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Apr 5, 2013

MotoGP Rookie Marquez Leads After Three Practice Sessions At Losail Circuit, In Qatar

FIM MotoGP World Championship: Marc Marquez (93) in action on his Repsol Honda in Qatar.
FIM MotoGP World Championship
Losail Circuit, Qatar
April 5, 2013
Free Practice Three Results (all on Bridgestone tires):

1. Marc MARQUEZ, Spain (HONDA), 1:56.084
2. Jorge LORENZO, Spain (YAMAHA), 1:56.085
3. Cal CRUTCHLOW, UK (YAMAHA), 1:56.326
4. Valentino ROSSI, Italy (YAMAHA), 1:56.416
5. Andrea DOVIZIOSO, Italy (DUCATI), 1:56.417
6. Dani PEDROSA, Spain (HONDA), 1:56.502
7. Alvaro BAUTISTA, Spain (HONDA), 1:56.572
8. Nicky HAYDEN, USA (DUCATI), 1:56.670
9. Bradley SMITH, UK (YAMAHA), 1:56.901
10. Stefan BRADL, Germany (HONDA), 1:56.984
11. Andrea IANNONE, Italy (DUCATI), 1:57.169
12. Ben SPIES, USA (DUCATI), 1:57.308
13. Aleix ESPARGARO, Spain (ART-Aprilia), 1:57.420
14. Hector BARBERA, Spain (FTR-Kawasaki), 1:57.956
15. Yonny HERNANDEZ, Colombia (ART-Aprilia), 1:58.211
16. Randy DE PUNIET, France (ART-Aprilia), 1:58.396
17. Colin EDWARDS, USA (FTR-Kawasaki), 1:58.863
18. Karel ABRAHAM, Czech Republic (ART-Aprilia), 1:59.180
19. Hiroshi AOYAMA, Japan (FTR-Kawasaki), 1:59.212
20. Danilo PETRUCCI, Italy (SUTER-BMW), 1:59.755
21. Bryan STARING, Australia (FTR HONDA), 1:59.758
22. Lukas PESEK, Czech Republic (SUTER-BMW), 1:59.837
23. Michael LAVERTY, UK (PBM-Aprilia), 2:00.080
24. Claudio CORTI, Italy (FTR-Kawasaki), 2:00.439

More, from a press release issued by Yamaha MotoGP Team:

Yamaha Stay on the Pace in Qatar

Losail (Qatar), 5th April 2013

Action resumed today at the Losail Circuit in Qatar for the opening round of the 2013 MotoGP World Championship. As Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi got to work under the floodlights they had to cope with strong winds and a dirty track with sand blown across it.

World Champion Lorenzo was quick to find a competitive pace despite the conditions as he evaluated a different chassis spec and set up. He ended both the first and second of the practice sessions in second position, the final one just 0.001 seconds from the front having led for the majority of the heat.

Teammate Rossi continues to shine on his return to Yamaha, the Italian becoming a permanent fixture at the sharp end of the timing sheets as he hunts for the best set up ahead of Sunday night’s race. Rossi wrapped up the first of the day’s sessions in third position and led for most of the second before settling for fourth at the end despite being hampered by a severe headache from the previous day’s riding.

Jorge Lorenzo
2nd / 1'56.085 / 17 laps
“I’m very happy with the changes we made on the bike because it improved a lot. In the last moments the track was better this evening, in the beginning it was very dirty. I think we can still improve the bike more tomorrow, we still haven’t decided which chassis is better; today it is the new one, yesterday the old one. I’m very curious to see how the qualifying goes with the new formula, we will just be concentrating on making four fast laps, the maximum performance we can get.”

Valentino Rossi
4th / 1'56.416 / 18 laps

“The practices are not so bad, we are continuing to work for the race. We still have to decide which tyre to use; that will be very important for Sunday. We are ready for tomorrow for the qualifying practice to try and start as far in front as possible and aim for the front row. For the rest it’s not so bad, we continue to work and improve. Yesterday after the practice I had a problem with a very strong headache so I wasn’t at 100% today. Now I’m not so bad and coming better and tomorrow I will be at my maximum.”

Wilco Zeelenberg
Team Manager
“The first free practices are done and we’ve qualified for the second qualifying session. This is important so we don't have to stress about the first qualifying session. Everything went smoothly and we tried a few things. The circumstances are not fantastic as everyone can see, there’s a lot of dust on the track. In the first practice there was also a lot of wind, that also disrupts the steps we want to make because every time we go out the situation changes. Jorge was happy with the results in the last practice so we’ll have to find the best combination of the two bikes we used today and I think we will be ready for tomorrow.”

Massimo Meregalli
Team Director
“Today the track conditions were not perfect to enable us to finalise the set up and also to be able to choose between the two different chassis. So far we’ve done a good job, I think we’ve got enough data and I think both riders are in good shape. Tomorrow in the last free practice we will fine-tune the bikes. Both Jorge and Valentino have good consistent pace and speed so we are ready.”

More, from a press release issued by Repsol Honda:

Marquez fastest in Qatar on day two with Pedrosa closing the gap

Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa comfortably secured their places in tomorrow's Qualifying 2, by achieving the 1st and 6th fastest times in the combined times of the first three sessions.

Marc finished on the top of the time sheets in both Free Practice sessions in Qatar today, with a fastest time of 1'56.084 recorded on lap 16 of 17 in FP3, on a new soft rear tyre. Teammate Dani, improved his RC213V in the last session and set his fastest time of 1'56.502, just 0.418 off Marc, on lap 9 of 17 with a used soft rear tyre.

Tomorrow's Free Practice 4 will take place at 19h55 local time, and will be used by the Repsol Honda riders as a final session to prepare for the race and the 15 minute shootout - Qualifying 2 session at 21h00.

Marc Marquez 1st 1'56.084
"Practice today went pretty well - better than expected. I was very comfortable on the bike, and this is the important thing. Our foundation isn't bad at all, we are improving in every session and working with Sunday's race in mind. What we are missing is a bit of pace and consistency. We will have to make the most of the 30 minutes that we have before qualifying tomorrow to improve those points".

Dani Pedrosa 6th 1'56.502
"We improved a little today and are now further up the order. We are faster and entering corners better, but we’ve still got a way to go. We hope to gain a little rear grip, which would allow us to ride more comfortably. The times keep dropping with every session, but we are going to try to keep getting better and prepare for qualifying and the race. The track isn’t in good condition this year and I don’t think that this will change; maybe it will improve slightly as more laps are completed. However, this doesn’t mean making any big changes to the bike – just improving the setup for the conditions we have".

More, from a press release issued by Bridgestone:

Marquez produces magic last lap to top Qatar practice

Round 1: Qatar MotoGP™ - Free Practice One, Two and Three
Losail International Circuit, Friday 5 April 2013

Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft & Hard; Rear: Medium & Hard (Asymmetric)
Weather: FP2 - Dry. Ambient 26-28°C; Track 32-29°C (Bridgestone measurement)
FP3 - Dry. Ambient 29-30°C; Track 30-29°C (Bridgestone measurement)

Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez produced a strong last lap effort to top Friday practice by just one-thousandth of a second and head the field into tomorrow’s qualifying sessions.

Marquez edged out Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo to emerge quickest from the three ranked practice sessions, with Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow placing third overall and a further two-tenths of a second behind Lorenzo. Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro was the pick of the CRT riders, his time of 1’57.420 was 1.336 seconds off P1 and placed him thirteenth overall.

Construction work in the vicinity of the circuit caused the track surface to be even dirtier than usual, with riders reporting very poor grip levels off the racing line. Despite the presence of the abrasive sand, wear rates were normal for the Losail Circuit and track conditions improved towards the end of Friday, with all riders setting their best times in Free Practice 3. All of the riders in the top ten set their times on the softer rear and harder front slick, this setup providing the best combination of rear drive and front-end stability in the less than ideal track conditions.

The next MotoGP™ session is Free Practice 4 which commences at 1955 local time (GMT+3) before the first of the two Qualifying Practice sessions starts at 2035. The top two riders at the end of Qualifying Practice 1 will participate in the Qualifying Practice 2 session which will determine the first four rows of the starting grid.

Shinji Aoki - Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department
“Track conditions yesterday and today were poor with a greater than usual amount of wind-blow sand, but it improved towards the end of Friday. With the grip level of the tarmac not being the best, most riders preferred the softer rear slick, though for the front tyre, the harder slick was more popular due to its stability in corners and under braking. I expect most of the riders to select the combination of the harder front and softer rear slick for qualifying tomorrow, and perhaps some teams will try evaluating the performance of the harder rear slick for the race”.

More, from a press release issued by Cardion AB Motoracing:

Abraham cutted nearly one second in Qatar but dropped down two positions

Czech rider Karel Abraham reached 1:59,180 at the end of the Day 2 of Grand Prix of Qatar entering the last day before race on 18th position. Czech rider remains approximately 3 seconds slower than the Friday´s fastest rider – rookie Marc Márquez.

Karel Abraham:
„Today´s first free practice was quite good, not so good was the second one. I´ve got problem with chattering of the front and it´s really uncomfortable for me. We must speed up one more second to achieve our goal and it´s gonna be hard, because we have only one free practice left just before the key ten-minutes long qualification.“

Marco Grana, chief-mechanic Cardion AB Motoracing
„Today was not so perfect. The positive thing is that we´re improving from practice to practice. Today we cut nearly one second, but we dropped down two places. Tomorrow we want to change the setup to help Karel to feel comfortable with the bike. Karel was complaining about chattering. We´ll try to solve it out. Our goal is to cut the half-second gap to De Puniet and Barbera and to be between three fastest CRT bikes. We´ re quite happy with the tyres, we can make race without problems with them.”

More, from a press release issued by Pramac Racing:

It was 6.00 p.m., local time, when the second evening of timed practice sessions got underway, though rain had briefly threatened to delay the proceedings. Instead, it was a strong wind that accompanied the entire session, affecting the state of the circuit, which was made particularly slippery by a thin layer of sand.

Ben’s feeling with the bike continued to improve, enabling him to lower his best time by 1.2 seconds compared to yesterday, despite his shoulder still not being 100% fit.

Ben Spies - Ignite Pramac Racing Team
“I’m okay, even though tonight’s session didn’t go exactly the way we wanted. We tried something a little bit different before our practice, and it didn’t work out. We had to make a change during the session, which cost me some time. We know we missed about 50% of testing due to my injury and learning a new bike, so realistically, our testing is starting now. It was the first time that we pushed the bike hard, and I’m learning things about it. We’re changing stuff and getting used to it, but we need more time. The feeling with the bike is getting better every time out.”

More, from a press release issued by LCR Honda:


Losail, 5 April: LCR racer Stefan Bradl ended up in 10th place under floodlights at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar earning his first Q2 placing thanks to his best time (1’56.984) from any of the first three practice sessions (following NEW 2013 Qualifying system).

Stefan: “From the beginning of the session we worked on a race set-up on used tyres and we thought we found a good direction but, towards the end, when we fit a new rear tyre the extra grip affected the balance of our bike and I had to push the front in every corner entry. So I was not capable to keep the corner speed and risked a crash couple of times. But this is just the FP3 and we will have more track time tomorrow to fine-tune the bike so I am still confident”.

More, from a press release issued by Dorna Communications:

Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Márquez beat Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo by one thousandth of a second to top the final day of MotoGP™ practice sessions at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar. It was also the first time the Free Practices were held under the new qualifying regulations, meaning the line-up for Saturday’s Q2 has now been established.

From 2013 onwards, the first three of four MotoGP practice sessions have a direct bearing on Qualifying. For this reason, there was much tension in the bottom half of the top ten as riders strived for a place in Saturday’s pole position Q2 shootout. The first session of the day did not see riders improve over yesterday due to the windy and dirty track conditions. As the second free practice session started there were worries in the paddock that rain, which had already affected earlier sessions, may return and break up the action. As it transpired, the showers stayed away and made for a dramatic climax to the night’s action.

Delivering a lap time of 1’56.084 in the last knockings, Márquez confirmed that he will be able to fight for pole position on his MotoGP debut. He demoted champion Jorge Lorenzo by just one thousandth of a second, who was trying out his new chassis, which is near identical to the current bike but with a different stiffness. Britain’s Cal Crutchlow comfortably sealed a Q2 placing with third spot for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, as Lorenzo’s teammate Valentino Rossi was fourth. Shooting into the top five in the late stages was Andrea Dovizioso on his first Ducati Team weekend, showing that the new Desmosedici is certainly competitive in Losail, with Repsol’s Dani Pedrosa having struggled for front end grip since the start of first practice, but still securing a Q2 effort with sixth.

As track conditions improved towards the end of practice, a dramatic battled raged while riders continued to push rivals out of the top ten. Álvaro Bautista went seventh for GO&FUN Honda Gresini, as the times suddenly became the tightest they have been all weekend. In eighth spot was Nicky Hayden on the second Ducati Team bike, with British rookie Bradley Smith impressing on his first outing by achieving ninth for Tech 3. Stefan Bradl looked to have a challenge on his hands as the times came down, but snatched back tenth for LCR Honda MotoGP. Ninth tenths of a second separate the top ten - a group in which may of the riders are split up by margins of just thousandths of a second.

At the end of Q1 on Saturday, grid positions 13 and downward will be decided. However, the fastest two riders will be promoted to Q2, making for a final top-12 contest. Judging by the latest form, it looks as though that battle will be between Pramac pairing Andrea Iannone and Ben Spies, plus Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró on the leading CRT machine; the trio ended Friday in positions 11 to 13.

Behind, Héctor Barberá was the leading Avintia Blusens representative in 14th from PBM’s Yonny Hernández, Aspar’s Randy de Puniet and NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards. Karel Abraham and Cardion AB Motoracing were 18th as Hiroshi Aoyama and Danilo Petrucci completed the top 20 for Avintia and Came IodaRacing Project, respectively. 21st and 22nd places are split by less than a tenth, showing that the competition is just as tight at the back of the field between Bryan Staring, on Gresini’s CRT bike, and Ioda’s Czech newcomer Lukáš Pešek. PBM’s Michael Laverty continued to develop the team’s own-built bike en route to 23rd, whereas Forward’s Claudio Corti rounded off the timesheets after stopping on-track after his FTR-Kawasaki started smoking.


Italtrans Racing Team’s Takaaki Nakagami again set the pace as the final Moto2™ practice session took place at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar today. Setup comparisons were all but impossible as sporadic light rain showers continued to break up the action.

Having already topped the timesheets 24 hours earlier, Nakagami this time led the way with a best lap of 2’01.480. This was to the frustration of Pol Espargaró, a general title favourite who has been unable to retake the top spot he sealed in opening practice on Thursday. The Tuenti HP 40 rider ended the night within a tenth of the quickest time, as he and teammate Esteve Rabat sandwich Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding.

The third and final Moto2 practice period of the race weekend was hoped to be one in which bike setups could be improved, although no direct comparisons could be made due to the changeable conditions. Various showers came over the course of the 45 minutes, leaving some greasy patches. Those who briefly headed off-track included Espargaró, who took a trip through the gravel with two minutes to go.

NGM Mobile Racing’s Simone Corsi ended the evening in fifth spot from Came IodaRacing Project’s Johann Zarco and Julián Simón, whose Italtrans machine was wheeled back down the pit lane as he was sent out too late at the end of the session; thankfully for the Spaniard, he noticed the red light in time and therefore avoids a penalty. The top ten was rounded out by NGM’s Alex de Angelis, Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Nico Terol and Technomag carXpert’s Dominique Aegerter.


Luis Salom remained on top in the third and final Moto3™ practice session at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar today, although a brief rain shower effectively ended proceedings early. The showers were not heavy, but a further sprinkling prevented the majority from improving lap times as the Moto3 runners enjoying their final track time ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session.

Salom, who had already topped the timesheets on Thursday, this time led the way for the Red Bull KTM Ajo outfit with a 2’08.167. His closest challenger was Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Alex Rins, as Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger, Caretta Technology – RTG’s Jack Miller and Mahindra Racing’s Efrén Vázquez completed the top five.

As the mechanics kept a close eye on the skies, no less than three incidents came in the early stages as GO&FUN Gresini Moto3’s Niccolò Antonelli, Miller’s teammate John McPhee and Aspar’s Eric Granado all suffered falls.

Further up the order, the second Estrella Galicia of Alex Márquez finished sixth from the still injured Maverick Viñales on board his Team Calvo KTM. Completing the first ten were San Carlo Team Italia’s Romano Fenati, Ambrogio Racing’s Danny Webb and Avant Tecno’s Niklas Ajo.

More, from another press release issued by Pramac Racing:

It was 6.00 p.m., local time, when the second evening of timed practice sessions got underway, though rain had briefly threatened to delay the proceedings. Instead, it was a strong wind that accompanied the entire session, affecting the state of the circuit, which was made particularly slippery by a thin layer of sand.

Andrea’s feeling with the bike continued to improve, enabling him to lower his best time by 1.2 seconds compared to yesterday, despite his shoulder still not being 100% fit.
Some small changes were made to Andrea’s bike since last night, enabling him to better understand the direction to follow. Although the Italian suffered from pain in his forearm, this evening’s pair of practice sessions provided an opportunity for him to gain experience with the bike on this challenging track, and his time improved by over 1.3 seconds compared to yesterday.

Andrea Iannone - Energy T.I. Pramac Racing Team
“Fortunately, my right forearm didn’t hurt as much during FP3, as the pain had forced me to return to the garage on the fourth lap of tonight’s first session. I wasn’t able to control the bike, and I lacked strength. Nonetheless, we were able to make some small changes to the bike, and they allowed me to improve quite a bit and to give a clearer idea of the direction to take. I still don’t have much reference on this track, so I definitely need to do more laps.”

More, from a press release issued by Power Electronics Aspar Team:


POWER ELECTRONICS Aspar rider dominant amongst the CRTs and continually getting closer to Factory riders

There were several riders running off track in MotoGP practice at Losail on Friday evening due to tricky track conditions, with sand and dirt on the asphalt affecting the proceedings. The riders all had to run with caution. The new qualifying regulations are now in play and the top ten riders in free practice go straight into Q2 on Saturday. Márquez was fastest with just one thousandth of a second's advantage over Lorenzo, tight margins make the difference. All the riders improved from day one but times are still way off circuit and pole records. Tomorrow will see the introduction of the new qualifying format with sessions divided into 15 minute sections, adding to the excitement.

Yesterday it was just a 1.1s gap and today it was just 1.3s which separated Aleix Espargaró from the top spot. He has started the year in great form and is ahead of the CRT field. He is getting closer to the leading factory pack even with the long Losail circuit taken into account. The POWER ELECTRONICS rider was able to improve bike set-up today despite a few front end issues caused by the track conditions, leaving him 13th overall. His teammate Randy De Puniet was affected by the wind and some rear tyre issues but he is not too disappointed and aims to improve on Saturday ahead of Sunday's race.

13th Aleix Espargaró 1.57.420 (29 laps): "The bike performance was better today, although there was some front end chatter which I guess is normal in these conditions. For the second consecutive day I felt really good on the bike and we're close to the top riders on one of the longest and fastest tracks in MotoGP, so that gives us great motivation to work hard throughout the rest of the weekend. Being just 1.3s off is a great achievement and I'm very happy. We keep getting a bit better each day and we're looking forward to the new qualifying format tomorrow. I aim to keep riding at this high level."

16th Randy De Puniet 1.58.396 (30 laps): "Things were a bit better today but we had some of the same problems as yesterday. Lack of rear end confidence means I'm losing speed on corner entry which affects my overall pace. The track conditions don't help but they are the same for everyone, so we need imrovements however they come. Aleix is a second ahead so we need to bridge that gap. We've got tomorrow to come and we won't stop working until we find the solutions we need."

More, from a press release issued by Monster Yamaha Tech 3:

Crutchlow and Smith shine under Qatar floodlights

The second night of practice in advance of the 10th running of the Qatar MotoGP race in Doha on Sunday evening saw Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith shine under the impressive Losail International Circuit floodlights.

Crutchlow's outstanding form continued in tricky conditions tonight, with light spots of rain falling during the earlier second practice session and a strong wind testing skill and concentration in the third session.

The conditions meant the track surface was one more time extremely slippery but Crutchlow excelled to power his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 machine into the top three again.

The British rider's best pace of 1.56.326 was only 0.242s off the fastest lap time set by rookie Marc Marquez, while teammate Smith produced a magnificent performance to finish inside the top 10.

Smith adapted superbly to the difficult conditions and he defied a lack of experience on his YZR-M1 to rocket into the top six at one stage in FP3.

Growing in confidence as he slashed big chunks of time off his pace, Smith ended with a best time of 1.56.901 to finish in a morale-boosting ninth position on the combined leaderboard.
His final speed was a huge improvement of 1.4s compared to his best pace in last night's opening session and it was mission accomplished for Smith, who achieved one of his main pre-race goals to finish inside the top 10 after FP3.

Tonight's result means under the new qualifying format, both Crutchow and Smith are automatically seeded into tomorrow night's second 15-minute qualifying session in which 12 riders will battle it out for grid positions on the first four rows.

Cal Crutchlow 3rd - 1.56.326:
“The track was not in a good condition again tonight and it was very dirty but I am still happy with my performance and it is good to remain inside the top three. I was confident I'd be in the top 10 to move straight into QP2 and I am looking forward to the 15-minute session to decide places on the grid tomorrow night. I think it will be exciting for the fans and also for us because nobody will be hanging around. I felt comfortable on the bike again in the second session because we made a couple of changes earlier that didn't really work. I still need to improve in the braking zone and I'd like to improve the rear grip too, but I have been fast in every session so far and that bodes well for the race on Sunday night.”

Bradley Smith 9th - 1.56.901:
“I am really happy because one of my big objectives was to make sure I was inside the top 10 tonight and straight into the second qualifying session. Now I've done that I feel like it is a big achievement that I am really proud because it was not easy. I found well over a second in the final session and to finish just over 0.8s away from the top is a fantastic result for me. I didn't realize just how hard you have to push the bike to get down to that pace and it is going to be very hard to ride at that intensity for the whole race. Credit to the other guys who run a consistently fast pace throughout the race because it is incredibly hard and something I will need to focus on improving. My Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team did a great job tonight. They gave me a bike that gave me a lot of confidence and that was proven in just how much faster I was in the final session. I am less than 0.5s away from Valentino so I am really pleased. There's still a lot of work to do on the race set-up but I am truly happy to be inside that top 10.”

More, from a press release issued by NGM Mobile Forward Racing:

Qatar challenge for the NGM Mobile Forward Racing Riders Edwards & Corti

NGM Mobile Forward racing riders Colin Edwards and Claudio Corti get to the Losail International Circuit with high expectations to narrow the gap with the top CRTs and find the ideal setting for this first qualifying session of the season.

Edwards continues to gain confidence with his FTR – Kawasaki bike during this second day of free practices and ends FP3 in 1´58.863, two seconds faster than during FP2. Corti ended this second day of free practices with 2´00.439 after having a problem during today’s second session caused by the loss of oil from the engine, thankfully nothing was broken.

Both the American and Italian riders look forward to tomorrow’s new qualifying procedure and hope to start off the year with a good result with their FTR- Kawasaki bike.

Colin Edwards - 5
“The first session today we thought we would go ahead and try the hard tire, which is with what I raced here last year and we decided to give it a go but the track wasn’t up to par, dirty and dusty. Didn’t get a lot accomplished, had a couple ideas and started the second session making changes to the suspension and the change we had ready from yesterday on the electronics on the throttle pickup and between those two things we made a huge step. The bike feels comfortable now and that’s the main thing. We got over that hump and feel good and comfortable. Obviously we went on to use the soft, tires this afternoon, not sure if they can do the race but I don’t think we have a choice right now. We are going to test the hard one again tomorrow and we will see. Thanks to my electronics guys and Ohlins, I think together we put together a good package.”

Claudio Corti - 71
“It didn’t go as well as we hoped. We had a few technical problems during the second session making us waste precious time. We haven’t been able to find the right setting and the right feeling with the bike, especially with the front of the bike. I will take full advantage of tomorrow’s first session to find the right setting and improve the race pace. I would like to reduce the gap with the other CRTs and be closer to Colin and the other Italian riders. We will be looking at the data tonight to find the right solution for tomorrow hopping to have a good qualifying results.”

Sergio Verbena – MotoGP Technical Director
“We are finally in Qatar for the first race where last year we had good results as best CRT on the race. This year the competition is higher so we need to work a lot. Yesterday we had a good start with both Colin and Claudio. This morning the track conditions were pretty bad with a lot of sand on the track and we didn’t have any grip and both riders had a lot of trouble to ride the bike in these conditions. This afternoon we found a good solution to get more grip and Colin managed to be two seconds faster during the second session of the day. Unfortunately Claudio had problem with bike one and lost some time and at the end of the practice he found something good for the setting and tomorrow we will try to confirm if it works.”

More, from a press release issued by Ducati Corse:

Encouraging progress for Dovizioso and Hayden in Qatar free practice

A pair of strong performances during this evening’s exciting free-practice sessions in Qatar put Ducati Team riders Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden in a positive frame of mind for MotoGP’s new qualifying system, set to debut tomorrow night. The teammates were both well inside the top ten in combined free-practice times, meaning they will advance directly into tomorrow’s Q2 session.

Dealing with the challenging conditions presented by stiff winds and a dirty track surface, the Italian posted his best lap time with eight minutes left in FP3, at which point he sat in third place in the combined times. He ultimately ended the session fifth, just .001 seconds behind Valentino Rossi, and .333 seconds from leader Marc Marquez. Hayden’s best lap put him in seventh place with six minutes remaining, and he would slip one spot before the session ended.

Andrea Dovizioso - Ducati Team, 5th (1:56.417)
“I’m very happy with the position, but I’m especially pleased with the gap to the front. Fifth place is good, but the gap of three tenths is even better. I didn’t expect to be so close, especially because up until this session, we didn’t really have true parameters. In fact, this was the first faceoff with the soft tyre, and we can say that we were pretty close to the others when the tyre is new. We still have to see how things are in race configuration, and tomorrow before qualifying, we’ll decide if we should go ahead with the soft tyre.”

Nicky Hayden - Ducati Team, 8th (1:56.670)
“It certainly wasn’t easy tonight, as conditions were changing a lot. The wind was really strong in FP2, and there was a lot of sand on the track, but when things improved for FP3, I could push a bit harder. I kind of treated the session like qualifying, because it’s important to advance to QP2. My position isn’t great, but the gap to the front isn’t so bad. We want to make the bike more controllable in the wind and improve traction on corner entry, so if we can keep working in a good way, maybe we can do well in qualifying. It should be exciting.”