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The GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 ‘red’ livery appeared extra fast and blurry under the impressive lighting system of the Lusail International Circuit for the Grand Prix of Qatar. Augusto Fernandez pushed to an impressive 9th position on Saturday evening to officially confirm his ‘Rookie of the Year’ billing and teammate Pol Espargaro managed 16th through the 11-lap Sprint. Elsewhere GASGAS Aspar Team’s Jake Dixon qualified 6th in Moto2.
For 2023 the Grand Prix of Qatar becomes the penultimate round of the series due to major reconstruction work of the paddock and pits to make the track one of the most modern and spectacular on the slate. The layout remained the same however and provided the same curving sixteen-corner weave of varying speed and challenge.
Practice took place late in the afternoon and provided relevant data for the early Saturday Quali. Augusto Fernandez and Pol Espargaro made speed starts to the fixture on Friday with efforts in FP1 that plugged the duo near the top ten. The PR session occurred in the evening and in cooler and humid conditions and Fernandez made the cut while a late crash for Espargaro unfortunately put the rapid Spaniard into Q1. Augusto was inside the top eight until the last minute of Q2 as the laps flew in. His best effort almost equaled the all-time lap record at Lusail and was enough for 12th, a second away from Pole. After the Quali run on Saturday, the 11-lap Sprint was set for 20:00 local time. Fernandez clicked all the ‘pieces’ together: decent qualifying, good start, effective first laps and positive race pace. He was active and probing for slots on the fringe of the top ten and part of a multi-rider group. Proactiveness and some sharp moves on the final two circulations gave him a well-earned 9th: his best Sprint result since the British Grand Prix. Pol had to start from 19th and avoided the first lap carnage that took three riders out of action. He made it to the flag with 16th.
MotoGP will benefit from the usual brief warm-up Sunday afternoon before Moto3 kicks off the show at 15:00 (CEST), Moto2 at 16:15 and MotoGP at 18:00.
Augusto Fernandez, 12th in qualifying, 9th in the Sprint: “Best Sprint in dry conditions. Happy with the race. The first part was not that fantastic and it took some time to put temperature in the rear tire and make my pace. But then I felt good and started to lap well. The soft front tire won’t be the option for tomorrow but I rode well in a different style. The pace and bike is working decently for the long race. We’ll analyze more tonight and try for another top ten tomorrow. I think that is our place right now. That’s the goal.”
Pol Espargaro, 19th in qualifying, 16th in the Sprint: “It’s not been the brightest day but we gained good knowledge for tomorrow’s race, especially with the tires because we did not make the best decision today. Still the Sprint is always good experience for Sunday. We have good information now and we are ready to dance again tomorrow.”
Nicolas Goyon, GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 Team Manager: “The first ever Sprint in Qatar and an eventful day. Augusto did quite a good lap in Q2 but couldn’t rank higher than P12; we knew his pace was interesting for the Sprint. After a decent start he rode well and started to increase his speed throughout. P9 was a great result for the team for our second Sprint points this season. Augusto keeps improving step-by-step. Pol had a complicated qualifying but his pace was quite similar to bikes ahead of him. We’ll go back to our computers and ideas for the longer race tomorrow.”
Results Qualifying MotoGP Grand Prix of Qatar 1. Luca Marini (ITA) Ducati 1:51.7622. Fabio Di Giannantonio (ITA) Ducati +0.0673. Alex Marquez (ESP) Ducati +0.13612. Augusto Fernandez (ESP) GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 +1.02219. Pol Espargaro (ESP) GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 +1.53.362 (Q1)
Results MotoGP Sprint Grand Prix of Qatar 1. Jorge Martin (ESP) Ducati 20:52.6342. Fabio Di Giannantonio (ITA) Ducati +0.3913. Luca Marini (ITA) Ducati +2.8759. Augusto Fernandez (ESP) GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 +8.28516. Pol Espargaro (ESP) GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 +12.745
Moto3 and Moto2
Moto3 grouped together through Q2 to the point where the first four rows of the grid were divided by one second. Among the pack jostling for prime real estate for the 16-lap race at dusk on Sunday were the GASGAS Aspar Team duo. David Alonso used the first practice sessions on Friday to get acclimatized to the speedy curves of Lusail and mastered his maiden swoop around the course to the point where he etched the 13th quickest lap in Q2; meaning the tip of the fifth row of the start grid. The Spaniard was 15 slots in front of teammate Ryusei Yamanaka. The Japanese will take to the tenth line on Sunday and from 28th.
Jake Dixon was roaming the limits of his technical setup in Moto2 to try and be one of the references in the class through Friday and Saturday. The Brit was once more logged near the top of the time sheets consistently and, after the usual entry into Q2, took 6th position with his best ‘flyer’. Jake was less than half a second away from the Pole but with decent prospects to end the season on a high. Izan Guevara’s Moto2 education continues at pace and Lusail was another lesson in grip management and working out the acute demands of Moto2 under the lights. The Spaniard finished Q1 with 24th on the grid for Sunday’s 18-lapper.
Grand Prix of Qatar MotoGP photographs can be found HERE
Results Qualifying Moto3 Grand Prix of Qatar 1. Daniel Holgado (ESP) KTM 2:04.7422. Diogo Moreira (BRA) KTM +0.0033. Deniz Öncü (TUR), KTM +0.15213. David Alonso (COL) GASGAS Aspar Team +1.39925. Ryusei Yamanaka (JPN) GASGAS Aspar Team 2:07.386 (Q1)
Results Qualifying Moto2 Grand Prix of Qatar 1. Joe Roberts (USA) 1:57.3052. Celestino Vietti (ITA) +0.0073. Aron Canet (ESP) +0.0286. Jake Dixon (GBR) GASGAS Aspar Team +0.49924. Izan Guevara (ESP) GASGAS Aspar Team 1:58.418
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