Espargaró storms to quickest time in third practice
21 March 2014 – Forward Racing rider Aleix Espargaró continued his domination of the first round of the MotoGP season by setting the quickest time in the third practice session in Qatar. Espargaró was four-tenths of a second quicker than Pramac’s Andrea Iannone, with Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista in third.
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso was fourth, ahead of reigning World Champion Marc Márquez and Tech 3 rider Bradley Smith.
Smith suffered a huge highside at Turn 5 midway through the session. The Brit’s Tech 3 Yamaha bike snapped sideways and pitched Smith into the air and he was fortunate not to be struck by the bike, which sustained heavy damage in the incident. Smith landed heavily on his hip but was able to limp away from the scene of the accident. He was able to return to the track for the final 10 minutes of the 45 minute session.
The Factory riders all struggled for pace as they were unable to use the Soft tyre available to the Open class riders. Jorge Lorenzo was seventh for Yamaha but was visibly frustrated with his M1 after returning to the pits and angrily gesticulating towards his team. Stefan Bradl was eighth for LCR Honda, ahead of Yamaha's Valentino Rossi and Honda's Dani Pedrosa.
MotoGP newcomer Mike Di Meglio suffered a lowside crash at Turn 15 early in the session but was able to climb back on his bike and return to the pits. Cal Crutchlow suffered a similar accident on his Ducati at Turn 10 and was able to walk away uninjured. Crutchlow returned to the track and set the 12th fastest time but missed the cut for automatic qualification through to Q2.
Crutchlow will therefore attempt to secure one of the two available spots during Q1 which would see him through to Q2. Pol Espargaró, Nicky Hayden and Britain's Scott Redding are among the riders who will also compete in Q1 after failing to set a top 10 time across the three practice sessions.
The MotoGP riders have one more 30 minute practice session at 16:55 GMT on Saturday ahead of qualifying.