Lorenzo takes fifth in tense Qatar qualifying

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The best time of 1’54.661 seconds puts Lorenzo on the second row.

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Jorge Lorenzo fought hard this evening to take fifth on the grid in qualifying for tomorrow’s Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar. Teammate Valentino Rossi made big time improvements and secured tenth under the floodlights of the Losail circuit in a tense session of quick fire hot laps.

Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha Factory Racing
Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Yamaha MotoGP

Lorenzo had taken another small step forward in the fourth free practice earlier this evening, reducing the gap to the front to under half a second to finish 0.492 from first in seventh position. As usual he was the first man out onto the track for the qualifying heat, scoring a 1’55.036 on his first flying lap. A flurry of quick laps were to follow by his rivals, leaving him in fifth position with just over half the time gone. He returned to the pits for fresh rubber before preparing for the final attack. A frenetic last few minutes saw a huge number of red sections across the track for the top riders, with Lorenzo managing to drop under the 1’55s with a best time of 1’54.661 seconds. The time puts him on the second row of the grid for tomorrow’s race, just 0.154 seconds from pole man Marc Marquez.

Teammate Rossi continued to make improvements today, improving both his pace and hot lap time. The Italian’s first qualifying tyre saw him into sixth position with a 1’55.471, only to drop as a flurry of faster rivals pushed him down the table. The nine-time world champion was back out for the last minutes and pushing hard, dropping nearly a half second to record a 1’55.096 second lap on his seventh and final lap. The time puts him in tenth position on the grid but only just over half a second from pole position.

Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro performed impressively during a fiercely competitive qualifying session. Britain’s Bradley Smith qualified superbly on the front row in 3rd, while his Spanish teammate Pol Espargaro scored a 12th position for the start of the opening MotoGP World Championship race.

Having previously topped the 4th free practice session and consistently posting quick lap times all week, Smith worked tirelessly with his Monster Yamaha Tech3 team to finish with a best lap time of 1:54.601 around the 5.83 kilometre circuit. The young English rider’s emphatic performance was less than a hundredth of a second from the fastest rider, and will put in him in the best possible position to battle with the leading riders tomorrow. The Monster Yamaha Tech3 satellite rider finished as the fastest Yamaha rider and ahead of the Factory Yamaha’s of Lorenzo and Rossi.

Pol Espargaro skilfully sailed through Qualifying 1 before heading into the Q2 session where he finished in 12th position on his debut MotoGP appearance for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team. Having fallen heavily, albeit uninjured yesterday, the reigning Moto2 World Champion bounced back determinedly today with a calculated ride which saw him top the Qualifying 1 session, and then set a 1:55.152 in Q2. With the young Spaniard’s knowledge of the Yamaha YZR-M1 still growing, his qualifying time is even more impressive after finishing just over six tenths from the leading time in his first ever MotoGP Qualifying.

Jorge Lorenzo
5th | 1'54.661 | 7 Laps
“We are improving little by little to adapt to the situation. Obviously we are still having problems with the rear grip but we are getting closer to the front top riders. We made a good position for tomorrow; fifth on the grid is good for the start. There are six riders within one tenth of a second and the race will be very long so if we can make one step on the bike we can fight for the podium or even a victory, which would be amazing for the circumstances.”

Valentino Rossi
10th | 1'55.096 | 7 Laps
“I’m not very satisfied because I am just in tenth but I am only half a second from pole position and my lap time is not so bad. I have improved a lot. We worked well on the bike and in the end 1’55.0 is not so bad, it’s seven tenths faster than last year for me so we made a good step. The problem is that the balance between everybody is very close; we are 12 riders within half a second. Tomorrow we have to be ready for anything as anything could happen. The pace is very similar between everyone except Marquez who was impressive and did a good job. Also the other guys, Pedrosa and Lorenzo are not very far, so we have to be ready for anything and maybe some strong first laps I think!”

Wilco Zeelenberg
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Manager
“A very hot qualifying and very tight. We’re not really unhappy with the result, of course we are still working and looking for more speed but we are vey close: from first to Jorge is less than two tenths of a second. All in all we can be pleased with the things we’ve done. The race is more important than qualifying and second row is not a bad place to start tomorrow.”

Massimo Meregalli
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“Even if we are not completely satisfied about the setting of the bike we were able to close the gap, especially with Jorge. He was able to get just one and a half tenths from pole position and starting from the second row is not at all bad. It will be more difficult for Vale to start from the fourth row. It will be crucial to have a good start and push for the first two laps to stay as close as possible to the leading riders. We will try to find something else during the night and tomorrow we will check during the warm up. We will have to wait and see what a hot race it could be tomorrow night.”

Bradley Smith
3rd / 1'54.601
“I am really pleased with today, the bike felt great and I’m really satisfied with the setup. The performance during the fourth free practice session was very promising and fortunately I was able to translate that performance to the new tyre. I was slightly disappointed because with the second tyre, Aleix, Marc and I, all waited a bit too long, as nobody wanted to be followed. My tyres got too cold to push again, so I decided to take the bike back to parc fermé instead of taking any more risks, but I felt I still had some margin. However, you don’t get points for qualifying, tomorrow is when it really counts and there are 22 laps to battle in. For sure a good start is the key and I know I’m pretty good at them. I also know that I will be strong on the full fuel load as I worked a lot to improve this during the winter. Having said that, there are a lot of strong riders behind me and it won’t be easy, but I’ll give it my all. Tonight I will rest up, and prepare myself and if the bike feels like it did today, I am confident of getting a good result“.

Pol Espargaro
12th / 1'55.152
“I am happy with how I performed during my first qualifying session today. After yesterday, it took me a little time to rediscover my rhythm, but the most important fact is that I again, have a great feeling with my bike. Of course, tomorrow the race might be different, but after a tough day yesterday I’m really satisfied with my performance during the qualifying. Unfortunately we had to go through Q1 which was not ideal , especially because that meant that we had to maintain an already used front tyre for the final qualifying practice and the grip wasn’t the same anymore. I didn’t feel that I could push quite as much into the entrance of the corner, which is where the Yamaha is the strongest. Still, I was only 6 tenths of a second from the top lap time, almost half a second from Jorge, and less than a tenth from Valentino. After looking at these statistics, I think I can be satisfied, and also because I believe that my fastest lap time today was very similar to what will be my race pace tomorrow”.

Yamaha Racing

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About this article
Series MOTOGP
Article type Qualifying report
Tags bradley smith, jorge lorenzo, massimo meregalli, pol espargaro, qatar, qualifying, valentino rossi, wilco zeelenberg