Aleix Espargaro continued his impressive form from the Qatar pre-season test.
NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro continued his impressive form from the Qatar pre-season test to top the first three Free Practice sessions at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit, ultimately setting a best lap time of 1’54.773 to finish 0.413 seconds clear of his closest rival.
Espargaro set his time in today’s Free Practice 3 session on the combination of the hard compound front slick and the soft compound rear slick - which is only available to the Ducati and Open-class entrants this weekend. Second overall in the ranked practice sessions was Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone, who also took advantage of the extra grip of the soft compound rear to set a personal best lap time of 1’55.186.
The desert setting of the Losail circuit makes it prone to wind-blown sand and this caused the usual low grip levels, with the first session of the weekend, FP1 creating particularly challenging conditions for the riders. As more sessions were run resulting in more rubber being laid down on the asphalt, grip levels improved slightly but some riders reported they were still at a poor level during FP3.
Despite the typically low grip levels, the combination of the latest MotoGP™ machinery and the 2014 specification Bridgestone tyres yielded impressive gains in performance compared to last year’s Qatar Grand Prix, with Espargaro’s best time 1.3 seconds quicker than the best FP3 time last year and all riders in the top ten bettering their 2013 mark by at least half a second.
Losail circuit places a strong demand on cornering and braking stability and this was reflected in a strong preference among the riders for the hard compound front slick in the first three sessions of the weekend. Rear slick choice was more varied, although almost all riders switched to their softer rear slick option; soft compound for the Ducati and Open class, and medium compound for the remaining Factory bikes, to set a quick lap time in their effort to qualify directly for QP2. Tomorrow’s FP4 session will be important for the teams as it will provide an opportunity to work on setup for qualifying and identify their optimum tyre combination for Sunday’s race.
MotoGP™ Free Practice 4 starts at 1955 local time (GMT+3) tomorrow before the first qualifying sessions of 2014 commence at 2035 with QP1, followed by QP2 at 2100.
Shinji Aoki - Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department: “The Losail circuit always has poor grip levels at the beginning of the race weekend, and this year was no exception. In FP1 yesterday, many riders commented that the track conditions were poor, and although there was an improvement today, it was still challenging for the riders. This circuit needs high cornering and braking stability, and so most riders preferred the hard compound front slick over the last two days.
Riders used both the softer and harder rear slick options available to them and although we expect them to use their softer option for qualifying, still some evaluation needs to be done to find their rear tyre choice for the race. FP3 proved to be an exciting session, and with the Ducati and Open-class riders using the extra grip on offer from the soft compound rear slick, we should be in for an interesting qualifying tomorrow.”