Andrea Dovizioso proved that Ducati’s impressive pre-season testing pace was genuine by beating the Repsol Hondas to pole position in Qatar. The Italian took his soft-tyre-shod GP15 to a 1:54.113, two tenths quicker than Dani Pedrosa who sprung a surprise to outqualify his teammate Marc Marquez.
With so many competitive bikes on the grid this season, Qualifying 1 was always likely to be a frantic affair with two places in the pole position shootout up for grabs. Danilo Petrucci booked his place in Q2 with relative ease but the second spot hung in the balance until the very last lap of the session.
Hector Barbera was in possession until the final two minutes when Scott Redding usurped him on the Marc VDS Honda but the Briton’s joy was short-lived when Maverick Vinales snatched second place for Suzuki moments later. The rider in the deepest trouble was Bradley Smith but the Tech 3 rider delivered in the dying seconds with a 1:55.235, edging him ahead of Vinales by eleven thousandths of a second and handing him a second chance in Q2.
After topping the three practice sessions over Thursday and Friday, Marquez started the second session as favourite for pole but he didn’t have an answer for his teammate early on, Pedrosa setting the quickest lap of the entire weekend on his first attempt. The 29 year old wasn’t finished there either, lowering the benchmark time to a 1:54.330, and as the riders returned to the pits for fresh rubber, the underdog had the edge at Repsol Honda.
The Ducati threat loomed dangerously though with Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso dominating FP4 and the latter finally delivered the pole position many were expecting in the final minute, edging two tenths ahead of Pedrosa. Neither Repsol Honda improved on their second runs, leaving Pedrosa and Marquez to settle for second and third respectively.
After his close call in Q1, Bradley Smith briefly rose as high as fourth before being demoted by Iannone and the Pramac Ducati of Yonny Hernandez while Jorge Lorenzo narrowly outpaced the Oxford rider to take the honour of top Yamaha, as well as the final place on the second row. Smith starts seventh ahead of Valentino Rossi and Q1 pacesetter Danilo Petrucci while Pol Espargaro completes the top ten after pipping his brother Aleix.
Cal Crutchlow had reason to believe he would be in the pole position shake-up but a costly crash at turn fourteen denied him any opportunity of improving on his second run. His punishment was to be punted all the way back to twelfth.
2015 Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar: Qualifying Classification
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