Ducati On Pole In Qatar After Stunning MotoGP Qualifying

You can almost hear Gomer Pyle, the good-natured but naive 1960s television character played by Jim Nabors, uttering his famous catchphrase, “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”

Using the grip advantage provided by Bridgestone’s soft-compound rear tire, Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso posted a blazing lap of 1:54.113 in the final seconds of qualifying to win pole position for Sunday’s season-opening MotoGP race under the floodlights at the Losail Circuit in Qatar.

Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa was second (1:54.330) with his teammate, Marc Marquez, third (1:54.437). This is the third MotoGP pole for Dovizioso and the first for the new GP15. LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow was the only rider to crash during the session.

The second factory Ducati of Andrea Iannone will head row two of the grid. Yet another Ducati, one of the Pramac entries ridden by Yonny Hernadez, outpaced the factory Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo in sixth.

Satellite Yamaha rider Bradley Smith was a tick ahead of nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi in eighth. “We’ve been battling some tire issues recently,” Smith said. “The one I had yesterday wasn’t good and the same thing happened again in QP1 today. We didn’t adjust anything else on the bike other than changing the tire and I improved by half a second.”

In the final practice session, Nicky Hayden set the 10th-best time overall on his “Open” Honda, but the American slipped to seventh in Qualifying 1. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) and Smith advanced to Qualifying 2.

“The target was the front row,” Marquez said at the post-qualifying press conference. “Always you want more, but today was not possible. For the race pace, I am very happy. Tomorrow we can fight for the victory.”

About the Ducatis, Marquez said, “Already in the test they were very competitive.” And the Yamahas? “If the race pace is slow, they can be there.”

What role will fuel consumption play in the outcome of Sunday’s race? There are several tracks on the current schedule where consumption is more critical, Pedrosa acknowledged, and Qatar is one of them.

“With this bike, we are able to ride in a different way,” Dovizioso said. “We are now able to work like our competitors. We still don’t know everything about this bike. Our speed is there. Now it is in the details.

“We have to make a race to understand everything. We’re not going back. The speed we have now will stay. The advantages we have helped us remain in this position.

“I hope to make really good results and lose every advantage.”

You can almost hear Gomer Pyle, the good-natured but naive 1960s television character played by Jim Nabors, uttering his famous catchphrase, “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”

Using the grip advantage provided by Bridgestone’s soft-compound rear tire, Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso posted a blazing lap of 1:54.113 in the final seconds of qualifying to win pole position for Sunday’s season-opening MotoGP race under the floodlights at the Losail Circuit in Qatar.

Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa was second (1:54.330) with his teammate, Marc Marquez, third (1:54.437). This is the third MotoGP pole for Dovizioso and the first for the new GP15. LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow was the only rider to crash during the session.

The second factory Ducati of Andrea Iannone will head row two of the grid. Yet another Ducati, one of the Pramac entries ridden by Yonny Hernadez, outpaced the factory Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo in sixth.

Satellite Yamaha rider Bradley Smith was a tick ahead of nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi in eighth. “We’ve been battling some tire issues recently,” Smith said. “The one I had yesterday wasn’t good and the same thing happened again in QP1 today. We didn’t adjust anything else on the bike other than changing the tire and I improved by half a second.”

In the final practice session, Nicky Hayden set the 10th-best time overall on his “Open” Honda, but the American slipped to seventh in Qualifying 1. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) and Smith advanced to Qualifying 2.

“The target was the front row,” Marquez said at the post-qualifying press conference. “Always you want more, but today was not possible. For the race pace, I am very happy. Tomorrow we can fight for the victory.”

About the Ducatis, Marquez said, “Already in the test they were very competitive.” And the Yamahas? “If the race pace is slow, they can be there.”

What role will fuel consumption play in the outcome of Sunday’s race? There are several tracks on the current schedule where consumption is more critical, Pedrosa acknowledged, and Qatar is one of them.

“With this bike, we are able to ride in a different way,” Dovizioso said. “We are now able to work like our competitors. We still don’t know everything about this bike. Our speed is there. Now it is in the details.

“We have to make a race to understand everything. We’re not going back. The speed we have now will stay. The advantages we have helped us remain in this position.

“I hope to make really good results and lose every advantage.”

“After two years in which we have suffered,” Andrea Dovizioso said, “finally we have succeeded in making a really competitive bike. To be honest, I did not think that we would be immediately so fast with the GP15.”

Dani Pedrosa: “It was very important to get onto the front row; I think that was one of my fastest laps at this track. Now we have to focus for the race.”

Marc Marquez: “It will be difficult to keep up with Andrea [Dovizioso] because, besides a fast one-off lap, he also has good race pace. We will try to ride our own race and fight for the win.”

Andrea Iannone: “I would have liked to have started on the front row, but as I had hardly ever used the soft tire, I didn’t have much of a feeling with it. In addition, we had a bit too much power on my bike and the setup wasn’t the best.”

“We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow on the long distance with the softer tire,” Jorge Lorenzo said. “It’s going to be hard to maintain our pace throughout the whole race, but I’m physically and mentally prepared to give the maximum.”

Valentino Rossi: “For sure the second row would have been better than the third, but the bike’s pace was good and I had quite a good feeling. We have to work, try to improve, and save the tires as much as possible to have a better pace at tomorrow’s race.”

“I’m a little bit surprised by the result of this qualifying session,” Nicky Hayden said. “We had greatly improved in the last free practice, especially with used tires. That made me think that the QP times could improve a lot, but it wasn’t possible. There was quite a bit of chattering. At first it was only a couple of corners, but the faster we wanted to go the worse it got.”

“Thankfully it’s just my pride that is hurt today,” Cal Crutchlow said, “but obviously I’m not happy. I made a stupid mistake. The positive is that we were very fast, and we had a great chance to get on the front row. My ideal time would have put us there.”

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