MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo led the way as Free Practice 1 opened the 2013 season under lights at the Losail International Circuit on Thursday.
Prior to Sunday’s Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar, the Yamaha Factory Racing rider finished ahead of Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow and Factory teammate Valentino Rossi. Marc Márquez headed Repsol Honda Team’s charge from fourth.
Thursday’s sole practice period for MotoGP not only launched the 2013 campaign, but also helped to mark the 10th weekend for the sport in Qatar. For the first time ever, the session had a direct bearing on qualifying; the combined top 10 from across the opening three practices will go on to make up the Q2 qualifying line-up on Saturday.
It looked as though Britain’s Crutchlow was to retain the top spot, having also led the final pre-season test in Jerez, but Lorenzo moved ahead with a last-gasp 1:56.685 lap time. This leaves the top three separated by just 71 thousandths of a second, with Rossi looking highly confident after leading the way halfway through.
Reigning Moto2™ World Champion Márquez and Andrea Dovizioso – now riding for Ducati Team – completed the top five.
Due to the extremely dusty track surface and riders pushing to find the limits, an assortment of names found the run-off area at Turn 1. However this was nothing compared to Yonny Hernández’s accident, as the Colombian lost the front end of his PBM-run ART bike which flipped across the gravel less than 10 minutes into the session; fortunately, the 24-year-old was able to walk away and ended his day in 18th place.
It was an encouraging start to the campaign for GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, completing the night in sixth spot from the LCR Honda MotoGP of Stefan Bradl.
A low-key start for expected title challenger Dani Pedrosa saw the Repsol man end up in eighth place, having run off the track twice.
As Nicky Hayden confirmed a double top 10 finish for Ducati Team, Aleix Espargaró raised eyebrows by ending his evening ninth quickest on the leading CRT bike of Power Electronics Aspar, just 1.1 seconds off Lorenzo’s leading time.
Newcomer Bradley Smith – teammate to Crutchlow at Tech 3 – was just outside the top 10, but ahead of Pramac Racing duo Andrea Iannone (who steps up from Moto2) and Ben Spies, still carrying an injury from his Malaysian Grand Prix crash of last year.
The rest of the 24-bike field was filled by CRT representatives, with Héctor Barberá and Hiroshi Aoyama in respective 14th and 19th places for Avintia Blusens. Between them were Aspar’s Randy de Puniet, Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards and the aforementioned Hernández.
Forward rookie Claudio Corti was 20th was almost a second slower than teammate Edwards in these early stages, with Danilo Petrucci leading the Came IodaRacing Project attack from 21st; he and debuting Czech teammate Lukáš Pešek sandwiched Gresini newcomer Bryan Staring of Australia, as Britain’s Michael Laverty completed the field while continuing early development work on the in-house PBM machine.
Italtrans Racing Team’s Takaaki Nakagami moved ahead in Losail’s second Moto2™ practice session on Thursday evening. Joining him in the top three were Tuenti HP 40 pairing Esteve Rabat and Pol Espargaró, with the latter having topped the opening period.
Nakagami’s best effort came in the shape of 2:00.924, making him the only rider to duck inside the 2’01.000 barrier. Rabat – who led for much of the session – was less than a tenth slower, with Espargaró having made a mistake on his final run.
Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding continuously challenged for top times, but was losing ground on the start/finish straight; he was fourth from the second Italtrans of Julián Simón and NGM Mobile Racing’s Simone Corsi.
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Luis Salom went quickest in the second Moto3™ practice session at Losail on Thursday. The Spaniard led Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger – fastest in the first session – and Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Álex Rins.
MotoGP Practice Times (courtesy Yamaha)
1.Jorge Lorenzo ESP Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 1m 56.685s
2. Cal Crutchlow GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 1m 56.743s
3. Valentino Rossi ITA Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 1m 56.756s
4. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1m 57.276s
5. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (GP13) 1m 57.538s
6. Alvaro Bautista ESP Go Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 1m 57.601s
7. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) 1m 57.670s
8. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1m 57.749s
9. Aleix Espargaro ESP Power Electronics Aspar (ART CRT) 1m 57.843s
10. Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Team (GP13) 1m 57.926s
11. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 1m 58.369s
12. Andrea Iannone ITA Energy T.I. Pramac Racing (GP13) 1m 58.559s
13. Ben Spies USA Ignite Pramac Racing (GP13) 1m 58.575s
14. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Blusens (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) 1m 59.608s
15. Randy De Puniet FRA Power Electronics Aspar (ART CRT) 1m 59.633s
16. Karel Abraham CZE Cardion AB Motoracing (ART CRT) 1m 59.758s
17. Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 2m 0.341s
18. Yonny Hernandez COL Paul Bird Motorsport (ART CRT) 2m 0.426s
19. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Avintia Blusens (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 2m 0.563s
20. Claudio Corti ITA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 2m 1.227s
21. Danilo Petrucci ITA Came IodaRacing Project (Suter-BMW CRT)* 2m 1.438s
22. Bryan Staring AUS Go Fun Honda Gresini (FTR-Honda CRT)* 2m 1.942s
23. Lukas Pesek CZE Came IodaRacing Project (Suter-BMW CRT)* 2m 2.079s
24. Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM CRT)* 2m 2.135s
* Standard ECU