Hondas lead MotoGP Qatar Practice. Where Are The Yamahas?

With three practices now in the record books for MotoGP’s season-opening race weekend at the Losail Circuit in Qatar, reigning world champ Marc Marquez continues to set the pace at the front. His Repsol Honda teammate, Dani Pedrosa, is also fast, as are Ducati’s Andrea Iannone and Suzuki-mounted Aleix Espargaro. LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow, meanwhile, showed the biggest improvement at the end of the day.

Riding for his third team in three years, Crutchlow posted the second-quickest lap, a 1:54.918, just 0.096 slower than Marquez. “We are obviously happy enough with the lap time and the speed at the end of the session,” Crutchlow said, “but we were a disaster at the start of the session. We had a some strange feeling with the rear tire, even though it was used in a previous session, and I was riding around in 18th position.”

The Brit was quick to point out his blistering single lap is not indicative of race pace, “but you have to start somewhere.” LCR Honda has mostly solved the front-brake problems that plagued Crutchlow during the preseason and also this weekend. “I went back to the lever I preferred,” he said. “We have to thank [Ducati] because they gave us a couple of parts.”

In 2013, Crutchlow qualified second quickest on a satellite Yamaha at Qatar. Last year, on a factory Ducati, he was eighth on the grid. Speaking of Ducati, Iannone was one of four riders—Marco Melandri, Aleix Espargaro, and Alex De Angelis being the others—who crashed unhurt in Turn 2 during the two sessions held this evening at the desert circuit.

Factory Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were eighth and ninth, respectively. “We tried the harder tire,” Lorenzo said, “which is very consistent. I could maybe do around a hundred laps of 1:56.1s on it, but this is too slow.” In fact, the entire field of 21 riders is separated by just 1.3 seconds, with 18 covered by less than one second and eight by no more than three-tenths.

With three practices now in the record books for MotoGP’s season-opening race weekend at the Losail Circuit in Qatar, reigning world champ Marc Marquez continues to set the pace at the front. His Repsol Honda teammate, Dani Pedrosa, is also fast, as are Ducati’s Andrea Iannone and Suzuki-mounted Aleix Espargaro. LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow, meanwhile, showed the biggest improvement at the end of the day.

Riding for his third team in three years, Crutchlow posted the second-quickest lap, a 1:54.918, just 0.096 slower than Marquez. “We are obviously happy enough with the lap time and the speed at the end of the session,” Crutchlow said, “but we were a disaster at the start of the session. We had a some strange feeling with the rear tire, even though it was used in a previous session, and I was riding around in 18th position.”

The Brit was quick to point out his blistering single lap is not indicative of race pace, “but you have to start somewhere.” LCR Honda has mostly solved the front-brake problems that plagued Crutchlow during the preseason and also this weekend. “I went back to the lever I preferred,” he said. “We have to thank [Ducati] because they gave us a couple of parts.”

In 2013, Crutchlow qualified second quickest on a satellite Yamaha at Qatar. Last year, on a factory Ducati, he was eighth on the grid. Speaking of Ducati, Iannone was one of four riders—Marco Melandri, Aleix Espargaro, and Alex De Angelis being the others—who crashed unhurt in Turn 2 during the two sessions held this evening at the desert circuit.

Factory Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were eighth and ninth, respectively. “We tried the harder tire,” Lorenzo said, “which is very consistent. I could maybe do around a hundred laps of 1:56.1s on it, but this is too slow.” In fact, the entire field of 21 riders is separated by just 1.3 seconds, with 18 covered by less than one second and eight by no more than three-tenths.

Marc Marquez: “Today we saw times that were very close. I think that tomorrow they will be even closer. The most important thing will be to continue like this and prepare for Sunday’s race.”

“I’m surprised with how fast we are going with the package we’ve got,” Cal Crutchlow said, “but we still need to improve our lap-by-lap pace, and we will be trying to do so overnight.”

“We were pretty quick both over one lap and over race pace,” Andrea Iannone said. “It’s a pity about the crash; I came into the turn and the front suddenly closed up on me.”

Aleix Espargaro: “I feel confident with both tire compounds, which is important for qualifying and the race. Now we need to improve a little bit the feeling with the front-end.”

Dani Pedrosa: “We were able to get more of a feel for both the bike and the track. I think that getting into Q2 is good, and now we have to focus on tomorrow in order to make the final adjustments to the setup and qualify well for the race.”

“I don’t yet have a perfect feeling with my GP15,” Andrea Dovizioso said, “but despite this I managed to lap in 1:55.6 with the used tire, and I think that is a very good pace.”

“We’ll keep working to increase our pace to a high 1:54, which is our goal,” Jorge Lorenzo said. “It will be a hard fight for the front row tomorrow, because many riders have the extra soft tire that gives them four-tenths of a second.”

Valentino Rossi: “The last practice session was unbelievable because there are 10 bikes within three-tenths of a second. I’m not happy about my position, but I’m not far from pole position.”

Nicky Hayden: “Tonight we went back to the best setup we found at the test here at Losail, and this second day has been more productive. The feeling has improved considerably, and even though we have a little chatter, the bike is better balanced and we were able to go faster than we managed at the test.”

“In FP2 we tried a different frame setup to improve the feeling going into turns and to get better traction,” Alvaro Bautista said. “In FP3 a problem with the engine on the second bike kept me from being as fast as I would have liked.”

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