Jorge Lorenzo backed up his pre-season testing form by claiming pole position for the opening round of the new MotoGP season at Losail. The reigning champion came out on top in a closely fought qualifying session which saw four different manufacturers fill the top four places, covered by just over a tenth of a second.
The morning headlines had been made by Valentino Rossi who agreed a new two-year contract extension with Yamaha and the Italian was in the news again during FP4. Rossi appeared agitated after being held up by Lorenzo on a timed lap and the two were seen involved in a frosty exchange as they lined up for a practice start.
With pole position up for grabs, any inter-team disagreements soon became a side issue and despite the Michelin tyres appearing to provide durability rather than explosive first-lap pace, Lorenzo clocked a 1:54.543 on his first flying lap of Q2 to go 1.5s quicker than Rossi. Marc Marquez slotted into second place on his first run, just 0.091s adrift, but neither Spaniard would improve on their second set of tyres, opening the door for Rossi and several others.
The three riders aiming to force their way onto the front row were all circulating together in the dying seconds and despite being the first of the three, Maverick Vinales proved that the Suzuki didn’t need a slipstream to be competitive, grabbing third on a 1:54.638. Rossi stopped the clock a tenth of a second slower, leaving him fourth, while Andrea Iannone came across the Pramac Ducati of Scott Redding in the final sector, costing him a shot at pole. The Italian did at least edge out Rossi, knocking the second Yamaha down to fifth.
Andrea Dovizioso lines up sixth ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Hector Barbera while Pol Espargaro rounds out the third row. The fourth row will be an all-British affair with Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith tenth and eleventh having advanced from Q1 with Scott Redding the slowest rider to take part in Q2.
2016 Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar (Qualifying Classification)
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