Márquez secures pole for MotoGP opener in Qatar
22 March 2014 – Reigning World Champion Marc Márquez began his MotoGP title defence in perfect fashion as he pumped in a stunning last gasp lap to claim pole position for the season opening race in Qatar. Márquez narrowly eclipsed Gresini rider Álvaro Bautista and Tech 3’s Bradley Smith, who claimed the first front row start of his MotoGP career during a dramatic session.
Friday pace setter Aleix Espargaró crashed out of Q2 at Turn 2 when he lost the front end of his Forward Racing machine under braking. Márquez - riding with a broken leg which he sustained last month - subsequently took provisional pole during his first run in the 15 minute session and his time was almost beaten by Smith. The Brit was faster across the first half of the lap but lost time during the final sector and was just 0.002s slower than Márquez.
Márquez’s time came under threat from Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Bautista but only the latter was able to eclipse the time set by the reigning World Champion. Espargaró returned to the track on his spare bike and was quicker than Márquez's time as he entered the final sector but he again crashed out and wrecked his chances. It was a disappointing evening for the Spaniard, who had dominated the three practice sessions in the run up to qualiying.
Márquez quickly responded to Bautista’s time and stole top spot with a 1:54.507, 0.057s faster than Bautista, with Smith less than a tenth of a second behind in third. Dovizioso managed fourth, ahead of the Factory bikes of Lorenzo and Márquez’s Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa. LCR’s Stefan Bradl was seventh, while Ducati’s Cal Crutchlow made it through Q1 and will line up from eighth place on the grid.
Espargaró’s time was good enough for ninth, despite his two crashes, with Valentino Rossi in tenth. Andrea Iannone and Pol Espargaró rounded out the Q2 runners in 11th and 12th.
The first 15 minute session featured the riders who failed to set a top 10 time during practice – which automatically secures a berth in Q2 – and ultimately the younger Espargaró and Crutchlow progressed with ease.
Nicky Hayden failed to make it through to Q2 and the American rider will line up from 13th on the grid, ahead of Colin Edwards and Hiroshi Aoyama. Britain’s Scott Redding will start from 16th, ahead of Yonny Hernández.
Hernández was an early casualty as the Pramac rider lost control under braking for Turn 2 and slid off track. Mike Di Meglio was the other rider to encounter problems during Q1 as he took a tumble but was able to walk away from his accident.
Sunday's race begins under the floodlights at 22:00 local time (GMT+3)