The final free practice this evening ahead of Sunday’s Grand Prix of Qatar saw Yamaha Factory Racing rider Jorge Lorenzo set the MotoGP pace. The Mallorcan finished in second place in the penultimate practice session earlier in the evening, 0.214 seconds behind leader Casey Stoner as he continued to develop his set up. A strong final session on hard tyres was then delivered before a softer rear option at the end provided the extra speed to take the top spot, 0.154 seconds ahead of fellow Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow in second.
Ben Spies experienced a less fortunate final practice session this evening. The Texan had embarked on a race simulation but lost the front end early on, possibly due to a cold front tyre. Spies was unhurt and returned to the garage to continue the session. Unfortunately his second bike then experienced a technical problem, preventing him from continuing.
Position 1st – Time 1.55.302 – Laps 17
“I am very happy with today because we improved a lot on yesterday’s lap time. I’m also happy for Cal in second, the bike seems much better than last year for us. I think we have even more potential for improvement tomorrow. We still have a few issues to solve, especially corner entry, but we manage to keep a good pace. I’m going to try my hardest for qualifying tomorrow and see what we can do.”
Position 11th – Time 1.57.030 – Laps 8
“It was a rough session tonight, we’ve had a good weekend up to now, unfortunately tonight was the most important session for us. I went out to do a race simulation and I think I didn’t let the front tyre heat up properly. I need to check the data to confirm it but I put the blame firmly on myself for it. Unfortunately the second bike just didn’t run right so a wasted session for us.”
Wilco Zeelenberg – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager
“A very good final free practice, the speed is good and we solved some issues from yesterday. We went the wrong way initially then found the right path to go in. We know exactly what we have to do for tomorrow, if the track improves and we can get the corner entry better then we are ready to race.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
“Definitely the third practice didn’t go how we expected. Unfortunately Ben crashed and we couldn’t test a different set up. When he jumped on the second bike it had an electrical problem that didn’t permit us to continue with the session. We tried to fix it but it wasn’t possible within the time so we have missed a session. The guys are going to have a long night to be ready for tomorrow. Ben will push hard in qualifying to get a good position. Jorge did a great job, pushing hard and consistently to set the pace.”
Crutchlow and Dovizioso dazzle under Qatar floodlights
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team riders Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso produced dazzling performances under the spectacular Losail International Circuit floodlights in Qatar tonight to finish practice in second and fourth respectively.
British rider Crutchlow was in sparkling form on the new Yamaha YZR-M1 1000cc machine and a best lap of 1.55.456 came tantalisingly close to claiming top spot in this evening’s third and final free practice session.
The former World Supersport champion was only 0.154s behind 2010 World Champion Jorge Lorenzo on a fantastic night for Yamaha, with three YZR-M1 machines occupying the top four places.
Crutchlow’s brilliant display has given him confidence that he can be in contention for a maiden front row start when qualifying takes place tomorrow night.
Italian Dovizioso also demonstrated the rapid progress he is making in getting the best out of the impressive YZR-M1 machine after he finished third quickest in the earlier second session, which took place in blustery conditions. A lap of 1.56.648 put him in the top three behind Casey Stoner and Lorenzo and he was able to improve his pace by 0.7s as grip levels improved after the strong winds decreased ahead of the third and final session.
Dovizioso ended with a best lap of 1.55.905 to finish fourth quickest and he too will start tomorrow’s all-important qualifying session optimistic that he can battle for a place on the front row of the grid for Sunday night’s season opening 22-lap race.
Position 2nd – Time 1.55.456 – Laps 16
“I’m really happy to be second quickest but I’m not going to get carried away and say I will be on the front row tomorrow night. I think we can certainly be challenging for it but my expectations for the race on Sunday are to be battling for the top six and being closer to the leaders than last year. The start of the session wasn’t that great because we went the wrong way with the chassis setting and once we went back to the previous set-up, I was much more comfortable. At the end I used the soft tyre but I had an old hard compound front on. I was pushing the front but I am really happy with the lap time. I got held up a little bit too on my fastest lap coming out of the last corner by one of the CRT bikes. It just meant I changed from third to fourth gear a bit later than normal and I lost a bit of drive. I’m not going to say that would have put my quickest, but it would have been very close. But to be second and just over one-tenth behind Jorge is great for my confidence. My Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew have done an awesome job, so hopefully we can battling for a similar position tomorrow night in qualifying.”
Position 4th – Time 1.55.905 – Laps 18
“I am really satisfied again with our performance tonight. Each session I go out on the bike my feeling with the Yamaha improves and I am gaining a lot of confidence. Even during a race weekend like this when you don’t have so many laps, we have made some very big improvements and this is very positive. We didn’t make any special changes to the bike but the improvement comes from me having a better understanding of how to use the Yamaha’s potential and now I am really confident for qualifying. Maybe the front row will be difficult but I will be trying my best. I am convinced our times will be faster because the track condition will be better and I know in myself where I can be faster on the track. Tonight was very positive for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team and I’ve no doubt that we will be as fast and competitive in qualifying.”
Combined Free Practice Times
1. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha Factory Racing 1’55.302
2. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Yamaha Tech3 1’55.456
3. Casey Stoner (AUS) Repsol Honda Team 1’55.674
4. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Yamaha Tech3 1’55.905
5. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team 1’56.114
6. Hector Barbera (SPA) Pramac Racing Team 1’56.163
7. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati Team 1’56.402
8. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Ducati Team 1’56.535
9. Stefan Bradl (GER) LCR Honda 1’56.751
10. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Honda Gresini 1’56.771
11. Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha Factory Racing 1’57.030
12. Karel Abraham (CZE) Cardion AB Motoracing 1’57.223
13. Randy De Puniet (FRA) Power Electronics Aspar 1’58.261
14. Colin Edwards (USA) NGM Mobile Forward Racing 1’58.310
15. Michele Pirro (ITA) San Carlo Honda Gresini 1’58.800
16. Yonny Hernandez (COL) Avintia Racing 1’59.087
17. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) Power Electronics Aspar 1’59.169
18. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Came Iodaracing Project 1’59.517
19. Ivan Silva (SPA) Avintia Racing 2’00.035
20. Mattia Pasini (ITA) Speed Master 2’00.226
21. James Ellison (UK) Paul Bird Motorsport 2’00.563
Losail Record Lap
C.Stoner (Ducati) 2008, 1’55.153
Losail Best Lap
J.Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2008, 1’53.927