World Champion Marc Marquez will head the grid for Sunday’s first MotoGP™ race of the year at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar with Alvaro Bautista and Bradley Smith also qualifying on the front row
Despite only returning to riding his Repsol Honda machine on Thursday after breaking his leg in preseason training, Marquez showed his rivals he means business again in 2014 with a great charge to pole with a 1’54.507 lap.
GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Bautista had provisional pole but eventually qualified second by a +0.057s margin, whilst Smith was also close to the top spot missing out by less than a tenth.
That result is Smith’s first ever premier class front row qualifying effort and was a great response to his FP3 horror crash.
Another solid effort for Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) sees him head the second row, with Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) managing to pull something out of the bag in fifth and sixth respectively having struggled for much of the weekend so far.
Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP) leads the third row with a time just 0.364s off the pace, with Q1 participant Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team) improving to eighth.
A disastrous session for Aleix Espargaro (NGM Forward Racing) saw him qualify ninth, having walked away from two crashes, appearing to crack under the pressure of Q2. He had led the way earlier in the weekend and was furious with himself after both falls.
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) starts in the unfamiliar territory of row four, ahead of Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing) and Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech3).
Moto2™: Rabat secures pole start in the desert
The Moto2™ qualifying session at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar saw Esteve Rabat (Marc VDS Racing Team) take pole, ahead of Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Takaaki Nakagami (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia)
Rabat took pole with a best time of 2’00.081 to beat the existing pole record, with Cortese just behind him by 0.02s in second.
Cortese later crashed in an incident also involving Jordi Torres (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto2) and Mika Kallio Marc (VDS Racing Team) causing a red flag, but each escaped relatively unscathed.
Nakagami (+0.37s) rounded out the front row, with Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2), the impressive rookie Sam Lowes (Speed Up) and Kallio on row two.
Xavier Simeon (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), Alex De Angelis (Tasca Racing Moto2) and Johann Zarco (AirAsia Caterham Moto Racing) qualified on the third row, just ahead of late crasher Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing), who was also ok.
Moto3™: Rins best in first qualifying session of 2014
The Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar Moto3™ qualifying session saw Alex Rins secure pole po3sition for the first race of 2014, with his Estrella Galicia 0,0 teammate Alex Marquez and Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Ajo) joining him on the front row of the grid
The rider who missed out on the title in the last race of 2013, Rins showed his intentions for this season by posting the fastest ever Moto3 lap of Losail, taking the top spot with a 2’05.973s time at the end of the session.
Battling against the elements in windy conditions Marquez had provisional pole but eventually lost out by 0.152s. Meanwhile, Miller was 0.4s off the pace but looked threatening as he aims to challenge the dominant Spaniards this year.
The second row comprises Calvo Team colleagues Jakub Kornfeil and Isaac Viñales, alongside Englishman Danny Kent in the new Red Bull Husqvarna Ajo structure. That trio all qualified within a second of Rins.
Row three will feature the improving Scotsman John McPhee (SAXOPRINT RTG) and Italians Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Niccolo Antonelli (Junior Team GO&FUN), with Fenati’s teammate Francesco Bagnaia tenth.
There were crashes for Gabriel Ramos (Kiefer Racing), Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold) and Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Ongetta-AirAsia) without consequence – with Masbou qualifying 14th and the other pair much further down the grid.
Arthur Sissis (Mahindra Racing) recovered from a Friday fever to qualify 29th.
The Moto3 race at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar starts at 19:00 local time, with Moto2 following at 20:20 and the MotoGP contest getting underway at 22:00 (GMT +3).