MotoGP riders were given one last test session before the 2016 season begins on the 20th of March in Qatar. For many riders it was a difficult final day as they pushed for a fast lap, a number of falls occurring as a result. After a slow start to the session with only Stefan Bradl venturing out in the opening hours, Valentino Rossi suffered his second fall at Turn 10 midway through the session. The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider was unhurt and was able to return to his box and resume testing.
Soon after Tito Rabat suffered a fall at Turn 6, the rider unhurt. Later in the evening the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS man suffered another fall, again unhurt. Both Aleix Espargaro and Loris Baz fell with over two hours remaining, Espargaro’s a fast off at Turn 3. Neither rider was injured. There were further falls for Hector Barbera and Cal Crutchlow, the latter heading to the Clinca Mobile for checks and was deemed fit.
Jorge Lorenzo led the field on the final day with a 1’54.810, easily the fastest lap of the test. The current MotoGP World Champion was the lone rider down into the 1’54s at the end of the three-day test and over half a second faster than his closest rivals. Not only was Lorenzo’s one lap pace near untouchable, his race simulation was demonic with the majority of laps in the low 1’56s and several in the 1’55s, even towards the end. Few other riders managed a run of 22 consecutive laps, none able to touch Lorenzo’s pace.
“It was a very positive day, because we improved our lap time a lot and we did a complete race simulation, that has been very good because I did a few laps in the 1‘55s even with not the best front tyre. With the softer one, with which you could be much faster, we had some graining. This tyre will probably not be available in the race weekend, because Michelin is planning to change its tyre allocation to one tyre that‘s a little bit harder and one that‘s not so hard as the one I used for the simulation. With the intermediate tyre on the front I could have been even faster, so I‘m happy with the fastest lap time and the simulation and we are ready to be competitive for the race.”
0.516s behind Lorenzo on the second day, and in the overall times, was Scott Redding. The satellite Ducati rider was able to produce a great lap of 1’55.326 aboard his Octo Pramac Yakhnich GP15, the year old machine still proving competitive at the Qatar circuit. Aside from being the leading satellite bike, Redding was also the leading Ducati with a comfortable 0.2s margin over Andrea Iannone at the end of the third day.
“I am really very happy. I wanted to push hard to see my potential. At the beginning we struggled a bit with the new tires but things improved after day. Today I was strong with the new tire but I set my best chrono on lap ten with a tire that had 15 laps already. And the race is not much longer. I am very happy, I feel that the confidence is coming. In these days we also had two bikes and this gave me the opportunity to push without having any worries. Qatar GP? When I say that my goal is the Top 6 someone starts to laugh. I’m proving to be able to stay at that level and I will try to do even better.”
Improving his Thursday best by 0.103s, Maverick Viñales continued to shine under the desert floodlights. A 1’55.333 saw the Team Suzuki Ecstar man third on Friday and third overall. As with the previous days, Viñales continued to focus on shorter runs.
“Overall I think we finished the winter test in a very good position and today was also a good day as I finished third. I was trying the time attack when they showed the red flag; this prevented me exploiting the new set of tyres at its best and further lower my lap time. It’s a pity because after the early runs we made some changes on the bike and I felt very confident. Anyway I’m happy because with used tyres I could keep a pace around 1’55-and-a-half, which is a pace that in race could lead to the podium. I am happy about the team, the work we have done, we all improved and also, so has the bike.
“Here in Qatar it wasn’t easy, the straight is long and our engine still has some room for improvement, but this makes me confident for the first race. In the last two runs I also tested the full seamless for the first time and this is another big improvement. I couldn’t try a time attack with it but my feeling is that it has a lot of potential, we need to work on it for the finalisation and I hope we can use it in the race. We have worked a lot this winter, the Suzuki Factory delivered us huge improvements and the results so far are positive. We look positively towards the race, where I hope I’ll be able to make even further steps forward.”
With under half an hour of the test to go, Marc Marquez set his best time of the test with a 1’55.402. As on Thursday, the Repsol Honda Team rider had left the pits early and began to push from the start of the session, suffering a fall at the last corner as a result. After this crash it was a matter of rebuilding his confidence until a final flying lap dragged him to fourth, Honda riders having struggled outside the top five for much of the test.
“Honestly, I’m very happy today, because we have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. I went back to having a good feeling on the bike, and even though I crashed I know why it happened. We have improved a lot and I want to thank my team for the great work they have done, because they are working very hard; yesterday they finished at 3am, and they were back here at the circuit for 10am today. I am very happy because we have taken a step forward at a track where I have struggled before. We have made some big changes that have allowed me to start gaining confidence, riding at a good pace both behind Jorge [Lorenzo] and alone, even despite the dew on track at the end. It is still not enough, and we need to improve more, but after today I have much more confidence for the race. Yesterday I was worried about our level, because I had no pace or confidence, and today we have taken a big step forward, so I’m happy with the final result of the last preseason test. We have found out a lot of things that have allowed me to ride at a fairly good level.”
In fifth on the final day was Valentino Rossi with a 1’55.429 completed on his 36th lap of 55. All of the top five were able to go faster than Viñales’ best time from Thursday. The Qatar Test has seen Rossi focus on gathering data, putting in a total of 144 laps across the three days in the desert. Frustratingly once again Rossi was over half a second behind his teammate, though no doubt his hard work testing settings will assist him in the long run.
“In the end I‘m quite happy. Unfortunately I had another crash in the same corner, but it was a small one and I was able with the team to try everything. In the last hour and a half we improved the setting and I had quite a strong pace and did a good time attack. The lap time is not so bad and more importantly I did a race simulation and I was strong. I think that it will be quite tough, because it seems that from the first test the other bikes improved a lot, but now we are there at their level. I think a lot of riders can be fast for the first Grand Prix, but we are competitive. The problem was that the track improved a lot day by day and the stress on the front tyre increased, so we had to move. Yesterday was not so bad, but today‘s was too soft. I think the last five laps of the race will be difficult for everybody, but the bike is good to ride, so we‘re able to keep a good pace.”
Sixth on both the final day and overall, Andrea Iannone was one of only a handful of riders who did not improve their time on the final day. The Italian’s 1’55.508 stood as his best single lap of the test, but like Lorenzo he turned his attention to a longer run on the final day.
“In the end these have been three days of positive tests and I am satisfied. We still have to understand a few things in view of the race, but I think that we have all the right cards to improve even more. For sure the data we picked up will be analyzed carefully in the next few days and I am confident that during the race weekend we can improve our competitive level even more. Today we didn’t do a time-attack and we didn’t use a soft rear tyre to set our time, but I’m not worried about my position in the standings because we were doing a different job. Even though the long-run didn’t go the way I expected, we have prepared well for the race and I am calm and confident about the start of the season.”
Under a tenth back on Iannone was Cal Crutchlow who was able to improve his Thursday best time by over half a second to end the day and concluded the test in seventh.
“Today was a better day, together with the team we worked well. The problem however was that we didn’t have enough tyres for the whole testing session, the same as a lot of the other riders. Unfortunately, that meant we were using some used tyres when we started to do our longer run and I had a front-end crash. The bike actually flipped over and landed on top of me, so I had to have some scans and check-ups afterwards. I’m in a little bit of pain, but actually overall I’m happier today than the other days, that’s for sure. I hope we can continue to work this way for the race weekend here. I need to thank the team for these three days because yesterday I think all Honda riders were a bit stuck, but we’ve started to find our way a little more. Now we’ll go away for a week’s training, before we come back here for the first race in two weeks’ time. I’m really looking forward to getting going.”
With Dani Pedrosa again having a difficult time on the factory bike, Crutchlow was the second fastest Honda rider. Crutchlow was 0.108s ahead of Andrea Dovizioso who set his fastest lap on lap 47, his last lap of testing.
“I am very pleased because we have made excellent progress in these nine days of pre-season testing. Today we also decided to test a softer front tyre in view of the race, and this created a few set-up problems, but in the end we managed to work well and improve my feeling with the bike in the final run. Overall these three days of testing in Qatar have been very productive and we have made big steps forward that make me feel very confident for the race weekend.”
Suffering two falls on the final day, Hector Barbera still managed to end as the fourth fastest Ducati in ninth with a 1’55.733. The Spaniard was only able to manage 23 laps on the closing day. After three successful tests, Barbera heads into the first round of the championship confident of battling for the top ten. All of the top nine were within a second of Lorenzo’s lap.
“I’m really happy because we did a really good job during these three days, much better compared with the previous tests. We had the pace, the speed and although I crashed twice, this was not a problem, as they came when I was trying to find the limit. Those were my first two crashes over the winter, but is better that they came now and not in the Grand Prix weekend. This was the best test of the winter for me, even though the position is not so good, bit I’m extremely happy with the way we have worked. Winter testing has been really good, and my confidence is high. I’m ready to race”.
After a difficult pre-season, Dani Pedrosa concluded the final test as the tenth fastest rider due to his 1’55.857 from Thursday. The Repsol Honda rider was visibly frustrated when talking to the media after the Qatar Test and will need a significant change of fortune before the season starts.
“We had not many tyres left so we couldn’t do much testing today and I finish more early than usual. Unfortunately the conclusions are not entirely satisfactory. Over the three days we have tried to test a lot of things, but there are still some ideas that we want to apply the next time we are on track. With the data obtained in the last few tests, the technicians in Japan will work to try to make some changes ahead of the first Grand Prix. We’ll see if they are favourable, and if we can get better performance for the race.”
Pol Espargaro ended the test in 11th and ahead of teammate Bradley Smith. Espargaro was just 0.025s behind a finish inside the top ten. 0.012s back on Espargaro was Yonny Hernandez in 12th. After an initially difficult start, the Colombian has found his feet with the Aspar MotoGP Team and was able to finish ahead of Bradley Smith.
“I am really satisfied with what we achieved today, even though of course, there is still margin of improvement that we can make. After the issues that we had in Malaysia where we didn’t know which direction to head towards and where we were struggling with the electronics, I wasn’t really optimistic. In Phillip Island we were able to improve and I ended the test in the top ten which is very important because it is where we need to be. Here, we were still not particularly strong on a single lap, but the most important thing is that I was one of the few riders who ran a race simulation and our rhythm was very strong. We were also able to finalise our tyre choice and the tyre that I used was good. In fact, we rode 2 laps more than race distance. The only inconvenience of the simulation was the interruption because of the red flag. However, when I pitted, we didn’t touch the bike at all and when I went out again, I was able to improve my time. Actually, I rode my fastest lap after having covered the full distance, which is something that I was never able to do with Bridgestone tyres, but with Michelin, I can. Therefore, I feel very comfortable and I am excited to start the season here in Qatar. Honestly, I expect the qualifying to be tricky for us, but on Sunday I am sure we will be able to do great things.”
“We closed the test positively today, but all in all the pre season 2016 has been quite different compared to other years. It’s been an interesting process where we’ve had to get used to the new tyres, as well as to judge their evolution because we’ve had some different front and rear tyre specs to evaluate. I must say that learning to adapt the bike to these different compounds has been a challenge. Some parts of the pre season have also been frustrating for me because of the time the weather took from us in Australia, and also the tyre situation a bit here in Qatar and as a result, we weren’t able to extract the maximum from the available testing time. Nevertheless, we are within touching distance of our target, which I think will be inside the top 8 this year. I still believe that we have a bike that’s only at 90% so there’s room to improve and we are always getting closer. Yet, going into the start of the season, I’m confident that we can do a good job. This evening’s test was positive as I improved my time quite a lot and we had consistent pace. Also, I was able to go out and ride quickly immediately which is something that I was struggling with on these tyres but I figured that one out today. I’m excited to complete the testing and finally get into racing mode as the competition brings out a bit of extra pressure which some people like and some don’t. For me, I like to be put under pressure and I feel I perform better in that way, so roll on the start of the season and FP1 in a few weeks’ time.”
“The last day of the test has been positive again, it has been a productive test for us and we have been able to find a solution to the problem we were having with the electronics. It was a shame we couldn’t ride more today because there weren’t enough tyres. We only did two runs today, one with some used tyres from yesterday and another with the only new set we had left. Even so we managed to improve our best lap time before the front started to fold on me and I came back in to find that it was a defective front tyre, so we had to stop. On one hand I am happy with the feeling we have found here but on the other I’m frustrated we didn’t get to do some more laps on the good set-up we found. But our pace is strong, it has been a very positive session so overall we have to be satisfied. It is nice to be back in the fight for the top ten.”
Smith, who had been saving his tyres for the final day, completed 62 laps. This was just one lap less than Michele Pirro and the most of any full time Grand Prix rider. Unfortunately Smith was not able to get above 13th place but having consistently done the most laps of any rider across all three tests, the Brit has ample data to work with. Friday also saw Smith test a set of winglets on his Yamaha.
Loris Baz ended the test in 14th and ahead of Aleix Espargaro on the Suzuki, Espargaro was once again unable to match the pace of his teammate.
“It was a frustrating day. As we had not enough tyres we used old tyres, but we found something that was working really well, my crew chief, Alessandro Togneli, wanted to test something and it really helped. I did 56.0 with a 30-laps front tyre and with the rear that we did not like, so I was quite happy. Then I put a new rear, but something was wrong and it was not possible to improve. I tried to push a little bit more and I crash, and with no more tyres we decided to stop. It’s a pity because my potential was higher and I feel that finishing sixth or seventh was possible today. I’m really looking forward to start the serious stuff in just two weeks.”
“Needless to say that this winter pre-season has been very tough for me. I crashed so many times and this slowed down our development job. I still feel I lack in confidence with the front-end, as said I am a very aggressive rider and I like to turn the bike with the front in my hands; unfortunately we haven’t found the compromise that allows me to be confident in this and the result is that I crashed a lot. Anyhow, apart from the single-lap classification I must say that we are not in a bad position, the results don’t reflect the real potential we have and the job we have done on consistency will probably pay us back. The evolutions introduced by Suzuki are effective, we have a lot of room for improvements and the race will probably see me more competitive than what I could in tests.”
It was a strong day for Michele Pirro, replacing the injured Danilo Petrucci, after his crash on Thursday as the Ducati test rider managed 16th and completed a staggering 63 laps. Pirro’s time was 0.436s better than the best of Tito Rabat, who leaves Qatar as the 17th fastest rider.
“The test in Qatar got off to a bad start with a big crash on day one, with no warning from the bike at all. On the second day I didn’t want to push too much and risk another big crash and the possibility of injuring myself, but the bike felt better. On the final day I started to build a bit more confidence and the lap time came quite easily, but as soon as I started to push, even just a little bit, I crashed again with no warning. The bike was telling me nothing; one minute I was upright and the next I was down. I don’t know what caused the change between day two and day three, but today was much more difficult. Now we need to work on some ideas to try when we return here for the race, because if we don’t find some improvements it will be an incredibly tough start to the season.”
Alvaro Bautista continued to progress well on the Aprilia, just 2.233s back on Lorenzo’s best time and ahead of Australia’s Jack Miller in 19th.
“Basically these were the first real three days with this bike since the private tests last week were used to sort out the bike and verify that everything was working properly. Now we are getting to know the bike, thanks in part to the many small changes that we have consistently made to see how it would react. Today I gained confidence and we were able to lap a lot and get a very positive feeling because the more laps I took the more I improved, becoming more and more comfortable with the bike. This is a very important aspect because we are still far from 100% and we have plenty of room for improvement. We are on the right path. The bike is lighter, it has better traction, it is more stable and it is a lot more nimble in direction changes. We need to continue on this path, even in the first races where we’ll have the chance to continue working on comprehension and development”.
“Qatar has certainly been a test for us, trying to get to grips with everything and also having to contend with all the right hand corners, which were hard on my injured foot. The injury is okay, still improving, but it definitely gave me a bit more grief here than at Phillip Island. It was also a difficult test in terms of the set up with the bike; I haven’t built up any confidence in the front tyre just yet and had a few moments just trying to stay on two wheels. We did find a few little things, but it’s still not where we want it to be and there is still some work to do. Hopefully we can find something between now and the first race so that we can come back here to Qatar a little bit stronger.”
Three days of tests on the Losail track in Qatar marked the official début of the 2016 Aprilia RS-GP 2016, the first MotoGP bike ever entirely designed and built by Aprilia, beginning with the 4-cylinder engine in the exclusive narrow V configuration, confirmed the good feelings it had already given the riders straight away: the bike’s dynamic performance is decidedly better than the laboratory bike used last season. Acknowledged as “a real MotoGP bike”, the Italian machine has plenty of room for growth, improving with each outing and managing, in extremely tight standings, to put good times on the boards, considering the fact that this is its first real outing.
Eugene Laverty ended the test in 20th, now feeling much more at ease with his Ducati GP14.2.
“We have to be positive because this is the first test we have completed without a major accident! I have got my confidence back and that’s the most importantthing going into the new season. I have built up my feeling with the bike at this test, I still had a strange feeling with the front but we did make some big progress in that area towards the end of the session today. Unfortunately at that point we didn’t have the best tyres to run so I couldn’t set a lap time but it does mean that we finish this test with a smile and we know we have made an important step before the race weekend.”
Stefan Bradl was the last of the full time MotoGP riders, ending ahead of Hiroshi Aoyama and Takuya Tsuda.
“The last day was really productive for us. I was able to put in a lot of laps without running into those small problems that often slow down work on a completely new bike. I also got in various sessions with a several laps in a row to prepare for the race weekend and everything worked rather well. We focused above all on the front end of the bike to improve the feeling, managing to find a few benefits, but unfortunately we didn’t have the time to work on the rear, so we’ll start from there during on race weekend. We are on the right path. Now we just need to stay calm and keep working this way”.
The MotoGP World Championship now have several days off before practice for the first Grand Prix of the year begins on the 17th of March. 2016 is almost here and with four different manufacturers in the top four, it looks set to be another incredible season.
MotoGP Qatar Test 2016 – Combined Times from all three days
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