Lorenzo quickest in opening Qatar practice

Motogp fp1 losail lorenzo
Thursday, 4 April 2013

World Champion Jorge Lorenzo led the way as Free Practice 1 opened the 2013 MotoGP™ season under lights at the Losail International Circuit on Thursday.

Prior to Sunday’s Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar, the Yamaha Factory Racing rider finished ahead of Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow and Factory teammate Valentino Rossi. Marc Márquez headed Repsol Honda Team’s charge from fourth.

Thursday’s sole practice period for MotoGP not only launched the 2013 campaign, but also helped to mark the tenth weekend for the sport in Qatar. For the first time ever, the session had a direct bearing on qualifying; the combined top ten from across the opening three practices will go on to make up the Q2 qualifying line-up on Saturday.

It looked as though Britain’s Crutchlow was to retain the top spot, having also led the final pre-season test in Jerez, but Lorenzo moved ahead with a last-gasp 1’56.685 lap time. This leaves the top three separated by just 71 thousandths of a second, with Rossi looking highly confident after leading the way halfway through. Reigning Moto2™ World Champion Márquez and Andrea Dovizioso – now riding for Ducati Team – completed the top five.

Due to the extremely dusty track surface and riders pushing to find the limits, an assortment of names found the run-off area at Turn 1. However this was nothing compared to Yonny Hernández’s accident, as the Colombian lost the front end of his PBM-run ART bike which flipped across the gravel less than ten minutes into the session; fortunately, the 24-year-old was able to walk away and ended his day in 18th place.

It was an encouraging start to the campaign for GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, competing the night in sixth spot from the LCR Honda MotoGP of Stefan Bradl. Behind, a low-key start for expected title challenger Dani Pedrosa saw the Repsol man end up in eighth place, having run off the track twice. As Nicky Hayden confirmed a double top ten finish for Ducati Team, Aleix Espargaró raised eyebrows by ending his evening ninth quickest on the leading CRT bike of Power Electronics Aspar, just 1.1 seconds off Lorenzo’s leading time.

Oxford newcomer Bradley Smith – teammate to Crutchlow at Tech 3 – was just outside the top ten, but ahead of Pramac Racing duo Andrea Iannone (who steps up from Moto2) and Ben Spies, still carrying an injury from his Malaysian Grand Prix crash of last year. The rest of the 24-bike field was filled by CRT representatives, with Héctor Barberá and Hiroshi Aoyama in respective 14th and 19th places for Avintia Blusens. Between them were Aspar’s Randy de Puniet, Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards and the aforementioned Hernández.

Forward rookie Claudio Corti was 20th was almost a second slower than teammate Edwards in these early stages, with Danilo Petrucci leading the Came IodaRacing Project attack from 21st; he and debuting Czech teammate Lukáš Pešek sandwiched Gresini newcomer Bryan Staring of Australia, as Britain’s Michael Laverty completed the field while continuing early development work on the in-house PBM machine.

MotoGP™ track action continues with second practice from 6pm local time (GMT +3) on Friday. All weekend sessions can be watched live on motogp.com.

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