Qatar commences with Lorenzo leading Yamaha trio

Yamaha Factory Racing’s Reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo led the way in the first free practice session of the 2013 MotoGP™ season under floodlights at the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar on Thursday ahead of Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow and Yamaha Factory teammate Valentino Rossi.

Thursday’s sole practice for the premier class not only launched the 2013 campaign, but also helped mark the tenth anniversary of the sport in Qatar. Also, for the first time ever, the session had a direct bearing on qualifying, as the new Qualifying format this year means the combined top ten from across the opening three practices will go on to make up the Q2 qualifying line-up this Saturday.

It looked as though Britain’s Crutchlow was to take top spot, having put the hammer down towards the end, but Lorenzo moved ahead with a last-gasp 1’56.685. This leaves the top three separated by just 71 thousandths of a second, with Rossi looking highly confident after leading the way halfway through. Reigning Moto2™ World Champion Marc Márquez came in fourth, whilst Andrea Dovizioso put in a terrific performance on his Ducati to come fifth.

Due to the extremely dusty track surface and riders pushing to find the limits, an assortment of names veered onto the run-off area at Turn 1. PBM’s Yonny Hernández’s was the first rider in MotoGP to suffer an accident in the new year, as the Colombian lost the front end of his ART bike, fortunately walking away with solely scuffed leathers.

It was an encouraging start to the campaign for GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, completing the night in sixth spot from the LCR Honda MotoGP of Stefan Bradl. Bautista, who had mostly recovered from a finger injury obtained in Jerez testing, cited that it had been aggravated once more, and will have to assess his injury tomorrow. It was certainly a low-key start for expected title challenger Dani Pedrosa as the Repsol man ended up in eighth place, having run off the track twice. As Nicky Hayden confirmed a double top ten finish for the Ducati Team, Aleix Espargaró raised eyebrows by ending his evening ninth quickest on the leading CRT bike of the Power Electronics Aspar outfit, just 1.1 seconds off Lorenzo’s leading time.

British newcomer Bradley Smith in the Tech 3 team was just outside the top ten, but ahead of Pramac Racing duo Andrea Iannone and Ben Spies. The rest of the 24-bike field was filled by CRT representatives, with Héctor Barberá and Hiroshi Aoyama in respective 14th and 19th places for Avintia Blusens. Between them were Aspar’s Randy de Puniet, Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards and the aforementioned Hernández.

Forward rookie Claudio Corti was 20th and almost a second slower than teammate Edwards in these early stages, with Danilo Petrucci leading the Came IodaRacing Project attack from 21st. He and debuting Czech teammate Lukáš Pešek sandwiched Gresini newcomer Bryan Staring of Australia, as Britain’s Michael Laverty completed the field while continuing early development work on the in-house PBM machine.

http://www.motogp.comCourtesy of MotoGP.com