MotoGP Doha Rd2: Saturday Qualifying from all classes
Jorge Martin achieved something special on Saturday at the TISSOT Grand Prix of Doha. After stealing the headlines at MotoGP Doha last Sunday with his start, this time around it was a stunning qualifying session as the Spaniard took his first ever premier class pole position.
He joins an exclusive club in doing so for only his second MotoGP™ race, with the other members comprising only Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and MotoGP™ Legend Casey Stoner, so the Pramac Racing rookie is in some fast company. Martin also has a tenth and a half in hand over teammate Johann Zarco as Pramac Racing made it a 1-2 on the grid for the Doha GP, with Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) taking third – as he did last week on his way to the win…
On a windy day in Doha, Q1 saw some big names fighting to move through, including – once again – reigning MotoGP™ World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). But Mir got the job done and with a more clinical show of speed this time around, topping the session to head through alongside Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). And so, the time to fight it out for pole was nigh.
As Q2 began, it was a familiar name making his presence felt. Martin put in a 1:53.892 straight out the traps to impress early, before Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) briefly deposed him. Shadowing Mir, however, Martin hit back quick with a 1:53.597 as Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) slotted himself into P2, just 0.017s behind Martin’s early benchmark.
After the first couple of flying laps, Martin, Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was the provisional front row, with Morbidelli and the Ducati Lenovo Team duo of Francesco Bagnaia and Jack Miller on the second row with just over five minutes remaining. World Championship leader and Qatar GP winner Viñales was a whole nine tenths off in P9 – just behind Mir, who was down in P8. But soon the field rumbled back out for their second runs, and it was Viñales first on a mission.
Despite a couple of moments for the number 12, he shot from P9 to P1 with under two minutes to go and it was clear there was more in the locker. Sure enough, Viñales was over a quarter of a second up on his next flying lap. He then nailed Sector 2, nailed Sector 3 and taking the chequered flag, the Qatar GP winner extended his advantage to 0.330s.
Attention then turned to Martin, however, as the rookie was up by 0.015s in Sector 2. It was his final shot at it too, and he seemed the last rider on the roll needed to depose Viñales. In the final sector though, Zarco suddenly gained over two tenths to snatch provisional pole by an absolute whisker – 0.004s – but Martin wasn’t done yet. Out on his own without a tow, in classic Martin style, the new kid on the MotoGP™ block stormed across the line and did it. A tenth and a half clear, it was provisional pole with only Miller and Quartararo in the hunt. Could either spoil the party? Not quite. Firing their way to the chequered flag, neither worried the front row although both improved their times to grab P4 and P5 respectively.
A little history is therefore made in Doha as the ‘Martinator’ shows us how it’s done, with Zarco making it Saturday Night Fever for Pramac Racing in a 1-2 for the team. Viñales once again lines up P3 at Losail, and he’ll be looking to repeat his season opening feat – just maybe this time without the Ducati armada swamping everyone at the start.
Spearheading Row 2 is Miller, who will have wanted more but already proved how quickly he can make up that ground last week. The Australian also suffered a wobble in Q2, so a Row 2 start is a job well done. Quartararo’s fifth place was less than the Frenchman would have expected, but it’s another solid session for the number 20 to get back in the fight at the front. Sixth was another rider who would have wanted a little more after taking pole last week: Pecco Bagnaia. He’ll want to get the most from Ducati’s stellar starts and move up from there.
Leading the third row is Aleix Espargaro after another fantastic performance. With the Yamahas and Ducatis looking strong in Qatar, starting P7 – one place higher than last week – is yet another job well done for the Noale factory. Joining the Aprilia rider on Row 3, meanwhile, are both Team Suzuki Ecstar riders: Alex Rins sits 0.040s ahead of teammate Mir as the GSX-RR duo finish 0.6s shy from pole position. Judging by their progress last weekend on race day, there’s plenty to come from the Hamamatsu factory.
Rounding out the top 10 is Morbidelli, the Italian just 0.009s from the third row, with leading Honda rider Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) and fastest KTM Oliveira completing the Q2 graduates in P11 and P12 respectively. So where’s Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT)? P21 after one of the Doctor’s worst days at the office, so he’ll be looking for a lot more on Sunday.
That’s it from a history-making qualifying, and if Martin gets anything like the start he did last Sunday, then he’ll be into Turn 1 with a couple of hours in hand. He says he’s aiming for the top six though, whereas Zarco is very definitely aiming for the win from second. With Viñales exactly where he was last week though, will history repeat itself?
Jorge Martin: “It’s difficult to describe my feelings. On the first run I was behind Mir and I felt super confident, I was catching him so fast and I thought, ‘ok I need to be behind a faster bike’. I was hoping to be behind Pecco but he wasn’t pushing a lot so I thought, ‘ok it’s my time to push, time to demonstrate who I am’. And for sure I didn’t expect to get pole! I expected to be top four, top five, and when I finished the lap and I was up there in first.. it’s unbelievable. I want to thank my family and my team, they’re working great and we’re a family in in the box after just a month. This is so great! Tomorrow is another day to learn, because for sure it’s not my day to win, but if we can fight for the top six it would be great and I’d be super happy.”
MotoGP™ front row: (Full Results Here)
1 Jorge Martin* – Pramac Racing – Ducati – 1:53.106
2 Johann Zarco* – Pramac Racing – Ducati – +0.157
3 Maverick Viñales – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – +0.161
Last weekend’s race winner Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) once again brought his A-game to the table when it mattered at the TISSOT Grand Prix of Doha, with the British rider and Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) going head-to-head for pole position and the number 22 coming out on top. Lowes’ 1:59.055 sees him head the grid by nearly a tenth and a half, but with Gardner in second on take two in the desert it’s the man who proved Lowes’ closest rival last weekend starting right alongside him. Another familiar face from the fight at the front in the Qatar GP, Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46), completes the front row in P3.
There was early drama in Moto2™ Q1 as Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) missed out on a place in the top four, with reigning Moto3™ World Champion Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team) slamming in a personal best lap on his final flyer that was good enough for P3. That demoted Vierge to P5 and out of Q2. Jorge Navarro (MB Conveyors Speed Up) topped the first part of qualifying with a 1:59.592 though, moving through ahead of Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team), Arenas and Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing).
Gardner was the early pacesetter once Q2 got underway, but the times were down on Q1’s best efforts. Red sectors then lit up the timing screens as a big reshuffle took place, with Aron Canet (Solunion Aspar Team) leading the field from Bendsneyder. Bezzecchi took control of the session next with a 1:59.736, but the times would tumble again.
Gardner hit back, Lowes did the same and Dixon made his way up into second. Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) soon split the Brits to grab P2, but the Free Practice pacesetter was three tenths down on Lowes – and just 0.002s ahead of Dixon. Fighting back, Bezzecchi slipped into P2 with just over two minutes left, before Gardner muscled his way back into second. A red second split then popped up for Gardner as Lowes backed out, so all eyes turned to the number 87…
Gardner was also up in Sector 3, but could he keep it going all the way to the line? Not quite! The Aussie just lost ground and despite improving his time, pole went to Lowes for the second week in a row. After Gardner started much further back on his way to second in the Qatar GP however, a front row is mission partly accomplished, as it is for Bezzecchi in P3.
Raul Fernandez ends his second Moto2™ qualifying session in P4, another fantastic job by the rookie, and he’s joined on Row 2 by Q1 graduate Dixon. A late charge from rookie Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) seals a brilliant P6 for the Japanese rider as he makes a big leap up the timesheets on take two in Doha, even getting the better of third place Qatar GP finisher Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) as the Italian is forced to head up Row 3. Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) and Canet slot in behind Diggia, with Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) completing the top 10 in Q2.
Sam Lowes: “It was a good day for me, we changed the bike back after we tried something yesterday and I’ve felt good all day. It’s nice, it was sort of a different session. Last week I went out and tried to get into a rhythm in qualifying but today with the wind it was difficult to be as consistent so I knew I just had to make the best lap I could and then see. In the end I’m really happy and i think we can have a great race from there tomorrow.”
Moto2™ front row: (Full Results Here)
1 Sam Lowes – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – Kalex – 1:59.055
2 Remy Gardner – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – +0.137
3 Marco Bezzecchi – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex – +0.272
He left it late but Qatar GP race winner Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) will start from pole at the TISSOT Grand Prix of Doha after a last dash to the top, the Spaniard taking it from Sergio Garcia (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar) by less than a tenth as the Championhip leader proved the only rider under the 2:06 mark. Garcia was second quickest but will start from pitlane due to a penalty, with third quickest in Q2, Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3), therefore set to start second. His teammate Gabriel Rodrigo was fourth fastest but bumps up onto the front row.
The pitlane start penalties played their part deciding the Moto3™ grid even before qualifying did, with seven riders – including Garcia – given the punishment for their riding in FP2 on Friday evening. The rest are Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing), Stefano Nepa (BOE Owlride), Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) and Riccardo Rossi (BOE Owlride), with a few in Q2 and a few in Q1, complicating life somewhat for those looking to move through.
Once Q1 was underway though, it was the experienced head of Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) who topped the first qualifying session with a 2:06.925, a tenth faster than Leopard Racing’s Dennis Foggia and Xavier Artigas. Jason Dupasquier (CarXpert PrüstelGP) got the job done to earn the final place in the top four and with the windy conditions making a big difference, slipstreaming – an ever-present factor in the lightweight class – was even more important than before.
Once they headed back out for Q2, Garcia was the early pacesetter but Migno was soon at the summit. The Italian, lapping with the Leopard duo and Dupasquier, then improved on his second lap to go over a tenth clear of Garcia with seven minutes to go. Izan Guevara (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar) was provisionally on the front row too, with the likes of John McPhee, his Petronas Sprinta Racing teammate Darryn Binder and World Championship leader Masia languishing outside the top 10.
The fun and games started as the riders headed out for their second runs though, with everything coming down to the final three minutes and a one-lap dash for the entire 18-strong field. As they thundered over the line, Garcia was the first to take to the top but almost immediately, Masia snatched it back by less than a tenth. Just behind them, Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3 duo Alcoba and Gabriel Rodrigo were able to propel themselves to P3 and P4, with McPhee and Binder also improving in the same gaggle of riders. But no one could beat Masia’s laptime.
That leaves the Championship leader top of the pile in the perfect position to try and complete the double on Sunday, although pole is nearly two seconds off last week, the challenge was a different one in the conditions. Garcia heads for pitlane despite going second fastest, with Alcoba and Rodrigo therefore locking out the front row.
Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) heads the second row, with Andrea Migno alongside him as the Italian slipped to sixth fastest but fifth on the grid. Last week’s polesitter Binder and teammate McPhee didn’t have the best Q2 but were P7 and P8, and both move up a place in the penalty shuffle: Binder completes Row 2 as McPhee spearheads Row 3.
Rookie Pedro Acosta was the ninth fastest man in Q2, but the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider also has a pitlane start so it’s two positions gained for those directly behind him. The first of those was 10th fastest Izan Guevara who will start eighth, ahead of Jason Dupasquier as the Q1 graduate was 11th quickest and moves up to complete the third row.
Row 4 has two Qatar GP winners at the helm in the form of Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3) and Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power), with Xavier Artigas (Leopard Racing) moving up to 12th on the grid as Fenati and Nepa join Garcia and Acosta in pitlane. Artigas does, however, have to do two Long Lap penalties in the race after his incident in the Qatar GP.
Jaume Masia: “You can see, it’s a really windy day and this morning I didn’t push at 100% because it was dangerous and would have been a stupid risk to take. But now I’m really happy for this pole position, we will keep working on this line and I’m ready for the race tomorrow.”
Moto3™ top three: (Full Results Here)
1 Jaume Masia – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – 2:05.913
2 Sergio Garcia – GASGAS Gaviota Aspar Team – GASGAS – +0.099
3 Jeremy Alcoba – Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3 – Honda – +0.245