The first day of MotoGP™ testing at Qatar saw Aleix Espargaro leading the way with an 1’55.386s best time towards the end of the evening at the desert circuit
Just under two weeks before the season opening Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar commences this test sees 17 premier class riders making their final preparations for the forthcoming campaign, in the absence of the Ducati Team, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP and Repsol Honda outfits.
Those Factory teams have already finalised their preseason at Phillip Island this week and Friday’s opening test session saw Espargaro prove yet again the threat he will pose this season, if his winter speed is anything to go by.
The NGM Mobile Forward Racing man was over two tenths ahead of his nearest rival on the Open entry Yamaha, with a time less than a second off Jorge Lorenzo’s 2013 Qatar pole lap – on a track which should produce even faster times over the next two days.
With the racing line cleared of any sand and with further rubber laid down on the track the pace is likely to increase as this test progresses.
A slower start was made on Friday with Danilo Petrucci the IodaRacing Project rider the only man to circulate in the first hour in hot temperatures and in the daylight, before 5pm.
The faster times came in the last two hours of the outing as the temperature dropped and the floodlights came into full effect.
Behind the older Espargaro brother were Monster Yamaha Tech 3 pair Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro, Aleix’s younger sibling – the YZR-M1 equipped duo lapping within 0.253s and 0.686s of P1 respectively.
Completing the top five were GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista and LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl with identical 1’56.081 best laps. Both riders ran with ‘Sepang 2’ test settings on Friday and will look to adapt their machines to optimal Qatar configuration over the coming 48 hours.
Andrea Iannone was sixth best and it will be interesting to see what his best time is before the end of this test on the ‘Open’ Ducati with an Extra-Soft tyre.
Rounding out the top ten were NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards (+1.575s), Energy T.I. Pramac Racing’s Yonny Hernandez (+1.932s), Drive M7 Aspar’s Nicky Hayden (+2.188s) and GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Scott Redding (+2.536s).
Pos Rider Team Fastest lap Lead. Gap Prev. Gap Laps
- ESPARGARO, Aleix NGM Mobile Forward Racing 1:55.386 38 / 43
- SMITH, Bradley Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1:55.639 0.253 0.253 48 / 53
- ESPARGARO, Pol Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1:56.072 0.686 0.433 55 / 62
- BAUTISTA, Alvaro GO&FUN Honda Gresini 1:56.081 0.695 0.009 48 / 52
- BRADL, Stefan LCR Honda MotoGP 1:56.081 0.695 0.000 43 / 49
- IANNONE, Andrea Pramac Racing 1:56.780 1.394 0.699 52 / 63
- EDWARDS, Colin NGM Mobile Forward Racing 1:56.961 1.575 0.181 31 / 34
- HERNANDEZ, Yonny Energy T.I. Pramac Racing 1:57.318 1.932 0.357 28 / 63
- HAYDEN, Nicky Drive M7 Aspar 1:57.574 2.188 0.256 26 / 48
- REDDING, Scott GO&FUN Honda Gresini 1:57.922 2.536 0.348 30 / 38
- AOYAMA, Hiroshi Drive M7 Aspar 1:58.151 2.765 0.229 53 / 55
- BARBERA, Hector Avintia Racing 1:58.503 3.117 0.352 29 / 34
- ABRAHAM, Karel Cardion AB Motoracing 1:58.833 3.447 0.330 49 / 49
- PARKES, Broc Paul Bird Motorport 1:59.121 3.735 0.288 27 / 30
- DI MEGLIO, Mike Avintia Racing 1:59.294 3.908 0.173 52 / 52
- PETRUCCI, Danilo IodaRacing Project 1:59.358 3.972 0.064 57 / 57
- LAVERTY, Michael Paul Bird Motorsport 2:00.055 4.669 0.697 23 / 35
Drive M7 Aspar Team Report
The final test of the MotoGP preseason began tonight with all riders other than the five present at Phillip Island during the week out on track together in Qatar. Even though the Losail session was scheduled to run from 2pm until 10pm the decision was taken to push things back and the track opened at 4pm, closing at 11pm, given the evening schedule for the Grand Prix. Most teams waited until sunset to begin an evening’s work that saw Aleix Espargaró clocking the fastest time ahead of Bradley Smith
At around 6pm the DRIVE M7 Aspar Team’s two riders took to the track to kickstart their evening’s work, which continued until 11pm and consisted of 48 laps for Nicky Hayden and 55 for Hiroshi Aoyama. Once again their main focus was on chassis set-up, as well as suspension and swingarm adjustments, which all moved forward as planned. Hayden finished the evening with the ninth fastest time, with Aoyama in eleventh.
9th Nicky Hayden 1.57.574 (48 laps): “It was a pretty positive session, we were able to make small improvements every time we went out on track. The engine we had in came to the end of its life and we had to switch it, so we spent some time with the second bike and had to change a few components across. The feeling with the second bike wasn’t as good as we would have hoped but even so I am happy that we have taken some important steps forward. We have to keep working to improve the engine braking and gain some more confidence in corner entry.”
11th Hiroshi Aoyama 1.58.151 (55 laps): “Today we started out with a similar set-up to Malaysia. For the first few hours the track was pretty dirty but as the evening wore on the conditions improved. We worked hard on the suspension and geometry settings and I am happy because we have gained confidence and stability under braking. Thanks to this I was able to improve my pace. Tomorrow the goal is to get the bike turning better, especially from the middle of the corner to the end.”
Scott Redding Report
Scott Redding declared himself happy with progress during the opening night of testing at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, after closing to within 0.3s of the fastest open class Honda rider, Nicky Hayden.
Hayden is an important benchmark for Redding, as the former MotoGP World Champion is campaigning an almost identical Honda RCV1000R to the 21-year-old Briton this season, but has far more experience in the premier class
Today was Scott’s first experience of the Losail circuit aboard the Honda RCV1000R, but with the base set up from Sepang also working well in Qatar, the MotoGP rookie was able to concentrate on refining the front-end set up of the bike, setting a personal best of 1’57.922 to end the opening day tenth on the timesheet.
Scott Redding // 1’57.922 // 38 Laps – “It was good to get out on the Honda RCV1000R on a new track today, in very different conditions to the heat and humidity we had to contend with in Malaysia. Overall I’m pretty happy with today’s test, although I was starting to push the front a lot as my pace increased. We need to find a bit more edge grip from the front tomorrow. Engine power is still not really good, but it’s on a par with the other open class Hondas and I’m happy to have closed the gap to Nicky Hayden today. The brakes worked well from the first exit, so I’m happy with them. Tomorrow we will focus on improving the feeling with the front, and we will try to close a little more on Nicky.”