Ruben Xaus not only took his first-ever MotoGP provisional pole position, but the Spaniard also grabbed the first-ever provisional pole position at the newly-built Middle East Losail circuit in Qatar. Ruben Xaus. Photo by Fabrice ...
Ruben Xaus not only took his first-ever MotoGP provisional pole position, but the Spaniard also grabbed the first-ever provisional pole position at the newly-built Middle East Losail circuit in Qatar.
Hailed as the equalizing circuit of 2004 because no one in the current paddock had seen the track, the Losail circuit lived up to its expectations. Within five minutes and in only his second lap, current world champion, Valentino Rossi, ran off the track. Rossi sand-surfed his way back on, but this would prove to be the story many of the riders would tell today. Though the track designers tried, and created, a flowing, technical and safe track, the Losail circuit is still in the middle of the desert, and what is in abundance in the desert, sand. To combat sand being flown onto the track, the designers setup a perimeter of artificial grass. Because the track is brand new and no race rubber had ever been laid down until today's free practice, it's hard to determine whether or not the grass will keep the sand off the track, we will know by tomorrow.
Onto qualifying; Xaus lap time of 2:01.309 was three tenths faster than that of the pace setter, Colin Edwards. Edwards dominated most of today's session and was only edged out by Xaus. Edwards's teammate, Sete Gibernau, qualified third, just two tenths behind the number 45.
The second row is led by Carlos Checa, the first of the Yamahas. The works-Yamaha rider managed a time of 2:02.744, almost a full second behind Gibernau. In fifth place is Max Biaggi. The Roman flew the Camel Honda flag, three tenths behind Checa. Rossi struggled with front-end grip, which caused the Italian to run off the track twice in the one-hour session. Rossi had so many problems with the front-feel, he did not even try qualifying tires, instead choosing to focus on race setup. Rossi only managed a time of 2:03.274, almost two seconds behind Xaus.
Nicky Hayden, 2003 MotoGP rookie of the year, matched the pace of the world champion, qualifying seventh. Motegi's provisional pole setter, John Hopkins, came back with a vengeance (sort of) after the horrible first lap turn-one incident at Motegi. Hopkins managed a valiant 2:03.301, considering the extent of the injuries he sustained. Rounding up the third row will be Motegi's third place finisher, Shinya Nakano on his green ZX-RR Kawasaki, just five hundredths behind Hopkins.
Tomorrow's second and last qualifying session should be very exciting. No one knows how the track will react to desert winds. Hopefully the sand will stay off and we can see an improvement in lap times, coupled by a close race on Saturday.