Lorenzo takes pole in Qatar In a dramatic qualifying session under lights, MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo has claimed pole position for the season-opening Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar. The Yamaha Factory Racing rider will share the front row with Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow and Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa.
Saturday marked the debut of MotoGP’s new-look qualifying format, whereby the top 12 riders go head-to-head in a 15-minute shootout for the top spot. Maintaining his 100% front row record at the Losail International Circuit, Lorenzo sealed his seventh career pole at the track with a best effort of 1’54.714.
Crutchlow, the leading British representative, starts his campaign in strong fashion and missed out on pole by two tenths of a second, having abandoned his final run at Turn 1. Pedrosa has had a quiet weekend so far, concentrating on race pace, but sealed a front row placing as he pipped Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso – on the Italian’s first ride for the marque – by nine thousandths of a second.
LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl and Repsol’s 20-year-old newcomer Marc Marquez (who was fastest on Friday) will complete the second row, ahead of Valentino Rossi who could manage no more than seventh position on his high-profile return to Yamaha. Making up the rest of the third row will be Spain’s Álvaro Bautista and England’s Bradley Smith for GO&FUN Honda Gresini and Tech 3, respectively.
One of three rookies in the top ten, Energy T.I. Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone heads the fourth row from Ducati’s Nicky Hayden who is 11th. With Ben Spies having suffered a hard fall in the preceding fourth practice session, the opportunity was very much open for a CRT bike to head into Q2; Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro took full advantage and will start 12th.
Spies, riding the Ignite Pramac Racing machine, could manage only third place in Q1 which translates to 13th on the grid. Aspar’s Randy de Puniet, who pushed hard in an attempt to make Q2 but lost out in the second half of the lap, will be 14th, but impressing many was Czech newcomer Lukas Pesek who will start his first MotoGP race from 15th on the grid for Came IodaRacing Project.
The rest of the top 20 is made up by PBM’s Yonny Hernández (who has already suffered two crashes this weekend), Avintia Blusens’ Hiroshi Aoyama, Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards (who raced to the leading CRT position in Qatar last year) and Ioda’s Danilo Petrucci. The 24-rider grid is completed by Forward’s Claudio Corti at the start of his first full MotoGP campaign, Avintia’s Héctor Barberá who suffered technical problems at the start of Q1, Australian Gresini debutant Bryan Staring and PBM’s Michael Laverty who is helping to develop the team’s own-built bike.
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