Under dry but humid conditions, the first free practice of 2015 MotoGP got underway Thursday at Losail International Circuit in Qatar.
Leading the way under the floodlights was two-time defending MotoGP Champion Marc Marquez. The Repsol Honda RC213V pilot, who topped all the preseason tests except for the final one at Qatar, posted a 1:55.281 around the 3.34-mile circuit containing 16 corners.
“Today went pretty well. It is always important to make a good start to the weekend. I felt good and the feeling was similar to that which we had in pre-season testing, although maybe there was a little less grip,” Marquez says. “We tried some things that we had prepared after the test and this went well. Tomorrow we will try to keep progressing, but we can’t forget that the track surface here will improve a lot and the times will come down.”
Marquez was quick, but it wasn’t a runaway time; his teammate Dani Pedrosa followed by a mere 0.076 of a second.
“We have completed the first session of the year and we have done quite well. Now we are going to work on the bike to get ready for the coming days. We need to keep taking steps forward as the weekend goes on and keep improving our pace. The track was in quite good condition and we’ll see how it evolves over the course of the Grand Prix weekend,” Pedrosa says.
These two factory riders were nearly 0.4 of a second ahead of the remaining 23 riders. Third went to new Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro, who trailed Marquez by 0.404 of a second. Piloting the new GSX-RR, Espargaro was able to use a softer tire option, which MotoGP allows as part of the concessions given to factory teams that haven’t won since 2013. This year marks Suzuki’s return to MotoGP. Suzuki last competed in MotoGP in 2011; that year, Suzuki finished the season 13th with Alvaro Bautista at the controls of a GSV-R prototype.
Not too far behind Espargaro was Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo, the two-time MotoGP Champion trailing his fellow Spaniard by a mere 0.013 of a second.
CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow was the quickest satellite rider, the Brit finishing 0.537 of a second off the top time. He was followed 0.001 of a second behind by Pramac Racing Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci, who was running a softer tire option on his Ducati GP14.1.
Though Petrucci had issues with his GP14.1, and had to swap to his backup bike, he was quicker than the factory Ducati Team GP15 piloted by Andrea Dovizoso. The Italian Dovi, who led the final preseason test at Qatar, trailed Petrucci by 0.041 of a second, and was 0.699 of a second off Marquez’s top time.
Rounding out the top 10 were Pramac Racing Ducati’s Yonny Hernandez (-0.858), the final rider to post within a second of Marquez, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YZR-M1 pilot Valentino Rossi (-0.881), and the other Ducati Team pilot, Andrea Iannone (-1.034).
The top Open Class pilot was Athina Forward Racing Yamaha’s Stefan Bradl, who was 1.296 seconds off Marquez’s time. As for the sole American in MotoGP, Aspar Honda’s Nicky Hayden finished 21st, 1.777 seconds behind Marquez.
The riders return to Qatar Friday evening for the second and third free practices ahead of Saturday’s final free practice and qualifying sessions.
2015 Qatar MotoGP Free Practice 1 Results:
|1||93||Marc MARQUEZ||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||343.7||1’55.281|
|2||26||Dani PEDROSA||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||347.3||1’55.357||0.076 / 0.076|
|3||41||Aleix ESPARGARO||SPA||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||Suzuki||328.8||1’55.685||0.404 / 0.328|
|4||99||Jorge LORENZO||SPA||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||338.4||1’55.698||0.417 / 0.013|
|5||35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||GBR||CWM LCR Honda||Honda||340.2||1’55.818||0.537 / 0.120|
|6||9||Danilo PETRUCCI||ITA||Pramac Racing||Ducati||341.2||1’55.939||0.658 / 0.121|
|7||4||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||345.0||1’55.980||0.699 / 0.041|
|8||68||Yonny HERNANDEZ||COL||Pramac Racing||Ducati||343.5||1’56.139||0.858 / 0.159|
|9||46||Valentino ROSSI||ITA||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||338.4||1’56.162||0.881 / 0.023|
|10||29||Andrea IANNONE||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||344.4||1’56.315||1.034 / 0.153|
|11||44||Pol ESPARGARO||SPA||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||344.6||1’56.361||1.080 / 0.046|
|12||45||Scott REDDING||GBR||Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS||Honda||338.1||1’56.374||1.093 / 0.013|
|13||38||Bradley SMITH||GBR||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||343.7||1’56.428||1.147 / 0.054|
|14||6||Stefan BRADL||GER||Athinà Forward Racing||Yamaha Forward||336.2||1’56.577||1.296 / 0.149|
|15||17||Karel ABRAHAM||CZE||AB Motoracing||Honda||334.1||1’56.651||1.370 / 0.074|
|16||15||Alex DE ANGELIS||RSM||Octo IodaRacing Team||ART||326.7||1’56.768||1.487 / 0.117|
|17||25||Maverick VIÑALES||SPA||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||Suzuki||330.6||1’56.922||1.641 / 0.154|
|18||8||Hector BARBERA||SPA||Avintia Racing||Ducati||340.1||1’56.957||1.676 / 0.035|
|19||43||Jack MILLER||AUS||CWM LCR Honda||Honda||338.4||1’56.983||1.702 / 0.026|
|20||76||Loris BAZ||FRA||Athinà Forward Racing||Yamaha Forward||332.9||1’57.031||1.750 / 0.048|
|21||69||Nicky HAYDEN||USA||Aspar MotoGP Team||Honda||331.4||1’57.052||1.771 / 0.021|
|22||19||Alvaro BAUTISTA||SPA||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||331.8||1’57.130||1.849 / 0.078|
|23||50||Eugene LAVERTY||IRL||Aspar MotoGP Team||Honda||336.3||1’57.224||1.943 / 0.094|
|24||63||Mike DI MEGLIO||FRA||Avintia Racing||Ducati||338.4||1’57.612||2.331 / 0.388|
|25||33||Marco MELANDRI||ITA||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||333.6||1’59.579||4.298 / 1.967|