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2014 Qatar: Honda MotoGP Qualifying Grand Prix of Qatar, Losail
Posted by: newsla on Mar 23, 2014 - 06:01 AM
2014 Qatar: Honda MotoGP Qualifying Grand Prix of Qatar, Losail

Weather: Dry
Temperature: Air 21 degrees C / Track 18 degrees C


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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 fifth.

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.

Honda MotoGP rider quotes

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda: pole position, 1m 54.507s
“I’m really happy: this pole position is a special one for me, because after coming back from injury it gives me a boost in confidence. In any case, we know that tomorrow is the day that counts, and it’s in the race that points are decided, so we have to be very focused. It’s going to be very tough for me physically, because I don’t have much strength in my leg, and I have to compensate with my right arm. We are happy with how today went, and seem to have found a good set-up, with just a few details still to refine in warm-up. It will be difficult, because many riders have a pace within a tenth of one another, but we shall try to have a good race.”

Alvaro Bautista, FUN&GO Honda Gresini: second, 1m 54.564s
“For me this second place feels like pole position, because I have always struggled at this circuit in the past. Instead this weekend I have always felt comfortable with the bike, closing each session in the top positions, which means we have worked very well in winter testing. Too bad to have lost pole, but in the end Marquez was able to go faster. Tomorrow I expect a very tough race, but also very interesting: there are many riders on the same pace. It will be important to start from the front row. I hope to continue enjoying myself as so far … I will try to stay in the leading group, and to get a podium finish.”

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda: sixth, 1m 54.703s
“The qualifying session was really closely contested today – especially in the final laps. Looking at things objectively, we have a good pace and were able to set a fast lap in the session, even though in the end we were sixth by a really narrow margin. We’re going to continue to be positive, to believe in the work we have been doing so far this weekend, and tomorrow we’ll give everything that we have to do well in the first race of the season.”

Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP: seventh, 1m 54.871s
“We improved the gap to the guys at the front, and this is quite positive. It was a very close qualifying, with many riders on the same pace. Our target was the second row, but seventh place is good anyway, and the good thing is we are not too far from the top. Considering the new rules and the actual situation with Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa at the same pace as me, I think it will be an exciting race with many riders in a big group. It’s hard to make a prediction.”

Nicky Hayden, Drive M7 Aspar Honda: 13th, 1m 55.894s
“I didn’t expect to get down to the 1’55s without a tow, especially with the problems we’ve had with corner exit in the fourth section … but it still wasn’t enough to get into Q2! I’d like to be starting the season from a better position on the grid, but considering how new everything is for us we have to be satisfied, and we have to keep working to improve. It will be a tough race. I’ll try to get a good start and keep up a fast and consistent pace for 22 laps. I haven’t been focused on the other riders at all, so the first few laps should be interesting. Hopefully we can learn plenty and gather lots of useful data to help us in the future with the new Honda RCV1000R.”

Hiroshi Aoyama, Drive M7 Aspar Honda: 15th, 1m 56.479
“From yesterday we changed some things on the bike and now I feel more comfortable in the corners … this was our goal. In qualifying I put in a fresh tyre and was surprised by such good grip at the rear. I could make a good second lap, and I expected even better on my third lap … but unfortunately the chequered flag was out. We made good progress here. We are considering using the softer tyre for the race, if I can manage it to the end.”

Scott Redding, FUN&GO Honda Gresini: 16th, 1m 56.555s
“I am satisfied with the improvements shown today, but unfortunately I was slowed down by a problem with the electronics just as I was getting busy in the qualifying session. When I entered the track, I felt that something was wrong: the engine kept cutting the power. I came back to the pits to try to solve the problem, but it was still there in my second exit, so I got on the second bike, but unfortunately there was time only for one attempt. However I’m happy because I found myself even better with the second bike, which I will ride again tomorrow in the warm up. We will also try to figure out which tyre we can use for the race. It would be nice to get some points tomorrow.”

Karel Abraham, Cardion AB Motoracing Honda: 18th, 1m 56.715
“Yesterday we had some problems with both tyres, the rear sliding. Today for free practice we had a couple of different settings on the two bikes, and we chose one of the options for qualifying. It started out very good: I managed to make my best time so far on my first flying lap. Unfortunately after that there were some crashes that slowed me down, and then I lost some time restarting the engine after stopping in the box. Then I had to go round a slower rider, which spoiled my next good lap … and then it was too late to improve.”

Moto2 rider quotes

Tito Rabat, Marc VDS Racing Team: pole position, 2m 00.081
“I’m happy to be on pole position for the first race, and in my first weekend with my new team. We were missing rear grip in the first free practice sessions, but we worked together on the problem and improved the situation, which is important. It was enough to see me on pole position for the first race, which is a good feeling, but the work isn’t done. Tomorrow we need to see how we go in warm-up before making a decision on our strategy for the race.”

Sandro Cortese, Dynavolt Intact GP Team: second, 2m 00.101
TEAM MANAGER Jurgen Lingg: “Sandro has a small fracture in the left leg. It is not so serious – just a small crack. The problem is he also has an open wound. We will build up a new bike for tomorrow … even the engine was broken. We will see if he has too much pain tomorrow, but at least we want to try, though I think it will be very difficult.”

Takaaki Nakagami, Idemitsu Honda Team: third, 2m 00.451
“The qualifying was really good. A little big difficult with the wind, but again we made a good step forward. The machine was feeling great: Honda has really upped its game, with Hondas in the first two places … so the bike is really good. I’m feeling comfortable. All weekend I’ve been in the top ten and better every session. Once you start going well, you just want more.”

Honda Moto3 Rider quotes

Alex Rins, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda, pole position, 2m 05.973
“This is the first pole of the year, and it’s special because we are coming from a very difficult pre-season. We’ve all worked hard, especially HRC, so I want to say thank you. It was quite windy on the straight today and I was alone. If I’d had someone in front of me for reference, it would have helped, but it didn’t happen so I am even happier with the result, having done it alone. Now I just have to wait for the race tomorrow. I think it will be difficult. There will surely be a group of six or seven at the front, and it will be hard to get away. I think the race is going to be decided in the last three laps.”

Alex Marquez, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda, second, 2m 06.125
“I think we’ve made a good position. We solved some problems we had yesterday but still have to improve some other things during the warm-up tomorrow. I’m happy with how the bike feels, and I see that the pace is good. This is important, because the race is where things spread out. We are happy because we are starting from the front row for the first race, and qualifying is never easy for me. Tomorrow we’ll give the maximum to try to fight for the podium.”

John McPhee, Saxoprint-RTG Honda, seventh, 2m 07.113
“The qualifying was really good. A little bit difficult with the wind, but again we made a good step forward. The machine was feeling great: Honda has really upped its game, with Hondas in the first two places … so the bike is really good. I’m feeling comfortable. All weekend I’ve been in the top ten and better every session. Once you start going well, you just want more.”

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