Sam Lowes and Niccolo Antonelli up the pace on final day of testing
Work continued for the Moto2 World Championship on their third and final day of testing in Qatar ahead of the opening round of 2016. Several riders saved themselves and their bikes for the final two sessions of the day, conditions less than ideal during their first potential stint on track. Many of the same names remained towards the top of the timing screens as several riders are emerging as favourites for the upcoming Qatar GP, if not the season as a whole.
Saturday leader Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) put in a 1’59.608 during the second session of the day, improving on his best time and provisionally leading the test overall. Until the final ten minutes of the third session it did not appear as though any of the riders in the intermediate class would be able to best the Swiss man’s time. But, with ten minutes to go Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) struck.
“I’m really happy because it’s been another really good day! We actually tried more things today on the bike than in all the other days, so it was really interesting, because we had to find a good direction and I think that we have already done the big part of the work. We are ready and I’m feeling happy, so I can’t wait for the race weekend, for sure it’s going to be a good race! We will keep working in free practice and in Qualifying, then finally we will see how it goes!”.
The Brit had spent the majority of the test working on his race pace and using used tyres, hovering outside the top three as a result. But with ten minutes of the test remaining the 2015 Qatar GP pole setter unleashed himself to set a best time of 1’59.405 on his 17th lap of 17, the fastest lap of the test and under his own pole time. Unfortunately he did not get a chance to improve as he crashed soon after, sustaining no serious injuries.
Luthi’s time from the second session saw him slot into second on the combined time sheets, 0.044s ahead of Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP). Folger, the 2015 Qatar GP race winner, continues to show well at the circuit and will no doubt be in contention come race day on the 20th of March.
Fourth fastest was Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) who was 0.357s back on Lowes’ best time. After a great rookie season where he ended second in the championship, many are expecting big things from the Spaniard in 2016 and his pace in testing suggests he will be able to deliver.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) continued to impress many as he was once again inside the top five. The Italian claimed his first World Championship podium in 2015 at the Australian GP and is looking to launch a more consistent campaign in 2016 with several years of Moto2 experience now under his belt.
Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP), Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport), Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and teammate Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) completed the top ten.
“The three days here in Qatar have been really positive for me. We’ve done a lot of work and we made a step forward each day, ending with my fastest lap of the test in the final session today. I have a good feeling with the bike and the rhythm was also good, but we still have some work to do to find that last little bit we’re missing. There was a little bit of pain from the wrist here, but I expect it to be much better when we return here for the race. I feel comfortable, I feel relaxed and I can’t wait to get the 2016 season started now.”
“Overall it’s been a good test for us here in Qatar. The focus was very much on refining the set up of the bike and we worked well, making significant progress and improving the lap time each day. My pace was good, but I’m still missing something when it comes to throwing down the one-off fast lap that is so important for qualifying. I was pushing hard to improve my time during the final session, but I wasn’t able to put together a quicker lap. This is something we need to work on some more when we return on Thursday for free practice.”
All of the top 13 riders were within a second of Lowes’ fastest lap.
Moto2 Test – Losail – March 2016 – Combined Times
Pons Axel 2m01.793
Moto3 World Champion Danny Kent (Leopard Racing) continues to go well on his return to the intermediate class, the Brit ending the three day test in 11th and 0.026s off a top ten finish. Once again Axel Pons (AGR Team) missed the day as he aims to be fully fit for the start of the season.
It was another slow start to proceedings for the lightweight class in Qatar, high temperatures once again forcing all but eight riders to sit out the first session of the day. The riders who did go out for this first session continued to assess the hard rear tyre option Dunlop, the official tyre supplier of the Moto3 World Championship, are looking to use in Argentina. Once track conditions improved, riders eagerly headed out to try and refine their set up before racing begins in a week’s time.
The final session of the final test for the Moto3 class became an all out time attack with five other riders going better than Livio Loi’s (RW Racing GP) Saturday best and thus under the circuit record. Fastest of them all was Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) with a 2’05.444, almost half a second under Alexis Masbou’s 2014 circuit record. Although he has looked strong in several tests, Antonelli had been having issues with his collarbone, which was injured during the off-season. The injury appeared to be no issue as he soared to the top of the test.
0.217s behind the Italian was Saturday leader Livio Loi, the Belgian rider proving his fast lap was not a one off and able to improve to a 2’05.661 in the closing stages. This in turn placed him 0.056s ahead of Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing), the French rider steadily building his speed over the testing period.
Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) were both under the circuit record on the final day to complete a top five split by 0.361s. Based on these times, Qualifying in Qatar looks certain to be a sensational session, especially with a slipstream down the straight offering half a second’s advantage.
Also under the circuit record was rookie Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46), the rookie continuing his incredible step up to the world stage. Just behind him was fellow former CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship contender Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0), the pair demonstrating the incredible level of rider the championship is able to produce.
Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing), Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) and Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) completed the top ten on combined times across the three days. Darryn Binder (Platinum Bay Real Estate) in 23rd was the only rider not able to improve their time in the final session.
Practice for the first race of the year begins at 18:00 Local Time on Thursday the 17th of March for the Moto3 World Championship. Racing begins on the 20th of March under the Qatar floodlights.
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