Qatar MotoGP: Lorenzo Leads Friday FP

2012 Qatar MotoGP

When the 21-rider MotoGP grid returned to Losail International Circuit in Qatar Friday for the second free practice session, all eyes were on Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner.

The Australian, who led Thursday’s FP1 session, began another storming pace during FP2, placing his Honda RC213V on top once again. And just as in FP1, Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo was right behind the reigning Champion.

But when the third and final free practice session (FP3) ended Thursday, Lorenzo found something a bit extra in the setup of the YZR-M1, and took the top time.

The 2010 MotoGP Champion ended the session with a best lap of 1:55.302 on softer Bridgestone tires, a compound the Spaniard will likely use in qualifying.

Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: “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.”

And it wasn’t Stoner who took the second-fastest time, but rather another Yamaha – the satellite Monster Tech 3 YZR-M1 of Cal Crutchlow. The Brit, a former World Supersport Champion, trailed Lorenzo by 0.154 of a second.

Cal Crutchlow (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: “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 tire 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.”

As for Stoner, he ended up third with a 1:55.674, although he reportedly encountered much on-track traffic during the end of the 45-minute session, which slowed his progress.

Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC213V MotoGP) says: “Today has been pretty good for us in general, we has some issues in the first two sessions but we’ve fixed them slightly in last one which is definitely positive. We’ve been able to turn down the electronics a lot more and now I have more feeling and connection with the rear tire which gave me a lot more confidence.

“This allowed me to do some good lap times with some pretty old tyres. A few people got in our way throughout the session so we were unable to show what we were really capable of, but we know how we feel and we’re confident for qualifying tomorrow.”

Crutchlow’s teammate, former Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso, took the fourth-fastest time, and was the final rider to post under the 1:56 mark. He was followed by Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, who suffered a hard crash in FP2; Pedrosa trailed Lorenzo by 0.812 of a second.

The fastest Ducati on the grid was Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera, the last rider to post within a second of Lorenzo.

Following Barbera was the Ducati Team duo of Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi, respectively. The nine-time World Champion Rossi was 1.233 seconds of Lorenzo.

Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team GP12 MotoGP) says: “Today went pretty well, and I’d say that the last session was the best. The position is nothing fantastic, but on the positive side, I’m very consistent with the hard tire.

“The front of the bike is giving more feedback, so I can push more, which is very important, and the bike is very fast at the end of the straight. The understeer is still there, but now I think we have a place from which to work. We hope to improve two or three small things with the setting for tomorrow, and we’ll try to qualify on the second row.”

Rounding out the top 10 were the rookie Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) and alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini).

As for Yamaha Factory’s Ben Spies, he suffered a crash 10 minutes into FP3, and then had technical issues with his second YZR-M1. Spies, who was quick throughout the first two sessions, only completed eight laps, finishing 11th.

Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar) was again the quickest CRT rider in 13th, although the Frenchman had a fall at the very end of the session which left him limping away from his Aprilia machine. NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards, on a BMW-powered Suter, kept the competition with De Puniet close at just 0.049s off his rival, MotoGP says.

The riders will return to Qatar Saturday evening for qualifying ahead of Sunday’s race.

2012 Qatar MotoGP Free Practice 2 & 3 Combined 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