They might have changed the race times and the tyres and the bikes but one thing that survived the winter above all else is Johann Zarco’s speed in Qatar. The first race leader of 2017 will most likely be the first race leader of 2018, with the Frenchman starting the eleventh grand prix held under the floodlights from a hard-earned and breathtaking pole position. In the process, Tech 3’s hero became the man to obliterate the decade-old pole record of Jorge Lorenzo in the desert by three tenths of a second.
Even reigning world champion and pole maestro Marc Marquez had to admit defeat in front of Zarco after the two of them had ridden in close proximity for most of the qualifying session. The two men resumed the Honda-Yamaha battle from the off, Marquez leading Zarco after the first run but having to settle for second once Zarco unleashed his full potential. The front row of the grid will also include Danilo Petrucci, a man on a mission if his staggering race pace is to be believed. All front row men managed to dip into the 1:53s and run under the previous pole record.
Cal Crutchlow opens the second row of the grid, four tenths down on the poleman and with Andrea Dovizioso breathing down his neck, the Italian a further two thousandths of a second slower but only fifth after looking like a favourite for pole throughout the session. Alex Rins puts a Suzuki on the final slot available on the second row with some premier class veterans reserving the third row of the grid.
Dani Pedrosa adds another Honda to the top seven, with Valentino Rossi as the first factory Yamaha in eighth position. Jorge Lorenzo was the first to attack his own pole record and was close to bringing it down but his final sector let him down and the Ducati was swallowed by the flurry of late red sectors and dropped down to ninth place.
The fourth row of the grid consists of the two Q1 survivors sandwiching Andrea Iannone. Jack Miller rained on Maverick Viñales’ parade both in Q1 and Q2, the Australian grabbing tenth grid spot with his best time of the weekend but still trailing the poleman by seven tenths of a second. Iannone was another two tenths behind, while Viñales will have to take solace from his decent FP4 pace and settle for twelfth grid position, over a second slower than Zarco.
When the pressure was on, the fastest rookie proved to be Franco Morbidelli in fourteenth spot, behind the Aprilia of Aleix Espargaro and edging ahead of Hafizh Syahrin.
Go Jack! Aussie Aussie Aussie
Go Jack! Aussie Aussie Aussie!
Now mate, good work, but tenth on the grid is a credit to you. A race finish, in your first ride on a new bike, new brand, for a new team, where you finished some place between 5 & 10, that'd be a credit to you. A broken fairing and a broken shoulder, that wouldn't. There's a time and a place to go full spastic, but this isn't it. You're tucked in nicely with Lorenzo & Rossi. That's pretty good company you're in. There's people in front of them, who haven't won anywhere near as many titles is those two. I'd say at least one of those surprise fast men, is going to have a collision with the red mist as it comes down, and make nasty tracks and divots in the gravel. Try and see that it's not you... Take it from an old bloke - bouncing is not something you get better at with practice.
Stay on the bike, and aim for a top ten, and then see where you're at when the dust settles...
Anybody else notice his rear brake rotor the whole of his qualfying lap glowing red everytime they showed him?
In reply to Lorenzo's Brake? by Richard
It was Lorenzo's salad box
It was Lorenzo's salad box settings. He demanded more when his pole record came down. You could smell it when he pulled in, and hear him yelling "Hammer! Mamba snake! Aaaarrrgh!"
Three of the top five bikes are satellites. Suzuki and Rins are really doing the business, so good to see this bike so far up again. Petrucci is on a fooking MISSION.
Our new Malaysian friend Pescau is on the gas right off the line. Welcome HS55, you are in the right place.
Factory Yamaha had serious drive grip issues in the heat. This could signal that trouble continues in low grip conditions and electronics. Jarvis just signaled that much is possible in the next few seasons, yes, but mostly that he is an adept politician. Yamaha has their head out of their ass for a look around. Will they prefer it back in there?
Super Cal can be bombastic, DOPING is atrocious - he just requested more drug/doping testing. Never shy this guy, and obviously clean. Could just be conjecture. Or is there particular concern in the gossip mill? No, not Iannone and drugs/alcohol...the only thing he is high on is his story about himself. May as well check Marquez for something he ingests from Michelin that makes him...bouncy as a chiclet. Or maybe something from Magneti Marelli has been implanted in his chest? Scope his "tail pipe" for an HRC limit-defying device? Marc just doesn't seem subject to the same physics as the rest of the field.
JZ5 is going to Honda. Pedrosa and Lorenzo may both move? Pedrosa -->KTM. Lorenzo -->Suzuki (he won't stay as third rider there, and Petrucci is going to kick his ass all the way around the calendar this year). These are all good fits!! Can you see it? We can see good things coming. Platinum era? Titanium era? Zarco, Petrucci and Crutchlow! Stick it to the big guys!
In reply to It was Lorenzo's salad box by Motoshrink
I haven't seen the qualifying
I haven't seen the qualifying session but judging by the responses from Mr. Emmett and Mr. Motoshrink it must have been a corker. If Cal ever gets Motoshrink to submit to a drug test please let me know the results because I want some of whatever he's on! (I mean that in a good way: Love his post.)
HELP PLZ - Kit
David? With Ducati, Honda AND Yamaha satellite bikes looking at podiums I very much want to know ASAP the particulars of kit differences between Factory and satellite bikes right now. I understand well the Zarco Tech3 bike. A bit less about Pescau's. Please though, is there ANY difference between Petrucci's bike and Dovisioso's? Cal's and Marquez's? Same rev ceiling? Any bits that haven't yet gotten to the 2nd team? Also please, is Taka's bike identical to Cal's (he is a full second per lap slower in Q than I expected btw, perhaps just tough adaptation in condition changes) ? The Yamaha situation is convoluted with so many iterations of bike out there but coverage of this has been sufficient to piece it together. Just hearing that Petrucci and Crutchlow have a factory bike leaves much to wonder. While here, Pol Espargaro - how fit does he look? (And, again, comment edit in "rich text editor" removed all paragragh breaks Dave). Thanks a ton!
In reply to HELP PLZ - Kit by Motoshrink
Taka is on a 2017 RVC -
Taka is on a 2017 RVC - believed to be Valencia spec.
The future of Pedrosa is subject to some interesting dynamics. His former personal manager being in charge at Honda and his former crew chief who Pedrosa sacked running the KTM team. I wouldn’t bet on Dani being with HRC or KTM in 2019.
It was a beautiful session.