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.
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).
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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