Wednesday’s record times set by Jack Miller and Fabio Quartararo in almost ideal conditions were not expected to be bettered on Thursday and that was largely the case. Conditions were still good but had started to change a little ahead of what is expected to be quite a windy day on Friday.
Franco Morbidelli was a big improver, dropping over a second off his Wednesday marker to be second quickest on Thursday, but it was Maverick Vinales who set the pace overnight, a 1m53.244 the benchmark overnight which promoted him past Fabio Quartararo into P2 on combined times.
It was a Yamaha 1-2-3 on Thursday while Valentino Rossi was eighth quickest.
Massimo Meregalli – Monster Yamaha Team Director
“We had a lot of work scheduled for today‘s session. We haven‘t done a full race distance stint yet, but we have made promising steps whilst working on the pace with used tyres. Both Maverick‘s and Fabio‘s times are competitive, and they are also consistent, which is equally important. The preseason testing is already coming to an end. Our main aim for tomorrow is to get the riders fully confident and comfortable before we start the racing season in two weeks‘ time.”
Maverick Vinales – P1
“We already know that we can be very fast on one lap and have a good rhythm. That’s very positive, but there are other points that we can further improve, and we are working really hard on that. We have one more test day remaining. I’m concentrating on my race starts and also on the first laps with a new tyre and a full fuel tank, which is important. We are making a lot of progress and this is making us very happy. We are really motivated.”
Franco Morbidelli – P2
“I feel ready for the first round of the season; there’s always room to improve the pace and things that could be better, but I feel ready. We’ve tested a lot and have been trying to adapt to the different conditions at every hour and then we finished with a really good first time attack. I’m really happy with it. Tomorrow we will need to look at the tyres and look at our long run, the usual type of things. Overall I’m really satisfied and I’m working with my team to understand the secrets of the bike even more.”
“It wasn’t the most fun testing day, because we had many things to try. During the time attack I went with an old medium rear, but the feeling wasn’t good, so I immediately switched to a soft. I was impressed with the potential of the soft, even if my lap wasn’t that great. But a 1’53.3s is already a good time. Step by step we are improving. Let’s see if we can make further progress on the last day.”
While eight riders were in the 53s, including Rossi, race pace is not expected to be that fast and thus come race day the wily veteran might well be in the hunt. He also liked the new chassis and fairing that he tested during the day.
Valentino Rossi – P8
“Today was a positive day because it was the first time that I have done a 1min 53secs lap of Qatar, it was my best lap and that was very important to do. There are still areas of the time attack and race pace that I need to improve a little bit, but I’m happy because we worked well today and improved the feeling. I was able to increase my corner entry speed, improve my race pace and now I’m closer to the top guys, which is crucial for the race. The important thing is that we are working in the right direction and closing the gap to the guys at the top.”
The overall quickest rider remains Jack Miller but the Australian concentrated on development and long runs, including a race simulation, during his 58 laps on Thursday to rank P11 for the session. Wednesday’s 1m53.183 by Miller was not bettered by anyone overnight and his Thursday best of 1m54.347 is more akin to the expected race winning pace rather than what can be set on a single lap scorcher. Miller did not put a soft tyre in the Desmosedici on Thursday.
Jack Miller – P11
“It was a very positive day. Compared to yesterday, today, we mainly focused on testing with different tyres. I did 15 laps with yesterday’s used tyres, and then I tried a race simulation with new tyres. I covered almost the entire distance of the Grand Prix, but compared to a real race, I pushed hard right away in the first few laps, wearing out the rear tyre, which had a drop towards the end. I am not worried about that because I know my approach in the race will be different. In general, I feel very comfortable on the bike, and I’m satisfied with our work“.
His Ducati team-mate Francesco Bagnaia cut eight-tenths off his own best from Wednesday to finish Thursday in P3 which moved him up to fifth on combined times.
Francesco Bagnaia – P4
“I’m delighted with the work done with my team today. The weather forecast for tomorrow calls for higher temperatures and strong winds, so we tried to carry out most of our programme. During my first “time attack” for this year, I managed to set a very good time, and with the same tyres, I then did a short race simulation on a 15-lap distance. The feedback is very positive: my pace was consistent, although tyres were used. Now we know what we still need to improve for the race“.
The five fastest bikes through the speed traps were all Ducati and fastest again was Johann Zarco, 357.6 km/h for the Frenchman who ended the day P9 on the time-sheets and put in 71 laps, the most of any rider.
Johann Zarco – P9
“We were planning to do a long run at the end of the day to gather more information about how the bike might behave in race conditions but there was more work to do than expected. It was a very exciting day, I did 71 laps, we worked on many aspects to improve the feeling and control even more. I am sure that if we continue to work like this we will be able to take great satisfaction.”
Suzuki again were consistent with both riders cutting almost idential lap-times once again and ranking P6-7. Joan Mir worked on chassis settings and putting down reference laps in order to make comparisons between parts and options. He covered most areas of the bike on Thursday and was therefore ready to work towards his race set-up. The feedback from Mir was encouraging, and despite not being able to put in a fast lap, his pace is nevertheless strong.
Joan Mir – P6
“I’m quite satisfied with today, we made some steps forward and some progress. We focused on the settings of the bike to try and improve our performance. On my last exit we made some adjustments which didn’t work, so I didn’t improve my lap time in the end, but I’m still not far from the top riders and I’m pleased with my pace. I was able to maintain times in the 54s and that’s encouraging. I’m ready for the final test day tomorrow.”
Alex Rins used some of the day’s track session to continue his work with the fairing variations available to him, before also working on suspension and geometry. He then did some back-to-back comparisons. Rins found positive feelings and improved his lap time.
Alex Rins – P7
“It was a good day today, I really enjoyed riding and I tried a lot of things. I struggled a bit more to find the pace today, yesterday it came more easily, but I still improved the lap time so I’m happy. Tomorrow I will try the new chassis again and then I will try a race simulation to see how it’s all going. Overall, everything feels good so far.”
Despite a couple of crashes this week Taka Nakagami also looks as though he might again be a shining light for Honda. The likeable Japanese rider was P12 on Thursday, only one-thousandth off Miller.
Takaaki Nakagami – P12
“Today it was quite tricky conditions from the beginning and in the first couple of hours I didn’t have much confidence on the bike, especially the front end. Then from about 6 o’clock, the feeling started to come back and I continued to develop the bike with my team. At the end, the feedback was quite good and the lap time was about the same as yesterday. Of course, we need to understand more deeply where we are losing time in the sectors. Today we tested some new items on the chassis and step by step we are going in a good direction and hopefully tomorrow we can make some long runs to understand for the race weekends. We also need to try and improve the qualifying lap.”
Alex Marquez suffered a big high-side at turn nine, his fifth crash of the weekend, and this time he didn’t get away with it. Alex Marquez suffered a fractured foot but will still attempt to ride on Friday. He was again not the only Honda rider to go down, with Stefan Bradl crashing again while Repsol Honda’s Pol Espargaro suffered his first crash on the RC213V. It certainly doesn’t seem that the latest iteration of the Honda is any easier to ride.
Alex Marquez – P17
“Today we planned to do some time-attack laps and to do a full race-simulation. We tested some things at the beginning of the day, but then when I went out for the time-attack – an area I need to improve on – I had a high-side and I unfortunately injured my foot. Thankfully I am ok and feel good, and even though there is a small crack, I have no pain or anything like that. It meant that we weren’t able to do our race simulation, but we need to focus on the positives. I felt good today and even in the time-attacks was feeling really at home on the bike. So, that’s a positive ahead of the GP. We need to now see what the doctor says tomorrow. It looks like wind will be strong, but if conditions are ok and the doctor gives me the ok, then I would be the first out on track. I have ridden with something similar before. Whatever happens, I will try to be 110% ready for the start of the season. I want to thank the whole LCR Honda CASTROL Team after this first test because they have done an amazing job. I want to say sorry for the crashes this week, but I am sure that we will be stronger because of it and we have lots of positives and will be ready for the start of the season.”
There was some positive news for Honda though with Pol Espargaro putting in an impressive long run that showed competitive race pace. He was only tenth quickest on the Thursday time-sheets but looks like he might be in the hunt when racing gets underway and is liking the RC213V. That will be encouraging for Honda as without the phenom that is Marc Marquez fit and ready to do battle, it could indeed be a dismal season for Honda if the pace of the Ducati, Yamaha and Suzuki riders proves a reliable indicator.
Pol Espargaro – P10
“It was a strange crash today; we were trying different tyres and the wind was very different today so there was less wind at the end of the braking zone. So, this and the tyre we were using wasn’t a great combo but after I used a different tyre, and we went much faster so it’s not a big problem. At the moment we look quite competitive, the Honda so far really fits my natural riding style, and I am enjoying riding it a lot. The future looks nice, but we are still in the early stages. If we do everything well we can have a good year.”
KTM riders are still to show their hands when it comes to outright lap times. The quickest on Thursday was Brad Binder but he was 1.5-seconds from pacesetter Vinales and ranked only P16.
Over at Aprilia Aleix Espargaro continues to completely outshine Lorenzo Savadori. Aleix was P5 on Thursday while Savadori was more than two-seconds slower than his team-mate, it will be interesting to see if he is still on the bike come race day.
Fastest of the rookies, despite a crash at Turn 16, was Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing). A 1m54.483 was set by the Spaniard, that’s over half a second quicker than he’d previously managed in Qatar. 42 more laps are on the board for Martin who finished just 0.022s ahead of Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama Racing), the latter finishing P15 on another great day for the Italian.
Jorge Martín – P14
“Today we tried the time attack and a long run for the first time, I am very satisfied, both for the time I managed to set and for the way we are working. It was a very productive day that helped me to understand a lot of things, and above all I can see that we are taking big steps forward day after day and this helps me to have more and more confidence.”
Enea Bastianini – P15
“Today I worked very well, not like yesterday, but I hope that tomorrow with better asphalt conditions will improve my times. The feel of the MotoGP is completely different from the Moto2, if you get out slow of the corner the bike bump from behind and is more difficult. Today I had shoulder discomfort from yesterday’s fall, it didn’t bother me until I went out on track and I noticed the pain, the Ducati is complicated, and I still have to adapt better to the bike.”
Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Avintia) also had a seamless day at the office by the looks of things, the tall Italian set a 1:55.022 to end Day 4 in P20, 1.778s away from Viñales’ pace. Overall, the three Moto2 graduates look promising.
Luca Marini – P20
“We have worked really hard today especially on the rear of the bike and I found a good setting. Even in the corners I was able to make a step forward, I’m faster in the changes of direction and at the end of the day I did a race simulation. The feeling is good, even on physical side, and I was able to understand better how to manage the tyres even on long distances. It was tough, the pace isn’t bad, I felt a drop in the front tire, especially on the right side, and I have to work on that. In the early afternoon I went out on the track with medium-medium, but with the drop in temperatures the best solution for me was the soft-soft.”
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