The Tissot Grand Prix of Doha represents the second round of 2021 MotoGP, and for the second event in seven days at a blustery Losail International Circuit Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Miguel Oliveira was once more KTM’s top qualifier at the fast, floodlit venue.
– Oliveira is the first KTM racer to make the Q2 cut and places 12th in qualification
– Petrucci leads Binder and Lecuona on the grid in tough, windy conditions
– Moto3 Pole Position for Jaume Masia & Moto2 front row for Remy Gardner
KTM’s two teams and four riders regrouped and tackled the tricky Losail asphalt for the second time in a week and for the last stint at the flat and flowing track a short distance outside of the Qatari capital city.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and Tech3 KTM Factory Racing were able to make technical gains with the set-up of the KTM RC16 to increase competitiveness for one-lap qualification speed compared to the season-opener the previous weekend. The awkward nature of the timetable for the Qatar ‘double’ sees half of the four Free Practice sessions taking place in hot, late afternoon temperatures and the other two outings in a cooler, more humid climate. Add frequent gusty winds and an abrasive track surface and perfecting set-up and tire choice can be complicated work.
After Friday both Oliveira and Danilo Petrucci were much closer to the direct Q2 cut, sitting just half a second from provisional pole position. On Saturday it was Oliveira who was the first and sole RC16 racer to emerge from the frantic Q1 chase. The Portuguese was second fastest with his last lap effort and entered the dash for the first section of the starting grid. He tried to lower his time further but encountered a tire issue and finally accepted 12th for the last slot on the fourth row. Petrucci ended the evening in 17th while Brad Binder was in 18th and Iker Lecuona in 20th.
Miguel Oliveira: “I’m happy we made it through to Q2 but today the track was not in the best condition for us and we struggled to find optimum grip. It was really hard to repeat Friday’s lap-time. When I went through to Q2 I tried a different configuration on my second bike which was not ideal and on top of that I had a front tire that gave me vibration on the right side. So, it was a slightly better qualifying but let’s see what happens tomorrow. We need to get to the front as quick and as much as we can and then see what we can manage apart from that.”
Brad Binder: “Not exactly the Saturday we had planned. I wanted to get through to Q2 but it was a difficult day with a lot of different elements: a lot of wind and a lot of dust on track. We tried a few things this morning that seemed quite positive in the high wind situation but when it came to pushing for a lap-time in calmer conditions them it seemed a bit more difficult. Tomorrow is our last chance to leave Qatar with a good feeling, so we’re going to go for it.”
Danilo Petrucci: “Overall, I’m happy about my sensations on the bike. We improved a bit but we are still not where we want to be. We found some small refinements today, although I think our potential is higher. We tried something different with the tires in FP4 and also something different in terms of electronics. I think I could have been faster on my single lap, but I was completely alone and with this wind, it was quite difficult. Still, I’m happy about the progress.”
Iker Lecuona: “I have to admit, that I’m not satisfied. Obviously, we are pretty far back on the grid again although we improved one position and above all, my feeling with the bike is way better and also our pace compared to last week. Regarding all these factors, I expect to have a good race tomorrow and I know that I’m capable of fighting for the points. So, I’ll try my best when the red lights go off for round two.”
Moto2 & Moto3
Jaume Masia continued his electric pace at Losail. The winner of the Grand Prix of Qatar last Sunday went on to seal his first Moto3 Pole Position for the Red Bull KTM Ajo team (and their first accolade since Raul Fernandez rode to Pole in Portugal for the final round of 2020) on his KTM RC4 by less than a hundredth of a second from Sergio Garcia. Like the other classes, the Moto3 riders had to deal with strong winds and a dirty track but Masia was able to head the field. Teammate Pedro Acosta was the next best KTM in 9th place but will start the race from the pitlane; the rookie was one of seven riders to be penalized for ‘slow riding’ in Friday’s Free Practice 2.
Jaume Masia: “Very difficult conditions today and I rode easy early on because I didn’t want to take any risks. Anyway, we had the pace and we have to continue in this line and hope for another good race here tomorrow.”
In Moto2 Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Raul Fernandez posted a lap-time to remain at the top of Free Practice on both Friday and Saturday sessions. When it came to the crucial Q2 run, the Spanish rookie was in fierce form to seal a final ranking of 4th but was not as quick as teammate Remy Gardner. The Australian was 2nd and just a tenth of a second from Pole on Sunday evening. He will begin the 20-lap race from the middle of the front row.
Races: April 4th, 2021 – Moto3 16.00 CET | Moto2 17.20 CET | MotoGP 19.00 CET
Results Qualifying MotoGP Tissot Grand Prix of Doha
1. Jorge Martin (ESP) Ducati 1:53.106
2. Johann Zarco (FRA) Ducati +0.157
3. Maverick Viñales (ESP) Yamaha +0.161
4. Jack Miller (AUS) Ducati +0.197
5. Fabio Quartararo (FRA) Yamaha +0.363
12. Miguel Oliveira (POR) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +1.990
17. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Tech3 KTM Factory Racing (Q1) 1:54.528
18. Brad Binder (RSA) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (Q1) 1:54.555
20. Iker Lecuona (ESP) Tech3 KTM Factory Racing 1:54.731
Results Qualifying Moto2 Tissot Grand Prix of Doha
1. Sam Lowes (GBR) 1:59.055
2. Remy Gardner (AUS) Red Bull KTM Ajo +0.137
3. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA (NED) +0.272
4. Raul Fernandez (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo +0.386
Results Qualifying Moto3 Tissot Grand Prix of Doha
1. Jaume Masia (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo 2:05.913
2. Sergio Garcia (ESP) GASGAS +0.099
3. Jeremy Alcoba (ESP) Honda +0.245
9. Pedro Acosta (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo +0.916