Fabio Quartararo was the first and so far only rider to dip into the 1m53s so far at the 2021 Qatar MotoGP Test, but it was mighty close as Ducati Lenovo Team’s Jack Miller ended the day less than a tenth off. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was up at the sharp end on the brand-new RS-GP once again, this time in third but just 0.212 off Quartararo.
Sunday ushered in the best conditions the riders have enjoyed since pitlane opened at Losail International Circuit on Friday afternoon, with a bit of wind swirling across the track but nowhere near as much as the previous two days of track action. The improvements came quite early too as by the midway point, HRC test rider Stefan Bradl had beaten Aleix Espargaro’s Day 1 pace. It only got faster from there.
With just over half an hour left to play, Quartararo struck in the first 1m53 lap time of the test as the pace intensified under the lights, with Miller slicing up into P2 not long after. That was all Day 2 wrote at the top.
So what was on the agenda barring simple speed? Fastest man Quartararo confirmed late on Saturday evening that Yamaha have a new chassis to try in Qatar, and the Frenchman was trying a carbon swingarm although he said he wasn’t using it when he set his best lap. After struggling to get the feeling on his YZR-M1 in the first “30 or 40 laps”, Quartararo was happy by the end of 59, but said that he needs a little bit more time compared to team-mate Maverick Viñales to set that quick lap time from the off on new tyres, and it’s difficult to say whether the new chassis is better or not.
Fabio Quartararo – P1
“I’ve been doing a lot of training in the off-season, motocross and also flat track, but riding a MotoGP bike is a different story. I am looking forward to some days off now so the blisters on my hands can heal. Still, I am so happy that we get to ride again in two days, because I am enjoying it so much! We improved the pace, that’s something really positive that we take away from today. The feeling is great, and I made good lap times. We will use these upcoming two days off to look at the data and decide on the next steps.”
Viñales also confirmed that Yamaha have been trying plenty of things and his main focus so far has been rear grip. Judging from the timesheets, it’s going pretty well for the Iwata factory. Both riders seem to be very pleased with their progress so far with Viñales ending Day 2 in P7, 0.455s from his team-mate. It wasn’t an imperfect day for Viñales though as both he and test rider Cal Crutchlow crashed at Qatar’s notorious Turn 2 – both were perfectly ok.
Maverick Vinales – P7
“We are aiming for consistency this season. I am happy and pleased about the test. Yamaha has been working hard this winter. At the end of today‘s session, we did five or six laps that were really good for us. Those were the lap times we were looking for. I concentrated on my riding style and tried to go with the flow. I was surprised that I could ride 1‘54s even when there wasn‘t that much grip. I can‘t wait to be on the bike again on Wednesday and do more fast lap times.”
Massimo Meregalli – Monster Yamaha Team Director
“We are not yet where we want to be with our schedule, but we have been able to gather quite a lot of information that we will closely study in the next two days. Each rider explored different areas of improvement. We will prepare a mix of all the positively evaluated solutions for Wednesday. Overall, we are quite satisfied with the pace that both our riders have been able to keep over these last two days. Fabio set a strong time during his time attack. Maverick hasn’t done one yet.”
Both Petronas Yamaha SRT men also felt great after Day 1 and although Valentino Rossi’s was in P20 the day after, The Doctor seemed upbeat as he and Yamaha go through plenty of different things to try. After a “great first day at the office”, Morbidelli’s second day at the office also looked to have gone well after finishing up in P4 – a couple of tenths shy of former team-mate Quartararo.
Franco Morbidelli – P4
“I am happy with the job we’ve done today. Straight-away we had some good improvements on yesterday and then we just got better and better as the day went on. We went through some new elements that we needed to try, some of which I liked, and it was good to be able to go through them and have the chance to try them on my bike. Looking towards the final three days of testing, we will be looking to continue improving the overall package and then focusing on race pace, to understand some things ahead of the first two GPs here.”
Valentino Rossi – P20
“Today was not the best as I found that the grip levels were not what we wanted, so this was not great. We tried a few things, but we struggled a little with grip and acceleration on corner exit. Despite this we worked all day and we tried a new base setting. We will now check the data to help us find a better balance when the test resumes on Wednesday.”
Ever the innovators, Ducati were seen with some more new toys on Day 2 in addition to the new aero we’ve seen Michele Pirro, Miller and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) riding wth. A new rear wheel that they’re using to monitor the forces going on at the rear end was seen, but this could just be for testing purposes and it remains to be seen whether this will be something the Bologna brand race with…
Their front-end holeshot device was confirmed today, however, and this is something that Aprilia, Honda, KTM and Suzuki have at their disposal too. The second fastest Ducati on track was Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) in P6, with Bagnaia ending the day P9 on the timesheets. Chatting at the end of Day 2, Miller confirmed that he’s enjoying himself on the bike and was able to push a little for a time attack towards the end, and the Australian also ran with the new aero for pretty much the whole day – but hinted that something more is coming soon in classic Ducati preseason style.
Jack Miller – P2
“I’m pleased with these first two days of testing with my new team. Today I lapped mainly with the new fairing: the sensations are very positive, and the bike seems more stable. Despite the regulation restrictions, the team has done a fantastic job over the winter! For now, as is often the case here in Qatar, we are all very close, and we will be even closer at the end of these two tests! I expect a very fierce race weekend! Now I’m going to rest over the next two days to get back on track on Wednesday, more focused on our testing program.”
Johann Zarco – P6
“A positive day, we are continuing to improve day by day, today we tried new things and the sensations are good, I feel good on the bike but we still have to work on some aspects. We are going in the right direction.”
Francesco Bagnaia – P9
“Today was a very demanding day, but I’m satisfied with the work we were able to complete. We tested a lot of new items, and so far, the feeling has been positive. Fortunately, we’ll now have two days to work on the data we’ve gathered today and set up the work for the next three days of free practices that we will have here in Qatar next week”.
Ducati’s trio of rookies were once again out on track finding their feet on the fire breathing Desmosedicis too, and it was reigning Moto2 World Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama Racing) who was the fastest of the three on Day 2. The Italian took it by just over a tenth to team-mate Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Avintia) as the Italians claimed P16 and P18 respectively, a good day for both. Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin, meanwhile, suffered his third crash in three days and completed the least amount of laps of any full-time MotoGP rider on the second Official Test day. Martin was perfectly fine after the Turn 16 tumble though and was able to claim P19, only 0.027s behind Marini. All three rookies have impressed so far to finish one and a half seconds off Quartararo’s pace.
Jorge Martín – P19
“Every day the feeling is improving and growing lap by lap. Unfortunately I crashed after 3 laps but there were no consequences, I felt that I was gaining confidence and I made a mistake. I’m very happy with these days and the things I’ve learned will help me to do better next week.”
Over at Aprilia, the Noale factory tried to play down their Day 1 success but on the evidence that Aleix Espargaro was third fastest on Day 2, there’s plenty of reason to be excited. The entire new package seems to be going well as Aleix Espargaro put 69 more laps on the clock, with teammate Lorenzo Savadori adding 41 to his tally. The latter finished P17, 1.630 seconds away from top spot.
Aleix Espargaro explained that he did a long run to understand what the bike is going to be like over race distance, and he had good reports but said he and Aprilia need to find a way to enable him to ride it more relaxed as the new bike is more physical than last year. The number 41 improved by half a second though and as expected, they’ve been trying lots of different things. Overall, it was a happy Aleix Espargaro with three days of pre-season testing left.
Aleix Espargaro – P3
“It’s just a test, that much is obvious, but our step forward is just as obvious. The hard work begun last year and continued over the winter resulted in improvements to the RS-GP, suiting my needs. We’re not talking about just one aspect, but many small changes that make it different from the 2020 bike and more competitive. The weight reduction is a benefit and the greater aerodynamic load provides stability, which translates into a bike that accelerates better. The truly important note is not so much the flying lap as the pace: we are consistent. Even today during the race simulation, pace was objectively significant. The other side of the coin is the great physical effort required, especially after 10-12 laps. We need to work on that and on the right compromise between stability and handling.”
Lorenzo Savadori – P17
“Two demanding days, particularly for me because of the soreness from a shoulder injury that bothered me rather a lot. Yesterday I tried to gain confidence on the bike and with the tyres, whereas today we worked on ergonomics and my position in the saddle. We’ll be concentrating precisely on this aspect in the next tests, because we identified a few solutions that could make me a bit more incisive.”
At Honda, there was some new aero to try on Day 2 and all four riders were seen sporting the new fairing during Sunday’s action. Repsol-liveried duo Stefan Bradl and Pol Espargaro were sitting pretty at the top of the timesheets at the halfway point as the latter’s adaption from KTM to Honda continues to be smooth. Eventually, Espargaro finished the Day in P12 after another 62 laps under his belt on the RC213V, with Bradl continuing to mix it with the top times to finish P5 and impress once again.
Pol Espargaro – P12
“Another good day, we were not at the top but I am very satisfied with my speed and my overall pace. We were 0.7s from the top and 0.5s from the top five which is a positive after only two days on the bike. I am happy with how the adaption to the bike is going, there are still some areas to work on but physically I am coping well with how to ride the Honda. It is just a matter of time to understand how to make the most of the Honda, I think today we showed the progress you can make in just one day so I am looking forward to a quick break and then getting back on the Honda again.”
Stefan Bradl – P5
“Well we have had another positive day on the bike and I am pleased with what we have done. We were able to improve almost immediately, and our pace kept up with the guys at the top, it shows that both the bike and I are working well here. This is allowing us to get a lot of work done for Honda and so far we have had three very productive days. I was not chasing a fast lap so much and the times are very tight. Now I will enjoy a short rest before coming back for the final three days of testing here.”
LCR Honda Castrol’s Alex Marquez crashed unhurt twice on Day 2, one at Turn 16 and one at Turn 2. Team-mate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) also went down, the Japanese rider suffering his second crash of the Test – also at Turn 2 – but he too was ok. The duo were seen on Honda’s new fairing and finished together on the timesheets, P12 for Nakagami and P13 for Alex Marquez. Nakagami confirmed that some areas of the new fairings were good, others less so, with more testing needed to understand them better.
Takaaki Nakagami – P13
“Today was a quite busy day because we tested a few items, some important things, but it was good because everything was quite clear in terms of the information and feeling we were getting back from the bike. I had a big crash in turn two around five o’clock, but thankfully I was ok. Step by step we are getting there, and we definitely understood that we need to improve on the set-up for the next test. I’m quite calm and feel good so hopefully we can make another step forward in the next test, which will be really important for the race weekend. I hope we can get even better performance in that next test starting on Wednesday.”
Álex Márquez – P14
“The second day in Qatar was again encouraging because we tried some special things and a different direction for the bike – and it was honestly a positive result. We just had a couple of small crashes at the beginning and at the end which weren’t really part of the plan, and just meant it was a problem as regards doing a time attack in the last hour.Anyway, I think we have got some really good information and a good feeling with the bike for next week. We now have two days to analyse things and put all the pieces together. We have learnt a lot over these last two days and I’m looking forward to the final three days of pre-season tests in order to make another step forward and to feel even better with the bike.”
The Avintia Esponsorama Racing Team have ended with very positive sensations looking the upcoming test on the Losail circuit. Enea Bastianini has made 45 laps marking his best time at 1.55″48. Luca Marini (Sky Vr46 Avintia Team) made 48 laps marking his best time at 1.55″605.
Enea Bastianini – P16
“I’ve ride more smoothly and relaxed as with this bike you can’t ride aggressively. I finally got a good time in the middle of the section. We have started working with electronics and set up, the result of these three days is very positive. As a goal for the next Test certainly improve gradually to get in the best conditions to the two races”.
Luca Marini – P18
“Of the three, today is definitely the day I enjoyed the most. I was able to ride more easily, I made a good step forward on the setting and a great job in the garage. I have done a lot on my riding style in braking and now I am closer to the other Ducati guys. In these days before the second testing session, we will check the data to understand in which area to focus and further evolve my style. The riding position is better, I can do more laps and keep a good pace. I am doing a lot in terms of electronics; I have more confidence on the front too and I have pushed more on the tires that are really very different from Dunlop. We have to work on many details to be 100%, but we can think of a race simulation in the next session.”
World Champion Joan Mir and Suzuki team-mate Alex Rins were both comfortably sitting inside the top 10 heading into the final hour of the day, with test riders Sylvain Guintoli and Takuya Tsuda also on track. A new chassis is on the agenda for the Hamamatsu factory as well as some other as yet unconfirmed parts, but so far it looks like all is well in the silver and blue ranks as they packed up early on Day 2.
Mir confirmed that he enjoyed his second day on track, rediscovering his feeling from 2020 was on the agenda and the number 36 did exactly that. One of Mir’s main aims is to improve his qualifying pace, but the Spaniard said today wasn’t the day to properly delve into that. Rins confirmed he tried a new swingarm which made the bike a little more stable, and the number 42 also tried the 2022 engine that Guintoli has been testing. Great reviews, especially on top speed, were given.
Joan Mir – P8
“It was a tough day because we tried lots of new things such as the new spec. chassis items, some things with the electronics, and some tyres. We tried to find the best way forward and I’m happy with the performance, and my lap times so far. The team and I have done a really good job, the test has been positive, and for sure we feel prepared for the next three days of testing at the end of next week.”
Alex Rins – P10
“I’m feeling quite good, today went pretty well and we tried quite a few different things. I tried the first version of the engine for 2022, which felt good and seems that it might have a bit more speed. After that we tried a few other small things. The times are really tight, but I’m happy with my pace at the moment. I had a small crash at Turn 2 at the end of the day, but there were no consequences. I’m looking forward to the next testing days.”
Sylvain Guintoli – P26
“Today we carried on working with the chassis, trying some aerodynamic variations. We found some good things and some not-so-good things in those areas, and it was really interesting to compare everything. I also worked on suspension and some smaller adjustments. I felt much better riding today; I’m more used to being on the bike now after 5 months without riding!”
KTM were another manufacturer that debuted a new fairing today in Doha. This was narrower than the previous one and it was pictured on Miguel Oliveira’s Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machine, with initial feelings seeming positive. However, with the wind, the word was that it’s difficult to properly tell how useful it is. Oliveira was the fastest RC16 rider on circuit though, claiming P11, 0.726s from Quartararo.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), meanwhile, described his day as a “little bit challenging” and suffered two crashes towards the end of the day. The South African was fine and although P24 on the timesheets, he confirmed everything is running pretty smoothly. The number 33 also ran with the updated fairing. Danilo Petrucci and Tech3 KTM Factory Racing team-mate Iker Lecuona were P21 and P23 respectively, a quiet day for the orange men as Petrucci settles in and Lecuona starts only his second MotoGP season.
Danilo Petrucci – P21
“Today has been another intense day of working. I’m understanding the bike better day by day. We tried something that works, but it’s clear, that we need some more time, as the challenge is quite tough. Unfortunately, I crashed this evening and I’m really sorry for that. Overall, I’m happy about the improvements we made today. For sure, we are still quite far from where we want to be, but we have three days left next week, where we need to use the time we have available to the best and then I think we can be competitive. We improved the lap time a lot today, but it’s still not enough. I would like to say thanks to my team for the hard work. We have to continue like this.”
Iker Lecuona – P23
“I tried many things on the bike for KTM and also for myself. I continued to improve my performance, mainly with my riding style in order to readapt myself to the bike. Also, with the temperature I felt more confident tonight than yesterday, so I’m quite satisfied about this regard. I didn’t check the result throughout the day, as I was fully focused on my performance and my work. We still have three test days to go faster, so we will see what happens next week.”
Hervé Poncharal – Tech3 KTM Team Manager
“Finally, we’ve done our first two days with Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona to open the 2021 MotoGP season. It has been a very busy two days with a lot of things to test for both of our riders. KTM has worked very hard during winter and we had to go through a lot of different items to evaluate and this is what managed to do during these first two days. I think it was very important to go through this process in order to see a bit clearer where we want to go and to give the right feedback to the KTM engineers. This was done and we are pretty happy with that. Of course, it was also very important to hear and understand what Danilo was going to tell us in terms of feeling when he jumped on the KTM after so many years with his previous manufacturer. Clearly, he is happy with the bike. He is sure there’s quite a lot of improvement that will be done, but we had to try everything KTM wants us to try and having him doing his adaptation on the bike step by step in order to go to the next test with a much more comfortable feeling. I believe we’ve already lowered the gap between the leaders and us by a half second, which is something interesting. This is what we have to focus on at moment; to give Danilo the feedback so he can feel at home with the bike and he can push. On other side of garage, it was very interesting to see Iker back on bike since October. A MotoGP bike is very special and so long time without riding it, is difficult. You can’t replace the feeling of riding a MotoGP bike, so he needed some adaption as well. We are happy, he had the same pace as his teammate and was together with all the rookies, a group which will be a lot of fun to follow this season. Same as Danilo, Iker had to go through a lot of items to test and this is what we’ve done besides doing laps. I believe the four KTM riders had a big agenda, we did it. Hopefully this is behind now and for the next three days we can work towards the race weekend. Although the positions are not the most exciting ones we had in our life, but we are happy, we have done our job and we’re confident that we can be closer to the front before the official Grand Prix week starts.”
There are now two days of downtime before the action returns on the 10th of March in Qatar.
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