MotoGP Qatar test: The story so far

MotoGP Qatar Test

Photos: MotoGP

The MotoGP Qatar test is now two days in, and the results are surprising.

Honda’s Marc Marquez has been setting a scorching pace as always, but it’s been the Ducati factory team that’s been catching the most attention, topping the timesheet on both days so far.

In fact, Andrea Dovizioso managed to beat Casey Stoner’s 2008 lap record on Day 2, with a 1’54.907 time – 0.2 seconds up on Stoner’s time. On Day 1, Dovizioso has been in second behind teammate Andrea Iannone, who’d posted a 1’55.265 lap. Fast times in the desert, indeed!

Ducati has been posting their times without the benefit of the “softer” tires, which are available to them under current MotoGP rules. Marquez’s theory on their choice was that ““I believe they’re not using the extra-soft tire to avoid creating a scare, because their lap-times would quickly drop by one second!”

While Ducati moved up, and Honda’s factory team remained near the top (Dani Pedrosa was 5th on Day 1, 6th on Day 2), Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi didn’t seem to fare as well at first as they continued to play with their new seamless gearbox. They were 6th and 8th respectively on Day 1, but on Day 2 they improved to 4th and 5th respectively.

Lorenzo sounded a bit down after the practice, saying he couldn’t get the handling out of the bike that he was hoping for: “We tried many things, but everyone else made a bigger step in their work.”

Teammate Rossi echoed his comments, saying ““It was a difficult day for me, because we tried to work a lot on the setting of the bike to improve and to be faster, but we didn’t get the improvement we expected.”

The Suzuki factory team saw very encouraging results on Day 1, with Aleix Espargaro in 4th (Maverick Vinales was in 11th). Day 2 saw Espargaro drop to 12th, and Vinales to 14th.

Top satellite rider was Cal Crutchlow on Day 1 and Day 2, in 7th position on the timesheet both days. Crutchlow managed to have a bit of an off on Day 2, but was uninjured and managed a 1’55.624 time after the incident.

The Gresini Aprilia team was the biggest loser on both days; riders Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri were 25th and 26th respectively on Day 1, and 24th and 26th respectively on Day 2.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us on the setup, especially in terms of managing the engine brake, electronics strategies and the chassis,” said team manager Romano Albesiano. “On the other hand, I’m quite pleased with our progress session after session in terms of reliability. We need time and a lot of work and that is exactly why we are here.”

Today is the final day of the Qatar test; after this, riders have less than two weeks to prepare for the March 29 season opener back in Qatar.


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