The opening round of the 2013 MotoGP Championship began this evening at the Losail Circuit in Qatar. The first free practice wound up with Yamaha leading the class and dominating the top of the time sheets. Reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo was quick to find a set up on his YZR-M1 and spent the session challenging within the top few positions. As the track conditions improved in the last ten minutes so did the times, the Mallorcan taking the top spot in the last two minutes and increasing speed again to finish with an impressive 1’56.685.
Teammate Valentino Rossi’s first race weekend back on the YZR-M1 began in style this evening, the Italian nine-time MotoGP Champion took almost immediate possession of the number one spot on the timesheets and was only rarely troubled there throughout the session. Only teammate Lorenzo and fellow Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow were able to contend for the fastest time, with all three ending the session within one tenth of a second from each other.
Jorge Lorenzo – 1st, Time – 1’56.685
“It’s a very good way to start the season, on top. To have three Yamahas in the first three positions like in Jerez means this track can be positive for us. We need to improve though because the other guys will come in the next practice. We’ll make the step little by little by riding, improving the bike and also the track will improve. Today we tried both bikes and tomorrow we will try the new chassis here.”
Valentino Rossi – 3rd, Time – 1’56.756
“The first practice was very positive for us, we are in third position and we are very close to Jorge. Our pace was ok, especially because I used just one set of tyres to understand if I could be fast with a lot of laps. The setting and balance of the bike is good so it looks like we can be competitive.”
Wilco Zeelenberg – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager –
“Our position is good, especially as the track is quite tricky and dirty, off line it’s quite slippery, but that’s normal here. To be on top and see the competitors struggling a little is good. It’s not what we want to be just yet but we have to be satisfied in first position.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
“It’s a good beginning and the bike is working very well. This circuit is really suits the YZR-M1. To see both riders consistently leading the practices means something positive. Well check the data now and make some small adjustments and see where we can go. The start has been good!”
Crutchlow stars on opening night in Qatar
The 2013 MotoGP World Championship roared into action tonight, with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Cal Crutchlow one of the leading lights in the season’s opening practice session at the floodlit Losail International Circuit in Qatar. The British rider was immediately battling for the top three in a session run in warm but windy conditions, which meant grip levels were far from ideal with sand and dust being blown onto the 5. 38km track surface from the surrounding desert landscape. An indication of how tricky track conditions were was reflected on the timesheets, with Crutchlow’s best pace of 1.56.743 some way off the fastest race lap set by Casey Stoner in 2012 of 1.55.541. Full of confidence after setting the quickest time during last month’s final pre-season test session at the Jerez track in Spain, Crutchlow continued his impressively fast form tonight to help Yamaha take a clean sweep of the top three in the 45-minute session. A 1.57.795 put him inside the top three and he was able to improve his pace by over a second to keep nine-times World Champion Valentino Rossi at bay and secure a stunning second position behind current title holder Jorge Lorenzo.
Tonight’s session saw Bradley Smith make his competitive debut for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team, the British rider making solid progress throughout the session and finished just outside of the top 10 on an encouraging opening night. The British rider dedicated the majority of his time on track to learning lines and braking markers on the YZR-M1 machine, which has never ridden at the Losail International Circuit. Smith completed 18 laps and gaining confidence throughout he ended the session with a best pace of 1.58.369 that put him on the brink of the top 10 in 11th and ahead of Andrea Iannone and Ben Spies.
Crutchlow and Smith will continue their preparations for the unique night race tomorrow evening when two further practice sessions are held under the spectacular Losail International Circuit floodlights.
Cal Crutchlow – 2nd, Time – 1’56.743
“It was a very good first session on a personal level with me finishing second and also for Yamaha with a clean sweep of the top three. As is always the case on the first night in Qatar the track was quite dirty, particularly off the racing line. Even on the racing line it was quite slippery but I am happy to be right in the mix from the start. We need to make some changes to the bike for tomorrow because I felt we had too much weight transfer on braking and acceleration but I’ve got to be happy to finish in second and ending up in between Jorge and Valentino. Second place is great but I am not reading too much into it. As the track conditions improve some of the rest will get faster and it is still going to be very tough to be on the podium. I am looking forward to the race and being so competitive from the sta rt certainly gives my confidence another lift and helps me carry on the momentum gained in testing.”
Bradley Smith – 11th, Time – 1’58.368
“I’m really happy with my performance in my very first practice session in MotoGP. It’s nice just to get rid of the initial nerves and tension that has been building up as you get ready for the beginning of the season. With such little time on track in 45 minutes we didn’t tweak the bike too much. I just wanted to get familiar with the track because the lines and braking points are completely different to what I am used to in Moto2. Being on track with the rest of the field at the same time helps because I can pick up some pointers and I’ll watch a video of the session again to understand where I can improve and be faster for FP2 and FP3, where it will be important to finish in the top 10 for the new qualifying format. I’m satisfied with my posit ion though and I am not a million miles behind Nicky and 1.6s off the best pace is the closest I have been since I first rode this bike, so that shows I am moving in the right direction.”
Qatar Free Practice 1 Times:
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.