Reigning MotoGP World Champion Marquez finished 1’54.822, beating Casey Stoner’s 2008 Circuit Record (1’55.153) by over three-tenths in the process during the MotoGP Free Practice 3 at the Losail International Circuit. Marquez stating: “Today has been a very good day because we have improved our pace, which is the most important thing, and tried out a few things that have allowed us to progress.”
Behind the young Spaniard was CWM LCR Honda’s BRITISH Rider Cal Crutchlow who was 0.096s slower than Marquez in with his satellite bike but second overall.
The Ducati Team used “winglets” on both of its riders bikes for the first time, after having previously only tried them on Andrea Dovizioso’s machine.
Andrea Iannone set a time good enough for 3rd early on in FP3 before losing the front at turn 2 late on, ending his chances of improving further. Dovizioso could not match the pace of his teammate and had to settle for 6th place behind the Team Suzuki Ecstar GSX-RR of Aleix Espargaro (4th) and Dani Pedrosa’s Repsol Honda (5th).
It wasn’t just the factory Ducati’s that improved from yesterday with Yonny Hernandez setting a time good enough for 7th place on his satellite Pramac Racing GP14.2.
A big shock from the final day of practice was the lack of pace of the Movistar Yamaha’s as Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi only just scraped through to Q2, finishing in 8th & 9th respectively.
Lorenzo believes he will struggle in qualifying unless they make some changes: “It will be a hard fight for the front row tomorrow, because many riders have the extra soft tyre, that gives them four-tenths of a second. They are also stronger than last year, so it will even be difficult to get a position on the second row, but you never know what will happen. Maybe we can find something that will give us half a second and even let us fight for pole position.”
Rossi said, “I’m not happy about my position, but I‘m not far from Marquez,” although he agrees with his teammate that “to get the pole tomorrow will be very hard.”
Big names who will have to battle it out for the top two spots in Q1 include Scott Redding, Maverick Viñales and Bradley Smith.
Redding finished just over 0.1s outside of the top ten and admitted: “It’s tough out there and we still need to do some work tomorrow, especially in the last sector where I’m losing four tenths in just three corners.”
Smith struggled on the medium tyre today and thinks he will have a tricky job to do tomorrow: “Qualifying 1 will be tough, especially with the riders who will use the soft tyres, but I am convinced that it is still possible that we can do a good job.”
The MotoGP™ qualifying action kicks off at 19:55 local time in Qatar with Q1.