Photography by Gold & Goose
On the opening MotoGP weekend, when the new rules of factory and open bikes produced so many surprise times in practice, it was the tried and true that came to the fore in the final qualifying session. Defending World Champion Marc Marquez, just six weeks removed from a broken right leg, proved once again his immense talent by earning the pole by turning a blazing lap of 1:54.507 on the factory Repsol Honda. Marquez, 21, turned the lap in spite of not having a soft-tire option available to the Open class squads.
The softer tires produced many fast times for the Open team riders in practice, but Marquez came through with an extraordinary lap on the final lap of the Q2 session and starts the season where he left off last year.
“Honestly this pole position makes me happy because after the injury it was so difficult, especially when I arrived here in the first practice” said Marquez, who begins his sophomore season in the premier class with his tenth-career MotoGP pole. “But now in qualifying practice FP4 we found the way and I’m better on the bike. I feel much better. I have a good feeling, so tomorrow is most important. It will be hard for me because when I do many, many laps I’m getting tired because I cannot push with the leg. I will try to do my best take some points and see where we can finish.”
Alvaro Bautista will start second on the Go&Fun Honda Gresini factory machine. He will be joined a third factory class rider in Brit Bradley Smith on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3, giving the factory machines a clean sweep of the front row.
Bautista was happy with his performance, even though he missed out on the pole by just 57-1000ths of a second.
“For me this is like a pole position because at this track I’ve struggled in the past,” Bautista said. “I’m feeling very good on the bike and I can make it always with the top guys in every session. So I’m looking forward for tomorrow. I hope to enjoy it, like I’ve been enjoying the weekend. I’ll try to stay in the front group and fight for the win. It will be difficult, but anyway I will try.”
Smith recovered from a massive crash on Friday to put it on the front row.
“I definitely got off on the wrong foot yesterday with what happened with the big crash,” Smith said. “Luckily I got away with no injury. For some reason we turned up at the track today and the bike was working really well. I felt very confident in Free Practice 4. I strung two great laps together in the first run and then in the second run me, Marc and Aleix were playing a bit of cat and mouse. I didn’t want to risk that, already the tires had gotten cold. I’m pleased to hang on to third position and am very excited for tomorrow’s race.”
It’s an interesting second row with Andrea Dovizioso on the Ducati leading Jorge Lorenzo and Dano Pedrosa. Dovizioso was the top rider in qualifying allowed to run the softer compound tire. With none of the Open teams expected to run the soft compound Bridgestone in the race, the results in the actual race could look very different from the qualifying results.
The surprise of qualifying was the apparent cracking under pressure by Aleix Espargaro. The Forward Racing Yamaha rider had taken full advantage of the softer compound and was favored to win the pole. Instead the former CRT standout, crashed twice, the second time in Turn 14 after turning the best sector times of the night and looking certain for the pole. Espargaro looked livid after the first crash and mystified after the second.
Americans Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards will start 13th and 14th, squarely in the middle of the grid Sunday. Hayden just barely missed advancing into Q2 after a very quick lap in Q1 on his Drive M7 Aspar Honda.
The race in Qatar starts at 3:00 p.m. Eastern and can be seen on Fox Sports 1 live with coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. Eastern.
MotoGP Qualifying from Losail, Qatar, March 22, 2014
1. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1m 54.507s
2. Alvaro Bautista ESP Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 1m 54.564s | +0.057s
3. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 1m 54.601s | +0.094s
4. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici) 1m 54.644s | +0.137s
5. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 1m 54.661s | +0.154s
6. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1m 54.703s | +0.196s
7. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) 1m 54.871s | +0.364s
8. Cal Crutchlow GBR Ducati Team (Desmosedici) 1m 54.888s | +0.381s
9. Aleix Espargaro ESP NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha) 1m 54.986s | +0.479s
10. Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 1m 55.096s | +0.589s
11. Andrea Iannone ITA Pramac Racing (Desmosedici) 1m 55.127s | +0.620s
12. Pol Espargaro ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 1m 55.152s | +0.645s
13. Nicky Hayden USA Drive M7 Aspar (RCV1000R) 1m 55.894s | +0.488s
14. Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha) 1m 56.042s | +0.636s
15. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Drive M7 Aspar (RCV1000R) 1m 56.479s | +1.073s
16. Scott Redding GBR Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RCV1000R) 1m 56.555s | +1.149s
17. Yonny Hernandez COL Pramac Racing (Desmosedici) 1m 56.648s | +1.242s
18. Karel Abraham CZE Cardion AB Motoracing (RCV1000R) 1m 56.715s | +1.309s
19. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Racing (Avintia) 1m 57.006s | +1.600s
20. Danilo Petrucci ITA IodaRacing Project (ART) 1m 57.513s | +2.107s
21. Broc Parkes AUS Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART) 1m 57.574s | +2.168s
22. Mike Di Meglio FRA Avintia Racing (Avintia) 1m 57.667s | +2.261s
23. Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART) 1m 58.254s | +2.848s