MotoGP riders pose for a photograph during a photo session before the free practice at the Losail International Circuit in Doha, yesterday. The 2014 MotoGP World Championship season’s first race will be held at Losail International Circuit on Sunday.
DOHA: Spanish MotoGP star Aleix Espargaro yesterday powered his Forward Yamaha bike to the fastest lap time in the season’s first free practice session that saw world champion Marc Marqeuz struggle for pace at Losail International Circuit.
Espargaro, the 2013 Moto2 world champion, produced the fastest lap time of 1:55.201 on his 13th and final lap around the 5.38km track where Marquez clearly lacked bite in his opening session.
Honda rider Alvaro Baustita of Spain was the second fastest (1:55.667) while Britain’s Bradley Smith steered his Yamaha to the third fastest time of 1:55.816 recorded on his 14th lap.
Ducati rider Italy’s Andrea Iannone clocked a time of 1:55.996 to emerge as the fourth fastest rider yesterday, a notch above Espargaro’s brother Pol (1:56.020) who was riding a Yahama.
Marquez’s Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa of Spain was sixth fastest after completing 16 laps under lights at Losail Circuit. Pedrosa clocked a time of 1:56.332.
Yamaha’s multiple world champion Valentino Rossi of Italy (1:56.542), Forward Yahama’s Colin Edwards of the US (1:56.626), Italy’s Jorge Lorenzo (1:56.668) and 2006 world champion Nicky Hayden of the US (1:56.670) completed the top-10.
“I feel really good. Obviously I am happy because we were testing here two weeks ago,” Espargaro said after the first free practice session.
“The official guy says we need more time and I am sure we will improve (in the next free practice session today),” he added.
“We did a great job with a hard tyre. I am really happy about it. It is not going to be easy,” the 24-year-old Spaniard said.
“With a hard tyre, we need great pace. The track was not perfect like how it was in testing but we need to see how fast we can go. We need to stay in the first row in the race (on Sunday). I will push as much as I can,” Marquez said.
Marquez, who finished the 2013 season ahead of Yamaha’s Lorenzo, 26, and Honda’s Pedrosa, said he was happy to be on the bike just a month after breaking his right leg.
“Honestly, I was expecting less pain, especially on the right corners,” Marquez said. “We will be better tomorrow. I am happy how it went. We will see,” the 2013 world champion said. “After one month and a half on the bike following our testing in Sepang (Malaysia), I felt a little strange,” the 21-year-old Spaniard said.
“We are not very very far from others, that’s the most important thing. I knew I wouldn’t be in the top-10 after the first free practice session. The other riders did their test here. So they had the data with them,” he said.
“I am getting better every exit. I am happy that I got the bike feeling. After one month and a half, I am getting there. Let’s see if we can improve the next session,” Marquez said.
Yonny Hernandez (Energy T.I. Pramac Racing) finished 15th and went for a scan after walking away from a turn 16 crash which caused a brief red crash due to track debris.
Top riders in the first free practice session at Losail International Circuit (read under as rider, bike, top seed and best time):
Aleix Espargaro, Forward Yamaha, 336.1, 1’55.201 Alvaro Bautista, Gresini Honda, 342.9, 1’55.667 Bradley Smith, Yamaha, 337.3, 1’55.816 Andrea Iannone, Ducati, 345.7, 1’55.996 Pol Espargaro, Yamaha, 346.0, 1’56.020, Dani Pedrosa, Honda, 344.0, 1’56.332 Valentino Rossi, Yamaha, 340.4, 1’56.542 Colin Edwards, Forward Yamaha, 332.1, 1’56.626 Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha, 340.0, 1’56.668 Nicky Hayden, Honda, 328.6, 1’56.670 Marc Marquez, Honda, 344.4, 1’56.682