MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix 2014
Reigning World Champion Marc Marquez bounced back from pre-season injury to make the perfect start to his second season in the premier class, claiming a dramatic last-gasp pole position for tomorrow’s Qatar GP under floodlights in the desert night.
The 21-year-old Repsol Honda RC213V rider, who became the youngest ever MotoGP World Champion last year at his first attempt, waited until 20 seconds before the fall of the flag to start his crucial flying lap. Skittering around the brightly lit Losail circuit, he ousted satellite GO&FUN Honda Gresini rider and fellow-Spaniard, Alvaro Bautista, from a maiden pole position by less than six hundredths of a second. Bradley Smith (Yamaha) will complete the front row of the grid.
Second Repsol Honda RC213V rider Dani Pedrosa will start the opening round of the 2014 MotoGP season from the second row of the grid, placed sixth. Marquez’s title rival last year, Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), qualified seventh.
Marquez’s race-one pole comes in a remarkable return from injury. He fractured his right fibula (shin bone) in a training crash, missed the last two of three pre-season tests, and had not ridden a motorcycle for six weeks when he got back onto his Repsol machine on Thursday for the first free practice.
He has regained strength and confidence in every session, but still had some reservations about the strength of his leg over full race distance.
The former 125cc and Moto2 World Champion took six race wins in his remarkable debut season last year, breaking every “youngest-ever” record in the book.
Pedrosa’s second-row start means he will need to use all his legendary off-the-line skills tomorrow to make sure he gets away with the leaders. Hard work and steady progress through pre-season tests and the practice and qualifying sessions for the first race have given him confidence for when the chips are down in race conditions.
Pedrosa finished third overall last year, in another season when injury and misfortune blunted his title challenge. Now in his ninth season with the factory Repsol Honda team, he is starting out in top physical and mental condition.
Bautista’s last-minute loss of a first-ever pole position was not enough to erase his smile, after strong performances through all the practice session. The Spanish former 125cc World Champion has a special role on the satellite Honda RC213V, with exclusive use of Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, acting as race-development rider for the Japanese ancillaries, made by companies with strong links with Honda.
Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda RC213V) was seventh, leading the third row of the grid. The only German rider in the premier class, he is aiming to improve on his seventh championship position last year, after a freak late-season injury spoiled his momentum.
Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R rider Nicky Hayden was the fastest of the four new production-racer Hondas, built for the “Open” category for independent teams. The 2006 Honda World Champion narrowly missed out on joining the top 12 for the “senior” Qualifying 2 session, placing 13th, two places ahead of team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama.
Class rookie Scott Redding (GO&FUN Honda Gresini Honda RCV1000R) was 16th at his first attempt, less than one tenth slower than Aoyama; and Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing Honda RCV1000R) was 18th on the 23-strong grid.
In the Moto2 class, Tito Rabat smashed the Losail circuit’s absolute lap record in a strong qualifying performance to claim the first pole of the year. Now riding the Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex, the Spaniard was third overall last year, with the top two in the title having moved on to MotoGP.
Rabat’s scorching lap put him just two hundredths ahead of former Moto3 champion Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex), with Japan’s Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia Kalex) completing the front row of the grid.
World Supersport Champion Sam Lowes (Speed Up Team), in his grand prix debut, was an impressive fifth behind former 125 champion Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Suter); with Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) sixth to complete row two.
Cortese crashed late in the session, and Kallio was sent flying when he struck the fallen bike. Kallio escaped serious injury, but Cortese suffered a small left leg fracture and a flesh wound, making him a doubtful starter tomorrow.
Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Suter rider Xavier Simeon was seventh to lead row three, from veteran Alex de Angelis (Tasca Racing Moto2 Suter) and France’s Johann Zarco, riding the new AirAsia Caterham-Suter completed row three.
Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing Forward-KLX) completed the top ten; Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert Suter) was 11th; Moto3 champion Maverick Vinales 14th in his Moto2 debut with the 2013 title-winning Pons HP 40 Kalex team.
Moto2 is exclusively powered by identical race-tuned Honda CBR600 engines provided by the organisers, guaranteeing close and reliable racing. Different chassis designs and set-up choices are all the riders have to find any margin.
The new Honda RS250FW Moto3 contender made a dream debut at Qatar, claiming the first two qualifying positions at a new record speed. Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda team-mates Alex Rins and Alex Marquez finished the session in that order, with Rins the first Moto3 rider to get under the 2’06-minute barrier, in the closing stages.
Marquez was less than two tenths slower, and a similar distance ahead of third-fastest Jack Miller (KTM).
A mammoth battle for the next two rows in the closing stages of qualifying saw John McPhee (SaxoPrint-RTG Honda) claim a career-best seventh. The next-best Honda rider was Ongetta-Rivacold Honda’s Alexis Masbou, in 14th, fighting back after crashing early in the session on the dusty track. Second SaxoPrint-RTG Honda rider Efren Vazquez was 15th, and Ongetta AirAsia Honda’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin 23rd.
|1||Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team)||F|
|2||Alvaro Bautista (GO & FUN Honda Gresini)||F|
|3||Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)||F|
|4||Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team)||O|
|5||Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)||F|
|6||Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team)||F|
|7||Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP)||F|
|8||Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team)||O|
|9||Aleix Espargaro (NGM Forward Racing)||O|
|10||Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)||O|
|11||Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing)||O|
|12||Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)||F|
|13||Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar)||O|
|14||Colin Edwards (NGM Forward Racing)||O|
|15||Hiroshi Aoyama (Drive M7 Aspar)||O|
* F=Factory option, O=Open category
|1||Esteve RABAT (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|2||Sandro CORTESE (Dynavolt Intact GP)|
|3||Takaaki NAKAGAMI (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)|
|4||Thomas LUTHI (Interwetten Paddock Moto2)|
|5||Sam LOWES (Speed Up)|
|6||Mika KALLIO (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|7||Xavier SIMEON (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2)|
|8||Alex DE ANGELIS (Tasca Racing Moto2)|
|9||Johann ZARCO (AirAsia Caterham Moto Racing)|
|10||Simone CORSI (NGM Forward Racing)|
|11||Dominique AEGERTER (Technomag carXpert)|
|12||Mattia PASINI (NGM Forward Racing)|
|13||Marcel SCHROTTER (Tech 3)|
|14||Maverick VIÑALES (Pons HP 40)|
|15||Jonas FOLGER (AGR Team)|
|1||Alex RINS (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|2||Alex MARQUEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|3||Jack MILLER (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|4||Jakub KORNFEIL (Calvo Team)|
|5||Isaac VIÑALES (Calvo Team)|
|6||Danny KENT (Red Bull Husqvarna Ajo)|
|7||John MCPHEE (SaxoPrint-RTG)|
|8||Romano FENATI (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|9||Niccolò ANTONELLI (Junior Team GO&FUN Moto3)|
|10||Francesco BAGNAIA (SKY Racing Team VR46)|
|11||Miguel OLIVEIRA (Mahindra Racing)|
|12||Eric GRANADO (Calvo Team)|
|13||Juanfran GUEVARA (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3)|
|14||Alexis MASBOU (Ongetta-Rivacold)|
|15||Efren VAZQUEZ (SaxoPrint-RTG)|