Marquez leads tightly packed field in Qatar Free Practice
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez was quickest in the opening practice sessions for the Qatar Grand Prix, the two-time and reigning MotoGP World Champion setting a time of 1’54.822 to lead a highly competitive field where the top eighteen riders were split by less than a second on combined times after Free Practice 3.
Marquez set his benchmark time on his penultimate lap in FP3 to finish a mere 0.096 seconds ahead of CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow who set a 1’54.918 to finish second fastest. Third quickest overall was Ducati Team’s Andrea Iannone who clocked a 1’54.992 on the new GP15 machine. All of the top three riders set their quickest lap using the combination of the medium compound slicks front and rear.
The wind-blown sand that is usually encountered at the Losail Circuit was less prevalent than in the past, so the grip offered by the tarmac was slightly better than in previous years. Track temperatures varied from 26-32°C over the opening three sessions.
In previous years the demand for excellent braking stability at Losail has resulted in a high demand for the hard compound front slick and although it was the more popular option in FP3, overall the medium compound front slick was also widely used by the riders due to its slight advantage in warm-up performance and edge grip. Both front tyre options are likely to figure in Sunday’s race. Rear tyre choice showed a strong preference for the medium compound rear slick, although the consistency of the hard compound rear makes it a viable race option for the Factory Honda and Yamaha riders. The open-class only soft compound rear slick may be used by a few riders during Sunday’s race, but its greatest impact could be felt tomorrow in qualifying with the riders able to exploit the extra grip it offers to help accelerate out of corners.
MotoGP Free Practice 4 starts at 1955 local time (GMT+3) tomorrow before qualifying for the 2015 season opener commences at 2035 with QP1, followed by QP2 at 2100.
Shinji Aoki - Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department
“Conditions this weekend have been fairly typical for Qatar but thankfully we have not had as much sand on track as in previous years so grip levels aren’t too bad. All six of our slick options at Qatar have been used in the opening sessions and it seems our tyre allocation for the season opener is working well for everybody, and it is very pleasing to see the top eighteen riders separated by less than a second. FP4 will be crucial to help riders finalize their tyre choice for the race as the Sunday Warm Up session will take place in conditions that are likely to be quite warmer than the race.”