RAAJIV TRIPATHI DOHA REIGNING double world champion Jorge Lorenzo, after having lost two free practice sessions to compatriot and rising rookie star Marc Marquez, scorched the Losail International Circuit track to become the winner of the first new qualifying format.
The Yahama star will now start the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar from the pole position on Sunday at 10 pm.
Even when the 12 fastest riders began the chase for the coveted top spot in the 15- minute second qualifying spell, Lorenzo fell behind Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow, the quickest in the fourth free practice, and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa. But off the sixth of his seven laps, Lorenzo stormed around the track to clock 1:54.714 and beat the British rider by about two tenths of a second.
Lorenzo commented after the thrilling shoot-out. “I’m really happy, for three or four laps we pushed to the limit. I knew Cal was really fast over one lap so I had to push to the maximum. I’m very happy with this pole position. The important thing is that the Yamaha works here at this track. I think for the first time of the new qualifying format it has been very positive and for the fans it is very good to watch.
“For the riders you are a little more nervous and you have less time to make a fast lap. I knew I was competitive but the ten minutes before the qualifying we had some problems with the set up of the bike so it was more difficult to make the time. We had to change to yesterday’s setting.
The important thing is to make a good start tomorrow.
The last simulations I made were better than yesterday so I’m quite confident for the start. If there are problems in the first laps we have to be patient and wait for the middle of the race.” Crutchlow, one of the only two riders who dipped in under-1:55, set his sizzling lap of 1:54.916 in his very third visit and stayed into the lead till the dying minutes of the session. He produced another sub-1:55 lap in the sixth – 1:54.964 – to be show that he is more than ready for the opening race tomorrow.
Pedrosa, who used the fourth FP to find a better setup, displayed the pace that he needed to challenge the Spanish rival Lorenzo. He completed the front row, with the third quickest time of 1:55.151, which was only 0.437s off Lorenzo’s flying lap. Andrea Dovizioso was the fastest Ducati rider and will start the second row. He clocked 1:55.160 in the sixth of his seven-lap attempt.
Pedrosa was happy with his front row start: “Today we were able to improve a lot and take a front row start for tomorrow. It is important to start high up the grid whenever you can, because there are some very fast riders up against us. We still need to improve a few things with the bike and I hope that we can have a good race. The key will be to choose a good tyre compound and find a strong pace” Stefan Bradl of LCR Honda MotoGP edged the rising rookie Marc Marquez to take the fifth spot. But Marquez may be happy that he is ahead of seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi, who will be at the head of the third row.
Alvaro Bautista placed his Honda at the eighth spot and Bradley Smith rounded off the third row.
The fourth row will be started by Andrea Iannone, who qualified from the Q1.
His time 1:56;523 was 0.144s faster than factory Ducati rider and former world champion Nicky Hayden. Aleix Espargaro will be at the 12th spot.
The most surprising rider to miss the Q2 was former world superbike champion Ben Spies, who will be at the end of the fifth row.
Espargaro claims Moto2 pole Pol Espargaro’s first pole in the opening 2013 season Moto2 qualifying race came after a bit nasty crash. The Tuenti HP 40 rider recovered from the fall bravely and returned to lead the front row with Italtrans Racing Team’s Takaaki Nakagami and Marc VDS Racing Team’s Mika Kallio.
Scott Redding of Marc VDS took the fourth place. The row 2 is completed by Technomag carXpert’s Dominique Aegerter and second Italtrans rider Julian Simón.
Nico Terol will start seventh for Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2, making up the third row with Tuenti’s Esteve Rabat and Desguaces La Torre SAG’s Marcel Schrotter.
The first Moto2 race will take place at 8.20 pm on Sunday.
Salom on Moto3 pole Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Luis Salom confirmed his domination of the race build up and will lead an all-Spanish front row for the first Moto3 race of the new season. He topped the qualifying session ahead of Team Calvo’s Maverick Vinales and Estrella Galicia 00’s Álex Rins. On the second row will be Jonas Folger, Miguel Oliveira and Alan Techer.
The race is scheduled at 7 pm on Sunday.