The usual order has been upset in Qatar as the non-Factory riders who tested at Losail two weeks ago head into the next Commercial Bank Grand Prix session at the top of the field.
Aleix Espargaro swept the field in Free Practice 3 posting a 1’54.773 best time on the NGM Forward Racing Yamaha, with Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing Ducati) and Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Gresini Racing Honda) trailing him by 0.413s and 0.467s respectively. Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso and World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) completed the top five, neither of them having attended the test visit.
There was a big crash for Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Bradley Smith at turn 5, but the Englishman limped away from the huge highside and was able to post the sixth best time of the evening.
Former World title winner Jorge Lorenzo’s woes continued as he looked uncomfortable outside the top ten for most of the session and he was potentially heading for Q1 participation before pulling out a 1’55.495 to go seventh.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) was eighth on Friday courtesy of his best FP2 time, whilst Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) squeezed into the top ten, Rossi with a late best time in the final minutes.
Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech3) and the man he replaced on the Tech3 Yamaha, Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team), were the two big names to miss out on automatic Q2 participation. Crutchlow walked away from a crash at turn 10 and will look to improve on Saturday.
Top ten combined Free Practice1/2/3 times – Riders qualify automatically for QP2
1. Aleix ESPARGARO NGM Mobile Forward Racing 1’54.773 (FP3)
2. Andrea IANNONE Pramac Racing 1’55.186 (FP3) 0.413
3. Alvaro BAUTISTA GO&FUN Honda Gresini 1’55.240 (FP3) 0.467
4. Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati Team 1’55.250 (FP3) 0.477
5. Marc MARQUEZ Repsol Honda Team 1’55.446 (FP3) 0.673
6. Bradley SMITH Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’55.474 (FP3) 0.701
7. Jorge LORENZO Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1’55.495 (FP3) 0.722
8. Dani PEDROSA Repsol Honda Team 1’55.562 (FP2) 0.789
9. Stefan BRADL LCR Honda MotoGP 1’55.676 (FP3) 0.903
10. Valentino ROSSI Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1’55.702 (FP3) 0.929