up significantlly.
Maverick Viñales has not just picked up where he left off during testing, but picked it up a notch as well. The Movistar Yamaha rider led for most of the session, only relinquishing top spot for a few minutes towards the end of the session as the other riders started chasing a fast lap. But as the final minutes ticked away, Viñales laid down a couple of punishing laps, to seize control of the session. His fastest lap wa sa 1'54.319, a hundredth of a second faster than his best lap at the test in Qatar two weeks ago.
Tom Luthi has made good on his status as Moto2 championship favorite, ending the first session of free practice for the intermediate class at Qatar. Luthi led a very close field, Taka Nakagami ending second, just eight hundredths of a second behind Luthi, and less than six hundredths ahead of Miguel Oliveira on the KTM.
Despite the threat of poor weather, the 2017 season has got underway at Qatar on a dry track and with no threat of rain, as yet. The Moto3 riders were the first to take to the track, with KTM rider Bo Bendsneyder leading for most of the session. The Dutchman was only bounced from the top of the standings at the very end, when first Joan Mir, and then Phillip Oettl took over at the top.
2017 sees arguably the strongest group of rookies to enter the MotoGP class in a very long time. Perhaps only 2006 was stronger, when Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa moved up to MotoGP, along with Randy De Puniet and Chris Vermeulen. There have been plenty of promising riders (some of whom have lived up to that promise) moved up in the past, but it has been a while since so many of them, all equally strong, entered MotoGP at the same time.
Will Alex Rins, Johann Zarco, Jonas Folger, or Sam Lowes match the achievements of Stoner or Pedrosa, Márquez or Lorenzo? It is far too early to tell. But testing has only confirmed the pedigree of the four newcomers. They were all fast in Moto2, racking up a total of 25 wins between them, and they have been quick during the preseason. There is no doubt these four are an exciting addition to the MotoGP grid.
When former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made his comments about "known knowns and unknown unknowns" in 2002, he was widely ridiculed for producing what seemed like incomprehensible gibberish. Yet since his appearance at a press conference on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, the phrases he coined that day have demonstrated their usefulness, being employed in an ever greater array of contexts.
Rumsfeld's phrase fits remarkably well with the 2017 MotoGP grid as well. The three categories apply just as well to different groups of riders on the grid. We have the "known knowns" of the Aliens, riders who are guaranteed to win races. We have the "known unknowns", the wildcards such as Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso who could easily stage a surprise.
Then you have the "unknown unknowns", a group of riders for whom any result would be imaginable. Given the events of last year, any one of them could end up on the podium, or even winning a race. But they are just as likely to finish outside the points, or anywhere in between. There is no way of knowing on Thursday night where any of these riders might finish on Sunday.