Sunday, March 20, 2016

Champion Lorenzo starts Qatar GP on pole

DOHA: World champion Jorge Lorenzo grabbed pole position for the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix in an all-Spanish, front-row lockout as speculation grew over his future with the Yamaha team.Lorenzo (centre) will start from pole at the Qatar GP while Marquez (left) and Vinales (right) in second and third respectively. - EPA
It was a record 62nd career pole for the three-time champion and 36th in the elite category as Spain swept the top three places on the grid under the floodlights of the Losail circuit.
Two-time world champion Marc Marquez, on a Honda, was second fastest, with the highly-rated Maverick Vinales in third on a Suzuki.
Lorenzo clocked a best time of 1:54.543 as he sets his sights on a first podium finish in the Gulf state since 2013.
“It’s not bad to have this record for most pole positions on the first weekend of the championship,” said the 28-year-old.
“Today it has been quite difficult to keep calm and try not to crash, because sometimes you have a good feeling with one rear tyre and you put in another and you have a different feeling.”
Marquez timed 1:54.634 but considered himself unfortunate not to have taken pole when he appeared to have beaten Lorenzo’s time after the chequered flag had fallen.
“At first I thought I had taken pole, but when I got back the team told me that the chequered flag had already been shown before I began my lap,” said Marquez, 23.
“On the display I saw 1:54.2 and thought it was the pole time, but it didn’t count.”
Vinales clocked 1:54.693 on his final lap as he grabbed a second career first row start after making his maiden appearance on the front line at the Catalan Grand Prix last season.
Andrea Iannone of Ducati, who had dominated practice on Friday, was fourth fastest with nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi in fifth.
The 37-year-old Rossi had earlier in the day signed a two-year extension to his deal with Yamaha.
Rossi returned to the Japanese team in 2013 after two unsuccessful years at Ducati and the Italian finished runner-up behind team-mate Lorenzo last season.
Rossi’s new deal will see him remain part of the Yamaha line-up until 2018, raising questions over the future of Lorenzo who is out of contract at the end of this season.
“I am very satisfied with this decision, because it has always been my plan to compete in motorsports for as long as I can be competitive and find it enjoyable at the same time,” Rossi said in a statement.
“Ever since I returned to Yamaha in 2013 I have felt like I am home again and this showed in the results. I get great enjoyment out of working with my crew and the rest of the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team.”
Before Saturday’s action got underway a minute’s silence was held in memory of 49-year-old Tunisian Taoufik Gattouchi who was killed in a support race on Friday. — AFP
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