Sam Lowes was in a class of his own on Saturday evening as he rode to the 12th pole of his Grand Prix career under the floodlights in Qatar.
Afternoon air temperatures of 39℃ meant track conditions in FP3 were vastly different to what the riders experienced during qualifying, with the track cooling by 22 degrees for the evening session.
Having led the majority of the afternoon practice, Lowes was once again the reference for the shootout session, taking charge from seven minutes in, to finish Saturday with the fastest time overall, a 1’58.726.
Lapping alone throughout Q2, the Brit’s seven-lap run showed both speed and consistency as he posted five laps firmly in the 1’58s.
His fourth and fastest lap of the evening was 0.14s quicker than second placed Raul Fernandez, KTM’s impressive new recruit, and was enough to secure his first pole position of 2021 - his fourth with the Marc VDS team.
“I’m happy because my pace was really strong, even in the qualifying session” the Brit explained from Losail. “It’s been a positive weekend so far. I felt good in qualifying, it was the first time we’d run with the low fuel and I did quite a lot of fast laps, not a perfect lap but I’m happy.
I think we’ve done a good job all winter, a good job in the test. It’s been nice to actually do some testing because last year I missed it, so it’s nice to understand a bit more and give ourselves a few more possibilities on the race weekend if we need to. When you have a good year is nice to back it up at the start of the next and carry the momentum.
“The conditions are going to change tomorrow, maybe it will be cooler with more wind. If the wind is quite high, I expect there will be a big group at the front together. If the wind is less and I can get away, maybe I’ll be battling with just two or three guys, but it’s the first race of the year, it’s always a bit different. I’m just focussing on myself and we’ll see where we are in the last five laps.
“There’s many good riders and they all have great potential and now having a rookie on the front row is good. He’s been really fast all weekend, also Bendsneyder has been strong, so I’m not very surprised but it’s nice to have different people up there.
"Every session there is always different guys coming through so you have to look at everybody. In Moto2 it’s so tight, obviously a lot of things are very similar, with the bike and the engine so it’s always going to be a tough battle but I’m feeling good and ready to rock and roll.”
“We have to go to bed tonight relaxed. We’ve done the work for the race pace, and done the work for the one lap speed. We’ll be ready!”