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Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Take Fourth and Fifth Row in Tricky Phillip Island Qualifying

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Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo did what was needed in the first qualifying session today at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit and positioned himself in the top two. He was determined to continue his speed during the Q2 session, but was unable to get a feel for the rapidly drying track conditions and secured 12th position. Teammate Valentino Rossi came just short to proceed to qualifying two and will start tomorrow’s Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix from 15th on the grid.

After Friday’s downpour at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit saw the majority of FP2 canceled, the mixed weather conditions continued to haunt the MotoGP paddock, further disrupting the Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix schedule.

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi aimed to battle their way through Q1 to enter Q2 after finishing outside the top10 in the challenging conditions of this morning’s extended FP3 session.

Lorenzo had a relatively easy pass through Q1 in order to promote to Q2. Waiting for the majority of the field to exit pit lane ahead of him, he immediately moved up to second on his first flying lap. When the pace picked up he was pushed back to third and returned to the box with more than six minutes remaining.

When the Mallorcan resumed his attack he was sitting in sixth position and set a 1’41.593s for fifth place, but he wasn’t done yet. The Factory Yamaha rider put the hammer down once more and set a strong 1’40.452s for second place, which he held until the end of the session.

With heavy rain predicted for 16:15 local time, in the middle of Q2, Lorenzo didn’t waste a minute at the start of the second session to get a flying lap in. Getting a feel for the now drying track, he set a first lap of 1’40.350s for ninth place, which he soon replaced with a 1’37.833s best lap, but was pushed back to 11th place as the pace quickened.

With more than seven and a half minutes left of the session he came in for a short pit stop before having another go. However, unable to get a feel for the conditions, he had to settle for 12th place, on the fourth row on the grid, with a best time of 1’36.840s.

In Q1, Rossi waited for the first group of riders to get out on track before he left pit lane and took third place on his first flying lap. He improved on his time but not his position on his second attempt, but his charge was far from over. On his third try he successfully took over second spot from his teammate, dropping a 1’41.368s. He completed another lap, while fellow Yamaha rider Bradley Smith pushed him back one place, before quickly returning to the pits with less than four minutes on the clock for a fast rear tyre swap.

Rossi was eager to improve on his second stint, but had only time to put in one more lap and was unable to better his placement in the rankings. He will start tomorrow’s race from fifth row on the grid.

Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director

“The conditions were really unfavourable today. The changing circumstances on track made it difficult to get heat into the tyres to improve the level of grip, so it was easy for the riders to be caught out. Jorge did well during the first qualifying session and kept his head to secure exactly the result he needed. It was a shame that he couldn’t get a feel for the drying circuit in Q2. Valentino had a good first run in Q1, but when he opted for a new tyre combination to accommodate the drying line for his second stint he just ran out of time to make it work. Tomorrow we hope for either a full dry or a full wet race.”

Jorge Lorenzo
12th / 1’36.840 / 9 laps

“We’ve reached the second qualifying luckily, because some of the riders put in the mixed tyres when the track wasn’t ready yet. That’s why we were able to finish in second and get through to Q2, but in that session with the slicks was probably the worst scenario to try to make the step I needed in these difficult and dangerous conditions. We’ve not been lucky with the weather; too much rain, then no rain, there was wind and it’s been very cold. Considering all negative circumstances today it was not possible for me to be fast.”

Valentino Rossi
15th / 1’41.368 / 8 laps

“It was a very strange day when it comes to the conditions, because they changed continuously and unfortunately we were never strong starting from this morning. We are a little bit worried because, though we know in these conditions it is difficult for everybody, I never felt the right feeling on the wet and the dry. Yesterday morning we started quite well, but today we had some problems so we start towards the back of the grid. We hope for better conditions because it looks like with our bike we suffer a bit. It depends very much on the pace what happens tomorrow, it looks like when it is very cold we struggle to get the tyres up to temperature and the bike becomes very difficult to ride. Starting from fifteenth is a problem for sure, if you want to try to win it is quite impossible, but if you are fast you can do a good race. So this is what we have to try.”

Espargaro to kick off Australian GP from the front row after shining in qualifying

Monster Yamaha Tech3 team rider Pol Espargaro will start the Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix from the front row of the grid after storming to third in qualifying today. The Spaniard got straight to work in the hour-long morning session, which was extended due to yesterday’s second practice being cut short because of the bad weather. Today, rain fell again midway through FP3 but Espargaro impressively went on to speed to 4th by the time the chequered flag fell. Then, in Q2, he leapt into life with his sights set on clinching a strong qualifying placement. After changing to slick tyres halfway through the session, he returned to the track and pushed on before eventually posting his personal best on his last lap in what was a nail-biting finish. His efforts saw him seize 3rd which marks his second front row qualifying result in the premier class and his first since Le Mans, 2014. Tomorrow the 25-year-old, who will begin the race as the leading Yamaha rider, will seek to take advantage of his notable grid position to claim the top independent rider honours.

On the other hand, Bradley Smith produced a brave effort to seal a fifth-row start for the round 16 fight tomorrow, which will be his 100th Grand Prix with the Tech3 Racing team. The 25-year-old commenced the day by battling against the mixed conditions in FP3, which he completed in 16th as the inconsistent rain continued to fall. Then, after positively building up to qualifying one by finishing FP4 in 9th, he got straight into gear when the 15-minute session got underway. Smith set a rapid time on his third lap whilst riding with wet tyres which left him inside the top two qualifying slots to get into Q2. However, after changing to intermediates, he was pushing to improve his time in the final moments of the session, but he unfortunately fell at turn 8. Luckily, the British star did not damage his already injured knee any further and now he confidently seeks to compete for the best possible result in tomorrow’s race.

Pol Espargaro
3rd / 1’31.107 / 9 laps

“I am very happy with the qualifying result and it is a great feeling, but also a little bit strange to know that I will start on the front row! This weekend has not been easy with regards to the weather, but we always have to expect it to be like this here at Phillip Island. However, in qualifying, we were lucky because it didn’t rain and we were fast straight away. For sure, it’s risky to go out on slicks whilst the sky is dark and it looks like it could rain at any moment, but at the end of the day, we made the right choice at the right time and we got the front row. Of course, this does not mean that we will automatically finish in the top five tomorrow and I expect a tough fight, but today’s result is positive for us, the team and the sponsors. We did a good job and now we will have to see what we can do in the dry conditions tomorrow. We have only ridden a handful of laps in the dry, so it is really useful that the warm up has been extended, but anyway, I am delighted with today’s performance and I look forward to the race.”

Bradley Smith
14th / 1’41.129 / 4 laps

“Today was another tricky day with the weather but the team did a great job and I did my best. I had a good feeling in the wet conditions during FP4 and also for the initial part of QP1. I felt comfortable and I decided to gamble as I thought that the intermediate tyres were the right ones to use in the final stages of qualifying one. Yet, unfortunately, because the clock was ticking down and due to the adrenalin also, I pushed a bit too hard on my out lap and crashed at turn 8. Luckily, I am ok, but I am disappointed that I made an error like that. Nevertheless, I am happy that I took the risk with the tyres because I knew there was a good chance that I could get into Q2. On the grid, I will be surrounded by fast riders so of course, they will be moving forward when the race starts and I hope to join them. We will try to make the best setting that we can in the next 24 hours in order to be as ready as possible because this race will be tough due to the lack of dry track time in the practice sessions. However, we will gain some information this afternoon, and I will also have a look at my teammate’s data who did a good job to get onto the front row.”