LOSAIL, Qatar — MotoGP rookie Marc Marquez is a fast learner.
Marquez beat Jorge Lorenzo by one thousandth of a second to top the third and final practice session for the season-opening Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar at the Losail Circuit.
Under the new qualifying regulations, the line-up for Saturday’s Q2 has been established.
From 2013 onwards, the first three of four MotoGP practice sessions have a direct bearing on Qualifying. For this reason, there was much tension in the bottom half of the top ten as riders strived for a place in Saturday’s pole position shootout.
As the session started, there were worries in the paddock that rain, which had already affected earlier sessions Friday, may return and break up the action.
As it transpired, the showers stayed away and made for a dramatic climax to the night’s action. Delivering a lap time of 1:56.084 in the last knockings, Repsol Honda Team’s Márquez confirmed that he will be able to fight for pole position on his MotoGP debut. He demoted champion Jorge Lorenzo by just one thousandth of a second.
Britain’s Cal Crutchlow comfortably sealed a Q2, placing with third spot for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, as Lorenzo’s teammate Valentino Rossi was fourth on his return to Yamaha Factory Racing.
Shooting into the top five in the late stages was Andrea Dovizioso on his first Ducati Team weekend, with Repsol’s Dani Pedrosa having struggled for front end grip since the start of first practice but still securing a Q2 effort with sixth.
As track conditions improved toward the end of third practice, a dramatic battled raged while riders continued to push rivals out of the top 10. Álvaro Bautista went seventh for GO&FUN Honda Gresini as the times suddenly became the tightest they have been all weekend. In eighth spot was Nicky Hayden on the second Ducati Team bike, with British rookie Bradley Smith impressing on his first outing by achieving ninth for Tech 3. Stefan Bradl looked to have a challenge on his hands as the times came down, but snatched 10th for LCR Honda MotoGP.