Aleix Espargaro put Team SUZUKI ECSTAR’s 2015 GSX-RR into fourth position in tonight’s third qualifying session at the Losail Circuit in Qatar as team-mate Maverick Viñales dramatically upped his pace from yesterday.
In the second day of practice and qualifying for Sunday’s season-opening MotoGP™ World Championship race, Espargaro set a best lap-time of 1’54.994; just 0.172-seconds away from provisional pole-setter Marc Marquez. Viñales finished the session 0.854-seconds away from the top-time with a best-lap of 1’55.676; more-than a second quicker than he posted yesterday.
In the first session, both Espargaro and Viñales worked hard to find a good set-up for the race, spending a lot of time on hard tyres, but a small problem with the clutch prevented Espargaro a ‘one-off’ quick-lap with his soft tyres, while Viñales managed to improve his best time on the last lap, eventually running out of fuel just after the flag.
FP3 proved very important for the overall classification and both riders worked on developing their electronics and overall set-ups initially, but then towards the end they used their soft tyres to make their fastest laps. This proved a successful plan for both riders, with Espargaro placing fourth with a lap of 1’54.994s and Viñales 13th with 1’55.676s.
Davide Brivio – Team Manager:
“We are still in free practice but once again it’s a pleasure to see where we are: both riders worked very well and they both encountered a few troubles but they both adapted to the situation. They kept both their calm and their confidence. At the end Aleix finished in a very positive fourth place, making a remarkable one-lap-run, but most-importantly he is also finding a good set-up and confidence with the overall pace. Maverick is a young man, he is also still learning how to use the soft tyre and therefore it is good to see him only 0.854s from the leader. Right now we are satisfied, we will keep-on with our step-by-step approach and we will wait to see what happens in qualifying.”
“The day has been positive. In the first session we improved the traction control and my feeling with the bike got better and better. Also in the second session we worked-on finalising the set-up and we had very positive feedback. We couldn’t try any of the long runs that we wanted because in FP2 we had some little issues that delayed our work, but at the end I managed to make a very good fast lap. I feel confident with both tyre compounds, which is important for qualifying and the race. Now we need to improve a little bit the feeling with the front-end and hopefully validate our potential race pace, while attempting a fastest lap in qualifying to see where we can be on the grid.”
“In the first session I had some issues with the soft front tyre which didn’t give me a proper feeling, while in the second session I immediately found more confidence, even if we didn’t change anything in the set up. It is probably only that I need to learn this new bike and learn further how to manage the soft tyre and give directions to the team. I guess this is why at the end I’m satisfied with the day’s work. We made many steps forward and my fast lap is not so bad. I know I have room for improvement and tomorrow we will try our best to get much further up in qualifying.”
GP of QATAR – Combined classification after FP3:
1. Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team) - 1'54.822 2. Cal CRUTCHLOW (CWM LCR Honda) - 1'54.918 +0.096 3. Andrea IANNONE (Ducati Team) - 1'54.992 +0.170 4. Aleix ESPARGARO (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR) - 1'54.994 +0.172 5. Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team) - 1'55.024 +0.202 6. Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team) - 1'55.044 +0.222 7. Yonny HERNANDEZ (Pramac Racing) - 1'55.102 +0.280 8. Jorge LORENZO (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) - 1'55.108 +0.286 9. Valentino ROSSI (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) - 1'55.192 +0.370 10. Pol ESPARGARO (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) - 1'55.328 +0.506 13. Maverick VIÑALES (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR) - 1'55.676 +0.854