Photography by Gold & Goose
At some point we may look back at Friday, April 5, 2013 as the day that Marc Marquez arrived in MotoGP. In just the first official practice sessions of his MotoGP career, the young rookie turned in the fastest lap of the weekend in advance of tomorrow’s final qualifying at the Losail Circuit in Qatar, besting World Champion Jorge Lorenzo by just .001 of second with his final-second flier in the third and final free practice session.
Tonight in Qatar marked the first use of the new MotoGP qualifying system in which the top 10 from the final two practice sessions advance directly to Qualifying 2 (a 15-minute session) tomorrow. The rest go to Qualifying 1 (15 minutes) with the first two from Q1 advancing through to join the other 10 in Q2. Qualifying 2 will thus feature the 12 fastest riders from the weekend going for pole position in a 15-minute session.
Anyone who thought it might take awhile for Marquez to be a factor in MotoGP racing might want to think again. The Spaniard and his Repsol Honda ended up leading two of the three practice sessions, including the one that meant the most. The youngster used a hard rear tire for the majority of the session, then through in a soft tire for a run at the fastest time late. He pulled it off on his final lap with time running out on the 45-minute session.
His best lap of 1:56.084 knocked Lorenzo from the top spot, the Yamaha man having clicked off his best with some 21 minutes to go in the session. Lorenzo, meanwhile, had knocked Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow from the top spot, the Brit having clicked off his best on just his third lap of the session. Crutchlow failed to improve from that point forward, but still ended up with the third best time of the day.
“Practice today went pretty well – better than expected,” Marquez said. “I was very comfortable on the bike, and this is the important thing. Our foundation isn't bad at all, we are improving in every session and working with Sunday's race in mind. What we are missing is a bit of pace and consistency. We will have to make the most of the 30 minutes that we have before qualifying tomorrow to improve those points”
Fourth best today was Lorenzo’s factory Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi. Rossi’s fastest lap came with just over a minute to go in the session and it pushed him past Andrea Dovizioso, the Italian continuing to impress in his Ducati debut. Rossi lapped at 1:56.417 with Dovizioso just .001 of a second off the eight-time World Champion.
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa showed marked improvement in this session, but he still was just sixth – .418 of a second behind his teammate Marquez.
Seventh went to Go & Fun Honda’s Alvaro Bautista, the Spaniard jumping up in the order with just three minutes to go. He bested Ducati’s Nicky Hayden by .098 of a second, the former World Champion ending up eighth, but making the cut to advance to Q2 tomorrow.
The final two riders to make the direct transfer to Q2 were Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith and LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl, with rookie Smith impressive in his improvement from yesterday’s first session to today’s second session.
The fastest two riders not to make the cut were the Pramac Racing Ducati’s of Andrea Iannone and Ben Spies, the pair finishing 11th and 12th, respectively.
Spies’ fellow Texan Colin Edwards ended the day 17th on the NGM Mobile Forward Racing CRT bike.
MotoGP Free Practice 3
1. Marc Marquez (Honda) 1:56.083
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:56.084
3. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:56.326
4. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:56.416
5. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 1:56.417
6. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:56.502
7. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:56.572
8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:56.670
9. Bradley Smith (Yamaha) 1:56.901
10. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1:56.984
12. Ben Spies (Ducati) 1:57.308
17. Colin Edwards (ART) 1:58.863