File Photography by Gold & Goose
Turns out if you didn’t test at the Losail Circuit in Qatar two weeks ago, you’re starting at a disadvantage. Turns out that if you’re not on an Open class bike, you’re also at a disadvantage. Though those two things are one and the same. And if you’re not Aleix Espargaro, you’re also at a disadvantage – at least in the opening practice MotoGP session of the season.
Espargaro, using the Open-class only soft compound Bridgestone rear tire, led the first day of practice in Qatar, the Spaniard lapping at a best of 1:55.201 to lead a horde of Open bikes. The first of the factory men? Dani Pedrosa in sixth place on the Repsol Honda – 1.131 seconds slower than his countryman on the Forward NGM Yamaha.
Second fastest today was another who tested here two weeks ago – Go & Fun Honda’s Alvaro Bautista. Bautista ended up .466 of a second behind Espargaro and just .149 of a second ahead of Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith, the Brit leading the session with 10 minutes to go.
To continue the trend of surprising results on day one, Andrea Iannone was fourth on the Pramac Racing Ducati – .795 of a second off the Espargaro’s pace.
The second Espargaro – younger brother Pol – ended the day fifth and the first rider not to crack into the 1:55s. Pol, who is still recuperating from a broken collarbone suffered at the test two weeks ago, lapped at 1:56.020 on the second Monster Tech 3 Yamaha.
Pedrosa led the factory men in sixth place – .210 better than Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi.
Colin Edwards fared the best of the two Americans in MotoGP, putting his Forward NGM Racing Yamaha in eighth and in front of Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, the two-time World Champion showing his frustration with a lack of grip from the new Bridgestone tires. Lorenzo has won the last two season openers in Qatar.
Drive M7 Aspar’s Nicky Hayden ended the session 10th, the sixth non-factory rider in the top 10.
Marc Marquez completed his first session since suffering his broken leg and the defending World Champion rode to a cautious 11th.
The factory Ducatis of Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso ended up 13th and 14th respectively.
Yonny Hernandez was the first crasher of the MotoGP season and his crash in turn 16 brought out the first red flag of the season as rocks and sand dirtied to the track enough to require a quick cleanup. Hernandez looked to suffer an arm injury – either wrist or collarbone – and was headed to the medical center for X-rays.
Friday MotoGP Practice Results
1. Aleix Espargaro (Yamaha) 1:55.201
2. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:55.6687
3. Bradley Smith (Yamaha) 1:55.816
4. Andrea Iannone (Ducati) 1:55.996
5. Pol Espargaro (Yamaha) 1:56.020
6. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:56.332
7. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:56.542
8. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:56.626
9. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:56.668
10. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 1:56.670