Photo: Suzuki Ecstar
The final official Moto GP pre-season test, held at the Losail circuit in Qatar, is over, and Yamaha’s new signing Maverick Vinales is again the fastest, as he’s been in every test since he swapped over from the Suzuki squad at the end of last season.
His team-mate Valentino Rossi actually went slower on the last day than on the second, saying “It looks like with the bike we have a good potential, because Vinales is very, very fast. But I think that he and his team are able to understand in a shorter time the way to make this bike at the maximum and we are a bit in delay. So we are a bit worried.”
That might spell a quicker than usual end to the friendly demeanour in the Yamaha garage! After all, “Vale” is famous for being great friends with his teammates – until they’re faster than him.
The aerodynamic revolution – following the banning of the hideous winglets introduced last season – continued, with Ducati being the last to show a new fairing design that incorporates small wings inside a wider fairing. It must be said that one hopes that Ducati’s effort doesn’t work, because it’s perhaps the ugliest thing to show up on a racing vehicle since the 1971-72 “lobster-claw” Brabham BT-34 Formula One car.
Times see-sawed between riders over the three day period, but Vinales was consistently at the top. The rider most likely to be his chief rival this season is fellow Spaniard Marc Marquez. Although Marquez crashed no fewer than four times during this final test (blaming the new aero fairing for at least one of those) and finished only 11th in the final standings, he seems relatively content with his overall race pace and is talking up taking the fight to Vinales in two weeks at the first race.
Surprisingly quick is Alvaro Bautista, the Spaniard on one of last year’s Ducatis but constantly within a 10th or two of the newer factory bikes. Also encouraging are the two rookies joining the Tech 3 Yamaha team; both Jonas Folger and double Moto 2 champ Johann Zarco have been shockingly quick off the mark on their first seasons in Moto GP – Zarco, slightly slower than his team-mate in this test, is still only half a second off Vinales’ fastest time.
The Suzukis, quick at the last test at the Sepang circuit, struggled in Qatar, the experienced Andrea Iannone nearly a second off the pace, with his new team-mate just a 10th back. The Aprilias and KTMs, both new to the field this year (Aprilia raced last season, but the new bike is pretty much totally new) pretty much tailed the timesheets again in spite of a good effort by the experienced Aleix Espargaro.
The KTM effort, with Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro on board, are still developing a brand-new bike and despite being at the bottom of the list seem pleased with the huge improvement in times they made over the three-day test.
It’ll be a more than interesting start to the season in two weeks at the Middle East circuit in Qatar.
Following are the best times from each rider taken over the three-day test (Mika Kallio isn’t racing, but is a test rider for the new KTM team):
- Maverick Viñales, Spain, Movistar Yamaha, 1m 54.330s
- Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 1m 54.401s
- Dani Pedrosa. Spain, Repsol Honda, 1m 54.469s
- Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Ducati Team, 1m 54.519s
- Alvaro Bautista, Spain, Aspar Ducati, 1m 54.714s
- Valentino Rossi, Italy, Movistar Yamaha, 1m 54.732s
- Scott Redding, U.K., Octo Pramac Ducati, 1m 54.750s
- Jonas Folger, Germany, Monster Yamaha Tech 3, 1m 54.807s
- Cal Crutchlow, U.K., LCR Honda, 1m 54.821s
- Johann Zarco, France, Monster Yamaha Tech 3, 1m 54.900s
- Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 1m 54.990s
- Aleix Espargaro, Spain, Aprilia Gresini, 1m 55.121s
- Andrea Iannone, Italy Team Suzuki Ecstar, 1m 55.284s
- Karel Abraham, Czech Republic, Aspar Ducati, 1m 55.333s
- Alex Rins, Spain, Team Suzuki Ecstar, 1m 55.362s
- Jack Miller, Australia, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda, 1m 55.455s
- Loris Baz, France, Reale Avintia Ducati, 1m 55.539s
- Danilo Petrucci, Italy, Octo Pramac Ducati, 1m 55.556s
- Sam Lowes, U.K., Aprilia Gresini, 1m 56.167s
- Tito Rabat, Spain, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda, 1m 56.214s 21.
- Bradley Smith GBR Red Bull KTM, 1m 56.351s
- Pol Espargaro, Spain, Red Bull KTM, 1m 56.471s
- Mika Kallio, Finland, KTM Test Rider, 1m 56.891s
First race of the season, Losail Circuit, Qatar, March 26.