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Mar 17, 2018

MotoGP: Johann Zarco Breaks Lap Record, Grabs Pole Position In Qatar

Johann Zarco (5).

FIM MotoGP World Championship

Losail International Circuit, Qatar

March 17, 2018

Qualifying Results (all on Michelin tires):

From Qualifying Session Two:

1. Johann Zarco, France (Yamaha), 1:53.680, New Circuit Best Lap Record

2. Marc Marquez, Spain (Honda), 1:53.882

3. Danilo Petrucci, Italy (Ducati), 1:53.887

4. Cal Crutchlow, UK (Honda), 1:54.072

5. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy (Ducati), 1:54.074

6. Alex Rins, Spain (Suzuki), 1:54.339

7. Dani Pedrosa, Spain (Honda), 1:54.368

8. Valentino Rossi, Italy (Yamaha), 1:54.389

9. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain (Ducati), 1:54.431

10. Jack Miller, Australia (Ducati), 1:54.449

11. Andrea Iannone, Italy (Suzuki), 1:54.619

12. Maverick Vinales, Spain (Yamaha), 1:54.707

From Qualifying Session One:

13. Aleix Espargaro, Spain (Aprilia), 1:55.140

14. Franco Morbidelli, Italy (Honda), 1:55.169

15. Hafizh Syahrin, Malaysia (Yamaha), 1:55.258

16. Tito Rabat, Spain (Ducati), 1:55.273

17. Scott Redding, UK (Aprilia), 1:55.380

18. Tom Luthi, Switzerland (Honda), 1:55.381

19. Karel Abraham, Czech Republic (Ducati), 1:55.392

20. Bradley Smith, UK (KTM), 1:55.553

21. Alvaro Bautista, Spain (Ducati), 1:55.638

22. Pol Espargaro, Spain (KTM), 1:55.706

23. Takaaki Nakagami, Japan (Honda), 1:56.401

24. Xavier Simeon, Belgium (Ducati), 1:56.545



More, from a press release issued by Monster Yamaha Tech3:

Superb Zarco secures pole in Qatar with new record – impressive Syahrin to launch his first MotoGP race from fifth row

Johann Zarco phenomenally sealed the pole position ahead of the first round of the 2018 season with the fastest ever lap on two wheels at the Losail International Circuit. With his remarkable time of 1’53.680 minutes, the superb Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider broke the 10-year-old track record at the venue in Qatar, after going straight through to Q2.

On the other side of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 garage, Hafizh Syahrin concluded his third Free Practice remarkably well inside the top 15. In his first ever premier class qualifying the Malaysian rookie showed an extraordinary effort to maintain the 15th position and is eager to start his first race in the MotoGP category from the fifth row on the grid, when the lights go out at 19:00 local time tomorrow.

Johann Zarco

Position: 1st - Time: 1’53.680 - Laps: 7

“I’m really happy, it’s truly the best way to start the season. I had a crash in FP4. I came away with no harm, but it’s not funny to be down before the qualifying. Anyway, I knew that with new tyre and light bike, I feel good and since this morning, I got back my feeling, that I had during the test here. Beating the lap record makes me really proud. Tomorrow is the main day. I want to try to win, try to be on the podium. It looks like my pace over the distance is not the best one, but at least starting from pole is the best chance to catch a good result.”

Hafizh Syahrin

Position: 15th - Time: 1’55.258 - Laps: 7

“I felt really good today. I think I could have done even better, because in turn nine I went a little bit wide. Without this, I’m sure I would have been able to be a tenth of a second faster. But anyway, the 15th position to start my first ever MotoGP race is really great for me. Apart from that, I’m also very happy about the great work inside the team. Now, I fully focus on the race and hope that I won’t do any mistake during the 22 laps.”



More, from a press release issued by Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS:

Morbidelli and Lüthi primed for MotoGP in Qatar

With confidence boosting qualifying performances Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS riders Franco Morbidelli and Tom Lüthi are set to make their MotoGP debuts in Sunday's Qatar Grand Prix.

Morbidelli, the reigning Moto2 World Champion, will start from fourteenth position after an impressive run in QP1 with a time of 1.55.169, his fastest lap of the weekend so far aboard his Honda RC213V.

The Italian rider missed going through to QP2 by just half a second.

Despite the tricky conditions because of wind and sand on the circuit both Morbidelli and Lüthi remained composed as they continued their rookie adaption to the premier class.

Having missed some winter testing through injury Lüthi was just as impressive as his teammate in setting his fastest lap so far to qualify 18th in the 24 rider field.

Lüthi's qualifying run was almost two seconds faster than his time in FP1 in his first official practice session in MotoGP. Importantly Lüthi was 13th fastest with his Honda RC213V in race trim in FP4.

The Qatar Grand Prix under floodlights will start at 7pm local time on Sunday.

Franco Morbidelli: 14th – 1.55.169

“My first MotoGP qualifying session was a nice feeling, it was a good adrenaline rush. I replicated the times I did in the winter test here so I'm happy for that although I am still struggling a little with corner exit acceleration but I am sure the team can find some solutions with our set-up. On my race pace I feel I can fight for some points which would be a good result for my first MotoGP race.”

Tom Lüthi: 18th - 1.55.381

“This first MotoGP qualifying is very positive for me especially in terms of the improvement in my lap time. It is not so easy because you have just 15 minutes so you need a good plan for a fast time and my team has a lot of experience for this so I could just focus on my riding. I am starting to feel more of the limit especially on the edge of the tyre so this is a good step as I continue to adapt and be ready for my first race in MotoGP.”

Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal

“I am very happy with both Franco and Tom, this qualifying performance is better than we could have anticipated from two guys at their first MotoGP race. Franco is the fastest rookie in the field and was very close to making Q2. Tom made a big improvement and I think he even surprised himself with this performance. I feel it is possible to leave Qatar tomorrow night with both our riders scoring points.”



More, from a press release issued by Aprilia Gresini Racing:

FIFTH ROW FOR ESPARGARÓ WHO FINISHES Q1 IN THIRD PLACE

IN HIS FIRST QUALIFYING WITH APRILIA, REDDING TAKES A SPOT ON THE SIXTH ROW

Aleix Espargaró battled down to the last corner for a spot in Q2, but he came just one step short of achieving the result and, with his third place time in the first qualifying session, he earned the best spot on the fifth row. The Spaniard was one of the protagonists in the first qualifying session on a track made treacherous by the sand blown in on the wind from the nearby desert. He finished with a time of 1’55.140, half a second from the place which would have taken him through to the next session. The good pace Aleix demonstrated over the weekend leaves the door wide open to doing well in the race tomorrow.

Making his qualifying début astride the Aprilia RS-GP, Scott Redding did well. He finished his best lap at 1’55.380 which translates into the seventh best time of the session, seventeenth on the starting grid and therefore the sixth row. The same consideration goes for him concerning the chances of improving his position tomorrow in a race that promises to be very uncertain, with a lot of riders very close together in terms of gap.

ALEIX ESPARGARO'

"With the new engine, my Aprilia took a step forward compared to the pre-season tests, also in terms of top speed. The bike I am riding this weekend has improved significantly with respect to the winter. Now we need to improve with the new tyre in order to shave of those three or four tenths that separate us from the leaders on the flying lap. But for the race tomorrow, I am sure that we will be in the mix. We have a good pace and I think that I'll be able to battle for the top ten even if all of the riders ahead of us are truly very fast."

SCOTT REDDING

“We're struggling a bit with grip this weekend, both on the front and on the rear. To be honest, I was worried, but today in FP4 we managed to take a step forward in this area and that gave me a better feeling for qualifying. In Q1 I used the soft front tyre, which I had never done in practice, and it actually worked quite well. Unfortunately, we didn't have the second bike ready with the same type of tyre, so I did the second outing with a used front tyre. However, the soft is only good for one lap, so I was unable to improve as much as I would have liked. I should also point out that this is my first race weekend with the new team and there are still a few mechanisms that need to be smoothed out. We have a good race pace, despite the fact that the track conditions are completely different than the tests.”



More, from a press release issued by Angel Nieto Team:

ÁNGEL NIETO TEAM TO ATTEMPT RACEDAY FIGHTBACK AT LOSAIL

Karel Abraham and Álvaro Bautista will start from the seventh row of the grid at the MotoGp season opener

The first MotoGP pole of 2018 went to Johann Zarco, as the Frenchman set a time of 1:53.680 at the Losail International Circuit that took almost 3 tenths off the track record. Alongside him, Marc Márquez will start the season from second position on the grid, with Danilo Petrucci completing the front row. Andrea Dovizioso, last year’s runner-up in the MotoGP World Championship, will start from fifth position in a race that will be held at 7pm (local time, GMT +3).

The Angel Nieto Team will kick off the first race of the season with a single goal in mind: To climb up the order and to place inside the points. Karel Abraham and Álvaro Bautista have both had a good feeling this weekend, although the former will start from the seventh row and his teammate 21st. Abraham missed the opportunity to complete a late fast lap, when another rider's tyre warmer got caught up in his bike. He was forced to stop to remove the object and lost time as a result. The Czech was able to put in just one hot lap, and believes that he could have gone a couple of tenths faster and placed two rows further up the grid. Bautista continues to fight against a lack of rear grip and is looking for solutions to improve his cornering in Qatar.

19th Karel Abraham 1:55.392: "It seems that this circuit is better for me at night than in the morning. In the first session of the day we had some problems, and in addition there was a strong wind and the track was a little dirty. In qualifying, I was riding alone until I was joined up with by another rider. I let him pass so that I could follow him, and it was good for me because I set a good time. On the second run, when I started from the box, a tyre warmer somehow got caught up in my rear wheel. I didn't know it was there, but another rider pointed it out and I noticed it when I got on the brakes. I had to stop the bike and my mechanics had to run over to release it. I was only able to do one hot lap, and it was good enough to improve my time, but if I could have completed a second lap it would have been better -since I felt good and knew where I could improve. It's a shame, as we could have lowered he time by a couple of tenths and started from a few positions higher up. I'm happy, in general, but there's a bittersweet feeling about how everything went. Tomorrow I want to fight for the points."

21st Álvaro Bautista 1:55.638: "We have continued working to see if we can improve the contact with the tyre on the asphalt. The circumstances in the morning were extreme, as a lot of dust was lifted up by the wind. In the first practice it was difficult to lower our times from yesterday. We have also been testing things but we are not able to get it quite right. In the second session we saw that maybe we have to improve in other aspects; looking for the rear grip makes us lose something with the front. We have to try to corner faster. We'll see if we can improve in that aspect tomorrow, to see if what we lose on the one hand we gain on the other."



More, from a press release issued by Team ECSTAR Suzuki:

SECOND ROW FOR ALEX RINS IN QATAR QUALIFYING

Alex Rins: 6th - 1:54.339 (+ 0.659)

Andrea Iannone: 11th - 1:54.619 (+ 0.939)

  • Tricky conditions in early sessions
  • Alex Rins on second row for tomorrow’s race.
  • Andrea Iannone building in confidence.
  • Day 2 at Losail International Circuit brought difficult conditions with high temperatures and low grip in FP3, and strong winds and sand storms in FP4. Due to this, no rider was able to improve on their Friday times in these early sessions, which meant a direct passage to Q2 for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, and allowed more time to finalise settings ahead of the opening race of the season.

    Both Alex Rins and Andrea Iannone tried different configurations of aerodynamic fairing, with and without ‘wings’. Alex Rins has been strong throughout the weekend so far, and he was able to carry this form into a fast-paced Q2 session. When the chequered flag went out he held onto 6th place and a second row start - his best in MotoGP. He has hovered around the Top 5 all weekend and is feeling good for tomorrow’s race.

    Despite having good pace, Andrea Iannone lacked confidence as Saturday’s final qualifying session drew to an end - suffering with lack of grip and front end feel. He takes 11th spot on the grid and hopes to find a little bit extra in tomorrow’s Warm-Up.

    Davide Brivio - Team Manager

    “It’s a good sign that we are a little bit disappointed about the results! We can’t complain, with Alex starting on the second row, and if we’re able to maintain the good pace that we’ve shown during these days I think that’s enough to try and stay close to the top guys and make some good results. Andrea struggled more in this qualifying - unfortunately only 11th - but I think his pace is not so bad. His first target will be to recover from this starting position and then see where he can finish. Anyway, the weekend has been not so bad so far and we’re looking forward to the race and hope to start the season well.”

    Alex Rins

    “I’m feeling incredible, this is my best qualifying result in MotoGP, so I think that this weekend has been going really well, one of the best of my MotoGP career. I think tomorrow the race will be difficult, but I’ll try to give my maximum and try to make a good start and fight with the front guys. I think Top 5 is possible, we have nothing to lose, so I’ll try to learn from the fastest guys and give my best.”

    Andrea Iannone

    “Today has been very different from the test because the conditions of the track changed a lot and this made me struggle a little more. I have good feelings with the rear, both with medium and soft tyres, but I don’t feel totally confident with the front; I was struggling from mid-corner to the corner exit and felt close to losing the front. Tomorrow we’ll try to solve this. I’m pretty happy with my pace, but I also recognise there are many riders all in good shape. Tomorrow’s race won’t be easy, my start position isn’t very good, and it will be a highly competitive field.”



    More, from a press release issued by Reale Avintia Racing:

     Rabat and Simeon ready for the first race of the season

    MotoGP GP of Qatar – Losail International Circuit

    Wind and sand played a starring role on the second day of practice for the Grand Prix of Qatar. Due to the conditions during FP3, it was very difficult for the Reale Avintia Racing riders to improve. But neither Tito Rabat nor Xavier Simeon threw the towel. Instead, they continued to work hard with their crews to be ready for the first race of the season.

    The former Moto2 World Champion will rely on his race pace that should be strong enough to fight for the top ten in the first Grand Prix of the year. He has his mind set about the bike set-up and tyre choice and looks forward to his race debut with the Reale Avintia Racing and his Ducati GP17.

    For ‘rookie’ Simeon the day went better than yesterday. He finished at the back of the grid again, but was very close to the riders in front of him. He also has the pace to be put up a fight and recover some places in the 22 lap-race tomorrow, his first ever race in the premier class.

    Tito Rabat | 1'55.273 | P16

    “Today has been a difficult day for us, but were able to get really good conclusions for tomorrow’s race. After crashing during FP3, I lost my concentration a bit, but afterwards we managed to work well. In qualifying, we should have been some tenths of a second faster to achieve the position we hoped for. But we have found a good set-up for the bike and now it’s time to be focused for the race. The key to the race will be a good start, which would give me the chance to fight and maybe to start the season with a top ten result”.

    Xavier Simeon | 1'56.545 | P24

    “Qualifying was much better than free practice yesterday. With the changes we made on the bike, my feeling has definitely improved. But I’m frustrated, because I expected to go faster than in the test and in the end I didn’t. In real race weekend conditions, with very limited time and only a few laps, you have to find your pace very quickly and you can’t waste any time. I have to work hard to get ready for a good lap time and to get the best out of what we have. Anyway, with used tyres, I found a good rhythm in FP4. I hope that this will enable me to ride a good race tomorrow”.



    More, from a press release issued by Repsol Honda:

    Front row start for Marquez in Qatar with Pedrosa seventh fastest

    Day two­–qualifying day–at the Losail International Circuit saw weather and track conditions shift once again. A restless wind blew sand on the track, leaving the asphalt quite dirty and slippery.

    Marc Marquez was able to overcome the difficulties posed by track conditions to score an important front row start with the second fastest time of the day, a 1’53.882. In the process, he became one of only three riders able to lap under the track’s previous best-lap record, which stood since 2008.

    Dani Pedrosa, who tomorrow will contest his 200th MotoGP race, will start from seventh place on the grid. The Spaniard was happy with the progress that he made in terms of bike setup during FP4 and looks forward to getting a good start as the light goes out at 7:00 p.m. local time for the first round of the 2018 MotoGP Championship.

    Marc Marquez

    2ND 1'53.882

    “I’m really happy with the result as we’ve worked a lot during the pre-season and we worked a lot here, a track that, together with Sepang, is probably the least favourable circuit to me. Today was the first real “time attack” and we were there, and now we are on the front row. Adding to the satisfaction is the fact that normally we struggle quite a lot here. But our target was the front row, we got it and it feels like a pole! Johann rode amazingly; he was one step ahead of us. Anyway, the race will be tough and long, but we’ll try to be consistent and to manage the laps in the best way possible.”

    Dani Pedrosa

    7TH 1'54.368

    “We’re of course not 100 percent satisfied with the result but we’re not unhappy either. Conditions were not what we were expecting and this is not the perfect track for me. Even more, qualifying is generally tough here. The positive thing is that we were able to improve the bike’s setup a little during FP4. Now we have to see what the conditions will be like tomorrow because they change every day at this track, and even session by session, because of the wind and the sand. I think the tyre choice will be the key to the race, as well as the start of course. Seventh place in qualifying means that we have to start well, battle well in the lead group, and find our rhythm.”



    More, from a press release issued by Red Bull KTM:

    TOUGH START INTO 2018 MOTOGP SEASON FOR RED BULL KTM TEAMS AT QATAR GRAND PRIX

    QUALIFYING 1st Rd. MotoGP 2018 – Losail International Circuit (QAT)

    The very first day of qualification for the Red Bull KTM MotoGP Factory Racing Team collective saw Bradley Smith AND Pol Espargaro secure positions on the seventh and eighth rows of the grid at a hot, windy and dusty Losail International Circuit for the Grand Prix of Qatar.

    MotoGP

    Adverse conditions with the temperatures, abrasive track surface, strong breezy air and the variation of sessions (that saw practice taking place in hot afternoon sun and qualification in a cooler climate in the evening) were some of the challenges of a first action-packed Saturday of MotoGP in 2018.

    The crew improved markedly with their feeling and speed over Friday’s practice sessions on the KTM RC16 and Pol Espargaro clocked a lap that pushed him up to 12th place in the Free Practice 3. A small technical problem and then a crash on his second bike limited the Catalan’s progress into FP4 and Q2; he had to accept 22nd spot at the end of the chrono. Bradley Smith also experienced a minor issue that necessitated the use of his second race bike but the overall lack of grip was a problem that prevented the Briton from improving over 20th in Q2.

    Bradley Smith: “We’re just missing some grip and that's all it comes down to. The track is slowly getting better and I have some confidence that it will be better tomorrow. In general the bike feels like it did in the test and we just need to try and tweak some things to improve in these conditions. We’ll keep focussed and see what we can pull out tomorrow.”

    Pol Espargaro: “This morning was positive and we were pushing in FP3 to go to Q2 and I think we did a good job with 12th and 1.2 to the top. We were not far away. Then I jumped on the bike for FP4 and we had a small problem so we changed bikes and then I crashed. It is a shame. I think today we did a good job and I felt good with the bike. Tomorrow I will try my best. If our bad luck goes away I think we can do something interesting.”

    Sebastian Risse (Technical Director MotoGP): "Compared to yesterday then FP3 was a bit of a relief. It was the first time that bikes felt normal and for sure it is down to how the tyres feel and are changing each session on the asphalt but we improved. Unfortunately in FP4 and Qualification we could not show more. We had a few technical problems. Of course when you have moments like this then it is hard for the rider to find a rhythm through losing track time. We need to understand what happened exactly and get ready for tomorrow. Hopefully we can continue with what we had in FP3.”

    Moto2 & Moto3

    Miguel Oliveira was the quickest of the Red Bull KTM Ajo riders on the KTM Moto2 bikes in 4th place as former GP winner Sam Lowes registered 10th place on his return to the category. Darryn Binder will set off from the fifth tier of the Moto3 grid with Gabriel Rodrigo on the front row with his KTM RC250 GP in third spot.

    Miguel Oliveira: "Today was another positive day, in which we improved our lap times a lot from one session to the next. I'm happy to have taken a spot on the front two rows, which was our aim. I'm also satisfied with our pace. Tomorrow I will be focused on getting a good start and on avoiding traffic, so that I can get as high up the order as possible, as quickly as possible. Once we're there, it's going to be about running the fastest pace I can."



    More, from a press release issued by LCR Honda Castrol:

    CRUTCHLOW TO START QATAR GP FROM FOURTH

    The first qualifying session of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship saw LCR Honda CASTROL rider Cal Crutchlow seal a spot on the second row of the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Qatar.

    The Brit has been in sparkling form all weekend at the desert venue, and under the floodlights was looking on course for a front row start. However, with a lot of traffic out on a dusty track in the qualifying shootout, he just missed out on the top three positions. Nonetheless he but lines up for the opening showdown of the season in a promising fourth place, and looks likely to make an assault on the podium positions in the 22-lap race.

    Cal Crutchlow – 4th

    (1’54.072 – lap 7 of 7)

    “We were happy enough with fourth, although I was a little disappointed not to break the 1’54 bracket. On a positive note, I felt really good on the bike, but there were a couple of very small mistakes that meant I just lost a couple of tenths. Congratulations to the front three though, because they rode so well to be at that pace in those conditions.”

    “It was a busy and hectic session, but now we have to concentrate on the race which is the most important part of the weekend. I feel I have great pace, I feel very comfortable and very confident ahead of tomorrow, but I’m also aware it’s a long season of 19 grands prix and to start it off in a good way would be fantastic. We’ll aim for the podium of course, but if that doesn’t happen then I’ll have to think about the championship.”



    More, from a press release issued by Movistar Yamaha:

    MOVISTAR YAMAHA MOTOGP SECURE 8TH AND 12TH IN TOUGH QATAR QUALIFYING SESSION

    Movistar Yamaha MotoGP's Valentino Rossi secured eighth place this evening during the Qualifying 2 session under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit. Teammate Maverick Viñales had to battle through Q1 to promote to Q2 and took 12th place on the grid for tomorrow's Grand Prix of Qatar.

    Losail (Qatar), 17th March 2018

    Movistar Yamaha MotoGP‘s Valentino Rossi rode on the limit this evening during an intense 15-minute qualifying session at the Losail International Circuit, to secure eighth on the grid for tomorrow's Grand Prix of Qatar. Teammate Maverick Viñales had to take part in Q1 to promote to Q2, and did so expertly. During the second qualifying session he was unable to duplicate the feeling he had on the bike earlier and ended in 12th place.

    After displaying a fierce pace in FP4, Rossi was quick to start the 15-minute qualifying shoot-out. He found himself some clear track space on his first hot lap and slotted into fifth place. Now in a rhythm, he dropped under the 1'55 mark on his second try of 1‘54.850s, but it didn‘t help him improve his placement as he dropped to ninth position.

    He came in for a fresh set of tyres with a little more than six and a half minutes left on the clock and had another go at a time attack only two minutes later. Eager to move up the ranking order, the Doctor knew he had to squeeze in a final hot lap before time ran out. He clocked a 1'54.389s, that put him in eighth place, 0.709s from pole. Rossi will start tomorrow's race from the middle of the third row.

    Viñales was on a charge in Q1. The Spaniard was unable to improve his time in FP3 due to windy conditions, as blowing sand compromised the grip level of the track. The circumstances meant that he had to take part in Q1, where he had his revenge. The Spaniard was the first rider on the track and he needed little time to put his stamp on the proceedings. His first stint saw him take provisional pole with a benchmark of 1'54.710s. He further improved his time with a 1‘54.637s lap in the final stages, and comfortably promoted to Q2, holding second place.

    In Q2 he was sticking to the same strategy. Once again Viñales headed out as soon as the lights in pit lane turned green, but his first fast lap was compromised due to traffic on track and put him in ninth place. His next lap, a 1‘54.745s, saw the number-25 rider move to eighth, before coming back into the pits with slightly less than seven minutes on the clock.

    A short time later he was back out to make his mark. He put his head down once more, but wasn‘t able to improve on his time until the very last lap. He posted a 1'54.707s after the chequered flag had come out. However, it wasn‘t enough for him to move up the order. He finished in 12th place, 1.027s from the front, leaving him on the fourth row of the grid.

    Tomorrow the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP teammates will be back on track from 14:40 - 15:00 local track time (GMT+3) for the Warm Up session, followed by the race under the floodlights, that starts at 19:00.

    MASSIMO MEREGALLI

    TEAM DIRECTOR

    For today we expected the track conditions to become better, but they actually got worse during FP3, due to strong wind blowing sand on the track. This didn't help our case, but we still saw some very solid riding from our riders in FP4. We can take away a lot of positives from that session. Both of them made a step today, though the qualifying didn't reflect their potential. We expect tomorrow's event to be packed with action - the competition is really heating up and the opening race usually comes with a lot of nerves and excitement for the riders. We will try to use Warm Up to fine-tune the bikes, but the track conditions will be completely different during the race later in the evening.

    VALENTINO ROSSI

    The lap time was not too bad, but the position is not fantastic. I hoped that a 1‘54.3s was enough to start from the second row, but unfortunately it wasn‘t. Starting from the third row is more complicated, but it‘s also true that maybe 10 or 12 riders have a very good pace, so that‘s all the people in front of me and also people behind me that are all very strong. I also have a good pace, but it‘s very difficult to understand what will happen tomorrow. Everything will depend on the second half of the race. If the tyres are resistant, you can keep up your pace for 22 laps. During the qualifying I didn‘t feel very well, especially with the rear - I had too much spin. For tomorrow we‘re more worried about the front, because with the best front tyre we are v ery tight in the last laps. But today is Saturday, tomorrow will be Sunday - maybe we'll change something.

    MAVERICK VIÑALES

    For sure we boosted our confidence and we can take a lot of information from FP4. I hope that tomorrow we can make another step. I was feeling quite comfortable in FP4, especially during the long run, but we still need to keep working hard to develop, and I will use my riding style a bit more. I think that in the race we can show our potential a lot more than we showed in qualifying. We have tried a new set-up, so I need to gain some more confidence with it. Let's see tomorrow.



    More, from a press release issued by Alma Pramac Racing:

    #QatarGP Quali. What a start for Petrux: front row! Jack dominates Q1 and finishes in Top 10

    Alma Pramac Racing starts the 2018 MotoGP season in a fantastic way with Danilo Petrucci in front row and Jack Miller's precious Top 10 after an impressive Q1.

    At the Losail International Circuit Danilo Petrucci continues to be very fast and after Friday's P2 he conquers a stunning third place in qualifying, winning the first "front row" of the season and the fourth in his career. Petrux is incisive since the FP3 affected by strong wind. The FP4 race pace is excellent and in the second time attack of Q2 the Italian rider pushes hard ending up in P3, only 5 thousandths of a second from the second place of Marquez and 2 tenths of a second behind Zarco’s pole position.

    After some difficulties encountered on Friday, Miller starts Saturday’s qualifying with confidence and is second at the end of the FP3. Jack is so impressive in Q1 as he beats Vinales to gain the first place. In Q2 the Australian rider doesn’t manage to find the ideal conditions to make an other great job, but still takes a positive 10th place just 110 thousandths from the second row of Alex Rins.

    3rd – Danilo Petrucci 1'53.887

    “It's the best way to start the season, also because the first laps will be very important tomorrow. I think there will be a lot of riders who want to gain positions. That’s why it will be crucial to start well and avoid the bagarre. There will be many of us who will be fighting for the podium but I have a lot of confidence. The pace is good, the feeling is excellent. I'm ready for this great Sunday".

    10th – Jack Miller 1'54.449

    "We started well in the FP3s when conditions were harder than on Friday due to the wind and sand on the circuit. In Q1 the bike was perfect and the tyres responded very well too and I managed to do a great time attack. I didn't have many tyres to use in Q2 and had to get on track with medium rear. No problem: I'm confidente for the race!"



    More, from a press release issued by LCR Honda IDEMITSU:

    NAKAGAMI STARTS MOTOGP DEBUT FROM ROW EIGHT

    The first qualifying session of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship saw LCR Honda IDEMITSU’s Takaaki Nakagami qualify on the eighth row of the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Qatar – his debut in the premier class.

    The Japanese rookie had looked in good shape for much of the weekend, but suffered a setback when he had a fast crash during the final free practice session – just moments before qualifying. Heading out on his second machine he set a best lap of 1’56.401, meaning he will start from 23rd position for his maiden event amongst the MotoGP elite.

    Takaaki Nakagami– 23th

    (1’56.401 – lap 7 of 7)

    “It was a bit of a tough day for us today, especially after I had a high-speed crash in the fourth free practice at turn 15. It was the first time I used the hard option tyre on the front and I missed the grip, but I’m ok afterwards. It meant I had to swap to the number two bike and unfortunately I had a bit of a problem with the rear end – just a small electronics glitch or something.”

    “It was a difficult day all round, but let’s see what tomorrow brings. It will be a long day and a long race, but as always I will try my best. It’s difficult to put a target on where I want to finish, it’s my first race and I’m not sure what the race pace of everyone in front of me will be. I need to make a good start and then I will try my best to make a good result.”



    More, from a press release issued by Ducati Corse:

    Row 2 start for Andrea Dovizioso in the Grand Prix of Qatar after qualifying fifth on the Losail track. Jorge Lorenzo, ninth-quickest, will line up on row 3 for tomorrow’s opening round of the 2018 championship

    Andrea Dovizioso will line up on the second row of the grid for the GP of Qatar, the opening round of the 2018 season, which gets underway tomorrow at 19.00 (17.00 CET) at the Losail circuit on the outskirts of Doha.

    The Ducati Team rider, who finished the combined free practice sessions leading into qualifying, at the top of the timesheets, took part directly in Q2, where he was fifth quickest with a time of 1’54.074, which earned him a row 2 start for the race.

    Jorge Lorenzo, fourth after the three FP sessions, improved his best mark in Q2 by four-tenths of a second, the Spaniard ending up ninth quickest and on row 3 with a best time of 1’54.431.

    Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 5th (1’54.074)

    “Today we found some strange conditions, because there was a lot of wind and sand on the track, and so it wasn’t as good as it was in testing and yesterday. As we might find these conditions tomorrow in the race, we worked with this in mind and my feeling continues to be good. In qualifying, when I put on the second tyre, I found myself in the middle of traffic, I slowed down and was not able to prepare well for my fast lap. Fifth place on the grid however is not bad and I think that we are ready for the race because we have a good pace.”

    Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99) – 9th (1’54.431)

    “It wasn’t a very positive day for me and tomorrow, if I want to be competitive in the race, we will have to improve a lot. I tried everything I could and I also think I set a good time, but we had a few too many technical issues and we were not able to get the best out of the bike because of these setbacks. In the warm-up tomorrow afternoon, we’ll try and make a few modifications that will help improve my feeling for the race.”



    More, from a press release issued by Dorna:

    Ready for war: Zarco smashes the pole record in Qatar

    A lot has changed in the ten years since Jorge Lorenzo set the world alight on his premier class debut, but the Qatar pole lap record hadn't. Set by the Majorcan in 2008, the Losail laptime remained steadfast in the record books for a decade and was the oldest of its kind until Saturday of the 2018 Qatar GP and a scorcher from Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3). The Frenchman, now heading into his second season, marked his return to the venue at which he first led a premier class race in serious style - uncatchable ahead of Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) to set a 1:53.680. So the reigning Champion starts his title defence from two tenths behind in second, and top Ducati Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) completes the front row and the trio of those who broke the record.

    With strong winds throughout the day and the track temperature cooling as night fell for qualifying, the session revealed another piece in the puzzle of the first race of the year. Behind the top three, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) was next up heading the second row to make it 75% Independent Team riders in the top four, with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) - the man on provisional pole after the first run - taking the middle of Row 2. But Marquez says the 2017 Championship runner up has the best race pace - something that will be revealed on Sunday.

    Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), meanwhile, kept his great pace at Losail rolling for his best ever qualifying position to lock out the second row, after Suzuki mounted the biggest challenge to Ducati on Friday.

    Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) heads up an all-star Row 3 with some serious potential for fireworks, with 17 World Championships crammed into three grid places as the Spaniard heads Movistar Yamaha MotoGP's Valentino Rossi and Ducati Team's Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo, who suffered some technical trouble in FP4, says he is out of position - and Rossi says the battle at the front could be more than ten riders. And Lorenzo, as well as being the previous pole record holder, is also the most successful rider at Losail across all classes - but Rossi beats him in the premier class with four to Lorenzo's three wins.

    Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) completed the top ten after moving through Q1, with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) two tenths back in P11 to make it more than ten riders within a second of pole. Meanwhile, 2017 polesitter and winner Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) lines up in P12 - but also showed incredible consistency on a long run in FP4...

    Valentino Rossi expects to fight it out for the #QatarGP with more than ten riders and Losail always serves up a desert storm. Don't miss the 2018 season opener, with the lights going out at 19:00 local time (GMT +3) as the battle well and truly commences.

    Alex Marquez storms to pole in the desert

    The Spaniard was unbeatable in the first qualifying session of 2018; looking strong for Sunday

    It’s been a faultless weekend so far for Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) at the Qatar GP and that continued in qualifying, with the Spaniard setting an unbeatable time that took him to the top of the order midway through the session to stake an early claim on the first win of the year. He will be joined on the front row by a resurgent Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40), with his countryman Francesco Bagnaia (SKY Racing Team VR46) completing the front row - just over half-a-second adrift of pole.

    Qualifying for the intermediate class was a drama-filled affair as ever, as the floodlights came on and the temperature dropped, creating perfect conditions in the battle for the top spot on the grid.

    Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Miguel Oliveira is in good shape at a circuit where he battled for the podium last year and lines up heading the second row. He’s joined by rookie sensation Romano Fenati (Marinelli Snipers Team) who has shown incredible form on his first weekend, with returning 2015 lightweight class Champion Danny Kent (Beta Tools – Speed Up Racing) taking sixth and equally impressing.

    Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) and Sam Lowes (Swiss Innovative Investors) complete the top ten, despite a crash for the Brit during qualifying – rider ok.

    We’re ready to go racing on Sunday in Moto2™ and with 12 riders within a second of each other, it’s set to be very close. Watch the title contenders and key players kick off their campaigns on Sunday from 17:20 local time (GMT +3).

    Antonelli snatches pole in #QatarGP qualifying

    SIC58 Squadra Corse rider takes his first pole in two years to head the grid in Losail

    2016 Qatar GP winner Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) has taken pole for the first race of the 2018 season, setting a 2:06.364 after the chequered flag to take his first pole in two years to mark the first time ever that Paolo Simoncelli’s team will head the grid in Moto3™. But just 0.001 adrift of Antonelli was 2017 qualifying superstar Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) – who took pole for half of the races last year – with Argentine Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Skull Rider), completing the front row of the grid.

    2017 Rookie of the Year Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) kicked off his season in style by heading the second row, with Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) putting in a stunner to make it two Japanese riders inside the top five. Marco Bezzechi (Redox PruestelGP) is looking very at home on his KTM too, lining up on the outside of the second row.

    Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0), Philipp Oettl (Südmetall Schedl GP Racing) and the Leopard Racing duo of Lorenzo Dalla Porta and Enea Bastianini complete the top ten.

    Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) is the top rookie and lines up 13th, whilst all eyes were on the other Spanish newcomer Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0) after he suffered the only crash midway through the session at Turn 9 – rider OK.

    The stage is set for the opening Moto3™ race of the season on Sunday and it kicks off at 16.00 local time (GMT+3).

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