Miller fronts surprise second row in Qatar

Australian sits P4 ahead of rookie Quartararo and a rejuvenated Crutchlow as three Independent Team riders shine in qualifying

Independent Team riders Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing), rookie Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and LCR Honda Castrol’s Cal Crutchlow will all launch from row two for the opening round of the season at the VisitQatar Grand Prix.

Miller was looking strong in Q2 for a shot a pole, but eventually had to settle for P4 after a crash at Turn 2, with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) improving at the death to knock him from P3.

“Yeah, all good. A bit winded but the rest is all good. I just wanted a little bit too much. I got a good drive out of turn one and tried to make it through turn two even though as I was going a little bit quicker,” said the Australian, explaining his crash.

“But we did that lap time the lap before, all alone. So, I feel I’ve got good pace for tomorrow. We’ve been working hard all weekend doing long runs with used tyres and what not and now it shows. Feeling really good, just feel sorry for the boys. I definitely wrote that one off so hopefully they’ll be able to build her up and fix it for tomorrow.

“We’ve been quietly working away, (we) did a 16-lap run in FP4 and another 10-lap run in FP2 and we’ve been using the tyres a lot. In FP1 we were able to do our best lap on 17 laps old tyres,” continued Miller, explaining his thoughts for the race.

“I wasn’t too happy in FP4, I used the softer rear and I was really surprised because in the test we were able to make it last no dramas but it seems with the Dunlop rubber and maybe with it being a little bit cooler this evening, especially the left side got eaten out a little bit so we might have to rethink that for tomorrow. But for the rest, (I’m) really happy with how the bike and everything is working. I can’t thank, first of all, Ducati for giving me the package this year and here showing them what we can do.

The MotoGP™ race winner then offered an interesting insight into the much talked about Ducati ‘holeshot’ device:

“I’ve been using it since Japan last year so it’s nothing different for me. It’s something different that they’re working on. I’m not so worried about that magic rabbit coming out of the hat, I’m more worried about them having enough parts to put my bike back together.”

Lining up next to Miller in P5 is Quartararo after the rookie produced another sensational performance in qualifying.

“Well, I’m feeling really good. I was on the limit clearly on the second run but anyway I’m really happy because when I was behind Dovi I knew that he would be really fast, so I say ‘OK, I need to follow him’. Some parts he was a lot faster, some parts I was faster. So, it’s just corner two at this time is a little bit tricky but I’m so happy to be under the 1:54 and be on P5 for the race tomorrow.”

The Frenchman sits as the second fastest Yamaha for tomorrow’s grid, heading teammate Franco Morbidelli and nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). But what is the 19-year-old’s goal for Sunday?

“My goal was to be in the top 15 for the race so I think we can do better. For sure, the race will be fast, we know that. All the front guys are really fast, they have a lot of pace. I will try to stay with them and also try to finish the race because it’s important.”

And what about sixth on the grid Crutchlow? To start from the outside of the second row after such a big injury is a super impressive job well done for the British rider.

“In FP2 yesterday the bike was a lot better in geometry, something similar to what we raced with here last year and what we went away from at the end of last year. So, I felt a bit more comfortable with the bike, I was able to push a little bit more,” said Crutchlow, who had been struggling with the feeling on board the 2019 RC213V at the Qatar Test.

“Still we have our problems a little bit on corner entry and in the middle of the corner. Today, my biggest problem was my ankle,” admitted the Honda rider. “To release the rear brake again is proving quite difficult so I need to understand the situation a little better there to where we can move the brake lever and the foot peg. But overall, I’m happy to be on the second row. If you would’ve told me at the start of the weekend I’d be on the second row and really angry with the lap because I made a lot of mistakes… It’s good because I’m back to being competitive and wanting to be able to fight at the front of this championship.”

Can the three Independent Team riders produce the goods on Sunday, and maybe ruffle a few factory feathers? Find out when MotoGP™ goes racing in 2019 at 20:00 local time (GMT+3).  

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