The skeptics who questioned Ducati’s new GP15 have been hushed. Though Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez was the dominate rider in free practice for the 2015 MotoGP season opener in Qatar, Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso found something extra during Saturday’s qualifying.
The Italian – piloting the new GP15 that was developed under Ducati’s new General Manager Luigi Dall’Igna – used medium Bridgestone slicks throughout free practice, leading the final session. But during qualifying under the floodlights at Losail International Circuit, he and teammate Andrea Iannone switched to the softer tire option.
This allowed Dovi to post a quickest time of 1:54.113 during lap five of the 15-minute qualifying session. He qualified 0.217 of a second ahead of Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, and 0.324 of a second ahead of two-time defending MotoGP Champion Marquez.
This was Dovizioso’s third-career MotoGP pole position, and also the third for Ducati since 2010. Dovi took placed the Ducati on the pole at Motegi last season, which was the first time Ducati earned the top-qualifying spot since Valencia in 2010 (Casey Stoner).
Speaking after qualifying, Dovizioso said “I am very pleased because today’s pole position is the result of the work of an entire team of people: after two years in which we have suffered, finally we have succeeded in making a really competitive bike, and to be honest I did not think that we would be immediately so fast with the GP15.
“We worked really well during all the tests, even though we did not have much time available to develop the new bike. With the soft tyre, we managed to set a really awesome time, but even in the fourth free practice session with the medium tyre the feeling with the GP15 was something special, so I’m confident and I think that tomorrow we can fight for the podium. I want to thank Ducati and all the engineers who worked day and night in Bologna to get the bike ready for the Sepang 2 test, and I hope that I have been able to repay them with today’s pole position.”
Marquez said it’ll be tough keeping up with the Ducati’s pace come Sunday’s 22-lap race at the 3.34-mile Qatar circuit: “Our objective was to get onto the front row and we succeeded, so I’m happy. Of course, you always want to do more, and I would have liked to have set a better lap, but we have a good setup for tomorrow and a good pace, which is the most important thing. It will be difficult to keep up with Andrea [Dovizioso] because, besides a fast one-off lap, he also has good race pace. We will try to ride our own race and fight for the win.”
Starting on top of the second row is Iannone, who was 0.408 of a second off his teammate’s pace. Iannone will be joined on row two by Pramac Racing Ducati’s Yonny Hernandez (-0.562 of a second) – making for three Ducatis in the top five – and two-time MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo on the Yamaha YZR-M1 (-0.598 of a second).
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith qualified in seventh, 0.618 of a second off the pace. Smith was followed by Lorenzo’s teammate Valentino Rossi (+0.738 of a second), and Pramac Racing Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci (-0.763 of a second).
Qualifying on round four were Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Pol Espargaro, and two riders who were quick throughout free practice – Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro and CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow. The Brit Crutchlow was likely capable of faster lap times, but he crashed out on turn 14 during qualifying, ending any further opportunities.
As for the sole American in 2015 MotoGP, Aspar MotoGP Team’s Nicky Hayden qualified 17th. The new Aprilia Gresini Team continued its struggles as it uses 2015 MotoGP as testing grounds for 2016 – Alvaro Bautista qualified 21st, and Marco Melandri dead last in 25th.
The opening round of 2015 MotoGP gets underway under the floodlights at 9 p.m. local time Sunday. Fox Sports 2 will provide delayed coverage of Qatar MotoGP at 2 p.m. ET Sunday.
2015 MotoGP Qualifying Results:
|1||4||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||337.3||1’54.113|
|2||26||Dani PEDROSA||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||340.1||1’54.330||0.217 / 0.217|
|3||93||Marc MARQUEZ||SPA||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||339.9||1’54.437||0.324 / 0.107|
|4||29||Andrea IANNONE||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||339.0||1’54.521||0.408 / 0.084|
|5||68||Yonny HERNANDEZ||COL||Pramac Racing||Ducati||346.4||1’54.675||0.562 / 0.154|
|6||99||Jorge LORENZO||SPA||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||332.0||1’54.711||0.598 / 0.036|
|7||38||Bradley SMITH||GBR||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||337.2||1’54.732||0.619 / 0.021|
|8||46||Valentino ROSSI||ITA||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||333.4||1’54.851||0.738 / 0.119|
|9||9||Danilo PETRUCCI||ITA||Pramac Racing||Ducati||342.7||1’54.876||0.763 / 0.025|
|10||44||Pol ESPARGARO||SPA||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||335.4||1’55.004||0.891 / 0.128|
|11||41||Aleix ESPARGARO||SPA||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||Suzuki||327.4||1’55.035||0.922 / 0.031|
|12||35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||GBR||CWM LCR Honda||Honda||335.2||1’55.123||1.010 / 0.088|