Today saw the first qualifying sessions of the 2016 MotoGP season, to decide the grid for the Qatar Grand Prix. Pole position for the season opener went to Jorge Lorenzo, who set the fastest time of the weekend with a 1.54.543 lap. He was challenged by Marc Márquez, who placed 0.091s off the top spot (who claims he saw 1.54.2 on his timer), and an all-Spanish front row was completed by Maverick Viñales –who pushed hard on his final lap to also close in on Lorenzo. Just under a tenth of a second separated the front three at the Losail International Circuit. Iannone, Rossi & Dovizioso made it an all Italian 2nd row with half a second between the top 6.
The ASPAR riders were very active today in the first qualifying session of the season. Both pushed hard to try to sneak into Q2 -something that they finally could not manage- but both Yonny Hernández and Eugene Laverty put in a great performance. The Colombian again encountered a defective tire that disrupted his plans, but was still able to set a 1.56.157 lap and claim thirteenth on the grid.
Only 0.029s slower than him was teammate Eugene Laverty. The Irishman, who had spent much of the practice time adapting to a new engine, took a big step forward to set his best time of the weekend on the final lap of the qualifying session. A gearing issue was the only thing denying him an even faster lap of the Losail International Circuit.
13th Yonny Hernández 1.56.157: “I feel bad because we have not had good tyres throughout the entire weekend, and it has given us several problems. However, the team have done everything possible to give me a good, competitive bike with which to try to fight to be among the top ten. I want to thank the team, because they have done a great job. It’s a shame that we had several defective tyres, as I know that we could be higher up if that hadn’t occurred. The base we have, both in terms of chassis and electronics, I really like. We have been progressively improving and I hope to do my best tomorrow in the race to try to fight for a top ten finish. If not, I will try to score as many points as possible. A good start to the season is very important. I hope I’m wrong, but I think there will be a lot of crashes tomorrow. By the looks of things, the tyres will become critical at one point. We have already encountered three defective tyres in two days, so I hope that tomorrow they will not give us any problems and we can finish the race without issues.”
14th Eugene Laverty 1.56.186: “We worked in a good way today. Yesterday we had problems, basically losing an entire practice session. I got comfortable with the new bike and the new tyres in qualifying, so I pushed more. We made another small change in the same direction for the second tyre, and I set a fantastic lap with that. I got a 1:55.8 for my last lap, but I’d shifted to sixth gear before the finish line and lost a bit of pace when it didn’t work. That dropped my time down to 1:56.1. I was really angry, because I lost about 3 tenths because of that. I’d done everything perfectly on the final two corners, but it came undone when the gear didn’t engage. The crew will check what the problem was, but it dropped us down one place on the grid. However, the important thing is that we took a huge step forward. We were behind before, but now we are catching up just in time. I tested out the bike on a medium duration run in FP4, and the bike does change a lot –especially with the rear tyre- so we will have to make a plan for the race with the electronics to give me some options.”