Jorge Lorenzo tops Qatar MotoGP Test Day One
With the start of the season fast approaching, riders and teams eagerly went to work at the Losail International Circuit as the final test of the pre-season got underway. As the track opened at 1600 Local Time, it was only Michele Pirro, Hiroshi Aoyama and Takuya Tsuda who rushed out on track, the three test riders given the responsibility of assessing track conditions. As the sun began to set more and more riders trickled out on track with Stefan Bradl the first full time Grand Prix rider to circulate.
By 1900 Local Time all of the riders were out on track with both Marc Marquez and Scott Redding leading early in the session. It was an unfortunate start to the test for Valentino Rossi who fell at Turn 10, the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider uninjured in the fall.
A fall from Aleix Espargaro in the closing hours of the test saw the session briefly red flagged as the debris was cleared at Turn 14. Fortunately Espargaro was uninjured and able to continue testing.
Throughout the second half of the test Andrea Iannone, Maverick Viñales and Jorge Lorenzo all took a turn at the top of the time sheets with Lorenzo ending the first day of testing on top. A 1’55.452 was his best time of the opening day, 1.3 seconds slower than the 2015 pole lap, but 0.428s ahead of Maverick Viñales in second. Movistar Yamaha MotoGP have elected to run a hybrid of the 2015 and 2016 bike, both Lorenzo and Rossi running extensive tests on it in Qatar.
“I think we made a good start to the Qatar test, I have a good feeling especially with all tyres. We still need to improve the electronics, but to be one of the fastest ones on the first day is a good beginning. The feeling with the tyres is much better compared to Phillip Island, the weather is better and the combination of this track, the bike and Michelin is similar to Sepang. Let’s see how the performance will develop tomorrow.”
Viñales continued his impressive pace from Phillip Island, the Team Suzuki Ecstar man finishing second to Lorenzo. Tsuda, the Suzuki test rider, is so far the only Suzuki rider to run the fully seamless gearbox but both Viñales and Aleix Espargaro are hopefully of testing it on the second day and utilising in the first race.
“I’m happy with the work we could do today and for the result of this first day. We didn’t focus on testing so many things but more to find consistency in the improvement of the setting and the electronics. We have tested both the 2015 and 2016 chassis and the results are positive. Although my best lap was done with the old chassis, my feeling is that with the new one we are already very close and this leaves us a lot of room for improvement. We made many laps and did a huge amount of work, the times here are getting very, very fast these days; for example, my lap time is already almost one second faster than last year’s race, therefore we really need to keep on working. I feel very confident with the front tyre, while we still need to work on the rear as we couldn’t find the perfect grip yet, so we can improve further.”
Third fastest and 0.442s back on his teammate was Valentino Rossi who completed 33 laps after his early fall. With both the factory Yamaha bikes inside the top three, it is clear that they will be a threat and title challengers throughout the season as they were in 2015. Rossi joined Viñales and Lorenzo in the 1’55s, the trio the only riders to produce times under the 1’56 barrier.
“I started in a bad way, because after ten corners I crashed. I wasn’t very fast, but maybe because I had too much angle the rear slid, but fortunately it was just a small slide at 70 km/h. It wasn’t a big problem but to start like this wasn’t fantastic… After the problem we jumped on the other bike and I’m quite satisfied about today because, also here in Qatar, it looks like our bike is competitive. We can be strong and fast and this is the most important thing, because it’s already the third track where the Yamaha is competitive. We also started with a good base set-up, in fact I didn’t work a lot on it. I felt good from the first moment and rode quite fast and I was able to consistently improve my lap times and in the end I’m in the third position, so it was a good day. Today Jorge was very fast, he was faster, but like in Phillip Island me, Viñales and Jorge are the stronger riders. In Phillip Island there was also Marquez, here it looks like he was a bit slower than us today. I’m happy to stay with the frontrunners and already lap in 1’55s, a little bit faster compared to the test last year, so it’s a good result. After the first two tests we decided to go with the bike that’s more similar to last year and now we have two race bikes ready in the garage, so we’re already in race-mode.”
Leading the Ducati charge was Andrea Iannone who now has access to two 2016 Desmosedicis for the first time. With 53 laps completed, the Ducati Team rider completed more laps than any other rider on track and managed to end 0.667s behind Lorenzo. Completing the top five was fellow Ducati rider Scott Redding, the Brit proving that the GP15 is still competitive.
“All in all today went well, because we finally managed to get a lot of work done and find the answers we were looking for. We were able to evaluate two different types of frame that we had available for my Desmosedici GP and this is very important in view of the first race, but also for the future. Today we concentrated on putting in the laps, working calmly: my team is in great form, and we must continue like this in the next two days of testing, but above all I will have to succeed in understanding how to get the best out of the new tyres, because for the moment I can only manage to lap strongly on tyres that have done a lot of laps.”
“It’s been a good day although the track conditions were not the best. We did not do too many laps but are satisfied with our work today. In the end I tried the second bike and the laptime that came out it was almost the same compared to bike one. Last season Ducati had a great race here so I’m very confident. Today we have been shown to have potential and this potential can grow. Goals for tomorrow? I wish I could improve my lap time and stay in the Top 6 which is the goal of the season.”
Two Ducatis followed in the form of Hector Barbera and Andrea Dovizioso for a total of four Ducati machines inside the top ten, more than any other manufacturer. Barbera once again impressed on the Avintia Racing Ducati, ending sixth and 0.068s ahead of Dovizioso’s factory machine.
“Today was a strange day. We did only 27 laps because we suffered some problems with the electronics. My bike stopped in the second lap and although we could get on track at the end of the session, we only have one bike and I want to thank my team because they did a great job to get the bike back on track. I would like to do some more laps, but at the end of the day, we were fast again and I did my time with a 17 laps-tyre, and this is important. Tomorrow we will focus in the bike set up for the first Grand Prix, that will be at this track in just three weeks.”
“Today was once again a productive day, on a track that is very different from Sepang and Phillip Island. These tyres are a bit strange, in the sense that every time you have to get used to them and you need a bit of time because the more you lap, you quicker you get. In fact, I had a tyre that had done twenty laps when I set my quickest time on the last lap of the run, and this confirms that we are still getting used to the characteristics of the Michelins. Let’s hope that in the next two days we can manage to get through all the tests we have scheduled in order to prepare for the first race of the year in the best possible way.”
The top Honda rider was Cal Crutchlow in eighth, 1.058s off Lorenzo’s best time. A crash at Turn 14 shortly before Espargaro’s fall upset the LCR Honda rider’s testing plans only slightly. 0.007s behind him was fellow Brit was Bradley Smith on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine.
“Today was a bit of a ‘getting-to-know-you’ session with the new engine. Everything else on the bike is completely as it was, but we were glad to receive the new engine from Honda. We found some positive things with it, but we have only tested it briefly to begin with. I used the hard tyre all day, and I felt good – I did my fastest lap after 22 laps with the hard rear tyre. So this is quite satisfying because we know we can do a good job, and I feel very comfortable at the moment to be able to go fast when we need. I don’t think the result today reflects anything like what it would be in a race here. Tomorrow we’re looking forward to trying some more things with the front of the bike because at the moment the limit is the front tyre. We have to stop the front moving so much under braking and into the corner, and this will be our main focus, but at the moment I’m generally really pleased with things.”
“The opening to the test was positive here and to be honest, I think we undertook a really smart plan. I decided to wait until the track cleaned up a bit because I was conscious of using the tyres to their full potential. In the previous tests, I rode a lot of laps in the first two days which meant that on the last one, I didn’t have many tyres left. As a result, I decided to change my strategy here and so I just used two sets today with the track conditions being how they were. Nevertheless, we were able to confirm some wheelbase options between bike one and two, and the good thing is that the setting that we found in Sepang and Phillip Island is working well here. Now that we have triple checked this factor, I am confident that we have a solid wheelbase setting which is really important for me, because we still had some questions after Phillip Island. In addition, today we compared two of the rear tyres, with one of these being in the allocation for the race weekend. We already have a clear indication of what we need to do with the race weekend tyre, which is a bit stiffer than the other one, plus we know the setting changes that we have to make to suit it. Furthermore, the front tyre that I tried in Phillip Island is available here in more quantity. I liked that compound, it has a wider profile and I’m keen to keep working on that as I just had access to one in Australia. So all in all, I feel comfortable and confident here in Qatar, it’s a track that I have always liked and I seem to ride well at. It’s nice to be here with my shoulder at 90% after the injury at Phillip Island but after ten days of physiotherapy and rehab, I’m already almost there.”
Completing the top ten was Marc Marquez, the Repsol Honda rider unable to match his top three pace from the Phillip Island test two weeks earlier. After their resurgent form in Australia, it seems Honda still have work to do before the season begins on the 20th of March at the Qatar track.
“We knew before coming to Qatar that this circuit is one of the toughest on the calendar for us, and this year we are finding things a bit tough on the kind of corners that you encounter here. We are far from where we’d like to be, but the positive thing is that this is still only testing. Even though in Australia things went very well, here we have the opportunity to try many different things. In the remaining days, we will try some more things out to understand which direction we need to go to improve. We have been working a little on everything and where I feel best is when braking and entering the corners. We have work to do on cornering and on corner exits, because that is where we are losing a lot of time and at a circuit like this it makes it very hard on the straights.”
Aleix Espargaro ended 11th after his crash, 0.7s slower than his teammate Viñales. Younger brother Pol Espargaro was 0.195s back in 12th, ahead of Dani Pedrosa who had another difficult day of testing.
“This has been another hard day, but once again I feel positive. After the very bad feeling I had in Australia, here we find a better configuration and the situation got better. Today around the half of the session we changed our direction and the machine improved a great deal for me. Unfortunately when two hours were missing to the end, when I incurred a crash, it was strange because I put a new tyre on and got a high-side in a very slow corner, but this is Qatar: When the humidity comes, the track’s conditions change very much. I didn’t have any major injury but my back hurts a lot, as it already has damage from last year’s crashes. Now I’ll go to rest and recover for tomorrow, but the direction we found is positive so I’m eager to improve.”
“Instead of it being a real first test day, today was actually about getting in touch with the track, the tyres and the electronics here in Qatar and it definitely wasn’t easy. At the beginning of the session, the track was very dirty and I ran with the softer tyre option, which I felt confident with straight away. However, when we changed to the harder compound afterwards, my feeling just wasn’t the same. This tyre was supposed to suit the track better, but we ended up struggling more. In addition, quite a few other riders crashed so I didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. Therefore, we still have some work ahead of us, but we already understand the direction that we want to head towards tomorrow and I’m convinced that this will allow us to progress further up the field.”
“The first day in Qatar is always a bit tricky because the track is not very clean, so we started a little later today and I didn’t put in many laps. We’ve been testing calmly in order to see the feeling we have and start working with the bike, but we struggled a bit. We got some ideas about what to test tomorrow; we don’t know if it will be the solution to our issues, but we will make a bigger change to see if it helps us go faster. We’re struggling a bit, because we are not taking the corners as fast as we want.”
Yonny Hernandez and Loris Baz rounded out the top 15, both within two seconds of the fastest time. 2.398s from the top was Jack Miller, the Losail International circuit proving a greater challenge for his still healing leg.
“I am happy because we have fixed the electronic problem we had in Australia. We have started out in the right way here in Losail. The new tyres they have brought to this test are quite different to what we were using before, especially the front. I am happy because we have found the direction we want to work in and we can start pushing now, climbing the upward curve. The lap times are right, we are not far off the top and hopefully tomorrow we can improve our lap time again and find a better set-up for the race here.”
“In the first laps the feeling was really bad because of the dust on track. I also crashed after four laps, but it was a stupid crash, I hit neutral going into the corner, and trying to come back I touched the artificial grass and fell down really slow. We continued working and we managed to improve the feeling, first with the front and after with the rear end. My pace was good and I did 57.2 using a rear tyre with 24 laps, and I was not pushing. In my last run I got new tyres and I improved one tenth, but the humidity has risen and the bike was sliding. Overall I’m happy because I had good feeling and this will be good for tomorrow as we have planned to do a race simulation.”
Michele Pirro, who replaces Danilo Petrucci at the test, was 17th as he assists the Octo Pramac Yakhnich team in exploring their GP15.
It proved a frustrating test for Tito Rabat who fell at Turn 2 and was unable to get within two and a half seconds of Lorenzo’s time.
One of the highlights ahead of the Qatar test was the unveiling of the new 2016 RS-GP, Stefan Bradl ending the day 19th. Both Bradl and Alvaro Bautista, 22nd, attended a private test at Qatar while the rest of the field were in Australia but are both well aware there is still a lot of work to do on the new bike.
Eugene Laverty was 20th, edging out Honda test rider Hiroshi Aoyama by 0.475s. Aoyama ran several tests for Honda with winglets fitted to the bike, Honda joining both Yamaha and Ducati who have already experimented with various winglets in 2015 and throughout the 2016 pre-season.
“Today the most important thing was to get comfortable on the bike. Like I said at the last test it still didn’t feel like my bike so today we have changed the position a little bit and I feel much more comfortable. Just small things like adjusting the footpeg position allows me to move more easily around the bike, do more laps and towards the end of evening I was able to start pushing a bit more. Now we know what we need to change to go faster, because that will be the aim tomorrow.”
Testing resumes at 1600 Local Time of Thursday before concluding Friday.
2016 MotoGP Qatar Test – Day One Times
1. J. LORENZO MOVISTAR YAMAHA MOTOGP 1’55.452
2. M. VIÑALES TEAM SUZUKI ECSTAR 1’55.880
3. V. ROSSI MOVISTAR YAMAHA MOTOGP 1’55.894
4. A. IANNONE DUCATI TEAM 1’56.119
5. S. REDDING OCTO PRAMAC RACING 1’56.213
6. H. BARBERA AVINTIA RACING 1’56.320
7. A. DOVIZIOSO DUCATI TEAM 1’56.388
8. C. CRUTCHLOW LCR HONDA 1’56.510
9. B. SMITH MONSTER YAMAHA TECH3 1’56.517
10. M. MARQUEZ REPSOL HONDA TEAM 1’56.523
11. A. ESPARGARÒ TEAM SUZUKI ECSTAR 1’56.552
12. P. ESPARGARÒ MONSTER YAMAHA TECH3 1’56.747
13. D. PEDROSA REPSOL HONDA TEAM 1’56.910
14. L. BAZ AVINTIA RACING 1’57.121
15. Y. HERNANDEZ ASPAR MOTOGP TEAM 1’57.178
16. J. MILLER MARC VDS RACING TEAM 1’57.850
17. M. PIRRO DUCATI TEAM 1’57.891
18. T. RABAT EG 0,0 MARC VDS 1’58.016
19. S. BRADL APRILIA RACING TEAM GRESINI 1’58.066
20. E. LAVERTY ASPAR MOTOGP TEAM 1’58.269
21. H. AOYAMA HRC TEST TEAM 1’58.744
22. A. BAUTISTA APRILIA RACING TEAM GRESINI 1’58.753
23. T. TSUDA SUZUKI TEST TEAM 2’00.578