DOHA: Spanish MotoGP rider Aleix Espargaro yesterday laid down an early marker for the weekend in Qatar by outpacing Andrea Iannone and Alvaro Bautista to the top spot after three free practice sessions at Losail International Circuit.
The revelation of the winter and of the Qatar weekend so far, Espargaro (NGM Forward Racing) posted a 1’54.773 best time on the ‘Open’ Forward Yamaha, with Iannone (Pramac Racing) and Bautista (Honda Gresini) trailing him by 0.413s and 0.467s respectively.
The non-Factory riders who tested at Losail Circuit two weeks ago are enjoying this Grand Prix so far, as the usual order has been upset in the desert.
Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso and World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) completed the top five, neither of them having attended the test visit.
“I am happy because I had a good set-up and good pace. Today, it was a little bit tricky because the track was a bit slippery,” Espargaro said.
“It was difficult to be fast. You know you are on difficult conditions,” he added. “The race is going to be after 10pm. It is going to be difficult. We have to focus on not making any mistake.
“But I am happy. We have good pace with hard tire. We did a really good lap.
“I was not expecting this. It is a strange feeling for me. We have good set-up. The feeling on the bike was good. We were good yesterday (Thursday) and we were good today (Friday). Everything is good. We just have to keep the line.
“Tomorrow could be special day for me. I know the power of other bikes. The important thing we are fast with hard tire so there is no need to take risk with soft tires,” Espargaro said.
When asked if he was thinking of a win tomorrow, Espargaro smiled and said: “I don’t want to think because if I did, I won’t be able to sleep.”
There was a big crash for Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Bradley Smith at turn 5, but the Englishman limped away from the huge highside and was able to post the sixth best time of the evening.
Former World title winner Jorge Lorenzo’s woes continued as he looked uncomfortable outside the top 10 for most of the session and he was potentially heading for Q1 participation before pulling out a 1’55.495 to go seventh.
Spain’s Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) was eighth yesterday courtesy his best FP2 time, while Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) squeezed into the top 10, Rossi with a late best time in the final minutes.
Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech3) and the man he replaced on the Tech3 Yamaha, Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team), were the two big names to miss out on automatic Q2 participation.
Crutchlow walked away from a crash at turn 10 and will look to improve today.
In Moto2, Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) was the man on the pace in FP3, leading Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert) and Esteve Rabat (Marc VDS Racing Team).
Cortese set down a 2’00.579s marker towards the end of the only outing for the intermediate class yesterday, but Takaaki Nakagami (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) remained fastest on combined times by 0.057s from the German.
Behind Cortese, Aegerter was just 0.016s off P1 whilst third placed Rabat provisionally led the session and finished 0.067s off the top.
In Moto3, Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46) led FP3 with the best ever lap of Losail on a Moto3 machine, with Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and his team-mate Alex Marquez also in the top three.
Doha: An agreement has been reached with ITV to broadcast a one-hour highlights programme of every round of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship.
The programme will be broadcast on ITV4 at 8pm on Monday evenings, UK local time, following all 18 Grand Prix weekends this year.
ITV’s Director of Sport Niall Sloane said: “I’m delighted we will be able to bring viewers high-octane MotoGP action. This new deal highlights the importance of motorsport to ITV4 and adds to the wealth of free-to-air coverage we’re able to bring fans throughout the year.”
Manel Arroyo, Dorna Managing Director said: “We’re pleased that British fans of MotoGP will now have the chance to watch highlights from each round of the Championship on free-to-air television in the UK. Combined with the extensive live and in-depth coverage provided by BT Sport from each Grand Prix, British fans will now be treated to more coverage of MotoGP than ever before.”