Andrea Dovizioso quickest as Qatar test gets underway
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) took first blood as the third and final preseason test got underway at Losail International Circuit in Qatar, setting the fastest lap of the night and quicker than new teammate Jorge Lorenzo’s 2016 race lap record. Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) completed the top three.
There were a number of high profile crashers – including reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – and a Red Flag late in the session following a number of falls in succession at Turn 2.
At the front was ‘DesmoDovi’, who has been on the podium at Losail for the last two years and set a best lap of 1:54.819 to get under the race lap record of 1:54.927. The Italian put in 36 laps as work continues on the Desmosedici GP17, with no big visible aero updates for the Borgo Panigale factory in Qatar – yet.
Dovizioso’s teammate, five-time World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, continued his steady progress of adaptation, ending an solid first day under the floodlights in P5 with a best of 1:55.616.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 36 laps – 1’54.819 (1st)
“In this first day of testing at Losail I had a really good feeling with my Desmosedici GP, better than I had expected, and the sensations were positive just like in Malaysia. We tried several different types of interesting set-up, which gave us some important feedback. Today everyone was very quick, but in any case I was able to set my time quite easily. We know we still have to improve certain aspects, but to start the tests in this way helps us a lot for the work that we have to do in the next couple of days.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99) – 46 laps – 1’55.616 (5th)
“This has been my best first day in all of the recent tests: right from the start we were always up with the leaders, and we were also quickest on the track before ending the day in fifth place. It’s important to see that my team-mate Andrea Dovizioso was also very quick, proving that the Ducati goes really strongly on this track and that also I have margin for improvement. I still don’t have a perfect feeling with my bike, but every time I go out I feel more and more at ease with it and this circuit is certainly favourable for us. Tomorrow we will continue to try out some other solutions, but the conclusions we reached after today were very positive.”
Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) had another impressive day in the office at Losail, as the fastest man in preseason so far ended Day 1 in second. A 1:55.179 was the 2013 Moto3 World Champion’s best lap, 0.360 off the number 04 at the front. In between a total of 60 laps, he provided valuable feedback as he worked on the testing programme. Viñales focused primarily on tyre degradation, fuel consumption, both important points at the Losail Circuit, as well as finding a good race set-up.
“I have a good feeling after the first day in Qatar. I felt good with the bike already from the first lap, I was fast and, you know, that‘s a good thing. We‘ve been to four different tracks and I feel good at each one. This means I adapted well to the bike and we improved a lot. All the time we are bettering the race pace and each first and last lap on the same tyre is quite similar, so I‘m happy and I‘m quite surprised that we improved on every run. We wanted to work a lot on the race pace, it‘s important here. In Qatar it matters a lot to have a good pace because the tyre drops quite a lot, especially on the left side. Tomorrow it‘s our plan to make the tyre life last longer and make the lap times more consistent, so we‘re going to work on that.”
Teammate Rossi also had a productive evening under the Qatar floodlights. Having waited until after 6pm local time before heading out, he completed 48 laps in total, whilst working through an extensive range of setting options with varying weight distribution. Though focused on improving the feeling of the front of his YZR-M1, he managed to consistently improve his times as well as the feeling with his bike. He was able to set a best time of 1‘55.679s and took seventh position in the standings, +0.860s from the front.
“Today we worked on the feeling of the bike especially on the entry of the corner. We improved, but I‘m not very happy. We are not at 100%, because I didn‘t have enough feeling to push on the entry, but today wasn‘t so bad and we tried something quite interesting. We also had a bit of trouble with the front tyre life, the tyre is a bit too soft, so we have to work on the weight distribution. The condition of the track usually changes a lot here in Qatar, so we will try to continue our work tomorrow and try to make things better.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“We went into the first day of the Qatar test with great motivation. The first session at the Losail circuit is always a little bit more difficult because there is a lot of sand on the track and not a lot of rubber. Nevertheless, the team worked hard to complete the first items of our testing programme. The main goal for today was to get the riders to feel comfortable. Maverick‘s side of the garage mainly focused on finding a good set-up for the race weekend and they managed to improve on every run. He had a good speed and pace on a used tyre, which was satisfactory. Vale‘s side mainly worked on the items the engineers brought here to modify the weight distribution of the bike, focused on improving the front feeling. We will continue our testing schedule tomorrow.”
It was yet another positive first evening of three for LCR’s lone challenger this year, Cal Crutchlow, as the Brit ended the night as third-fastest overall and the top Honda runner. This was despite a few issues in the system with both the team’s engines, which forced the 30-year-old to spend much of the evening in the pits.
Cal Crutchlow – 3rd – (1’55.420 – lap 28 of 28)
“It was not an easy first day of work for us, because we never really got that much done after a small problem with both of our machines. It was more of a sensor calibration issue with the new engines, so nothing too serious, but it just meant we had to spend a lot of time in the garage. I only managed 28 laps, and we’re disappointed about that because we had a lot of work to do. Overall however, I’m pleased, because Honda and my team have worked very hard together – all hands were on deck to fix the problem – and we managed to get back out there. I stopped a little earlier than planned tonight because I saw a few people crash as the dew started to settle on the track surface, so I’m happy enough after the first day, but looking forward to fitting in lots of work tomorrow.”
The next Honda on the timesheets was Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa in P8 on a 1:55.692 – with reigning Champion Marquez in P12 on Day 1 with a 1:55.899. Marquez crashed twice on the first day, including a fall when first trying a new “aero-fairing” for his Repsol Honda machine.
Dani Pedrosa – 8th 1’55.692
“As always, on the first day in Qatar you need to adapt to the situation because it’s the first time riding at night, compared to the previous tests, and the track is always a little bit dirty. This means that you need to take some time to understand the track conditions and adapt well. In addition, at the end it was quite difficult, because the track temperature went down and the humidity rose quickly; it wasn’t easy to see the moisture while on the bike, and we saw many crashes. It was best to stop early. Today we focused mainly on working on the rhythm, trying to set up the bike a little bit more for the pace. We need to keep improving and I think today we did part of the job, but we need to continue tomorrow.”
Marc Marquez – 12th 1’55.899
“We can’t say today was one of the best for us, but it’s only day one and we worked hard on trying many, many different things, including a new fairing that we want to test further. Some of them worked well, while others must be adjusted. I’m not very worried about the fast lap because our rhythm wasn’t bad, so I’m satisfied with it. I had two small crashes; the first one was my fault as I braked a bit too late, while the second was a classic at this track as it came almost at the end of the session when the temperature had dropped and conditions weren’t good anymore. Anyway, tomorrow is another day, and we’ll work more on the bike’s setup for this track and try to improve.”
The superstar of the first day was Karel Abraham (Pull&Bear Aspar Team), who took a stunning P4 with a 1:55.613. The Czech rider is returning from WorldSBK and got up to speed quickly on his Desmosedici GP15 in Qatar.
4th Karel Abraham 1:55.613 (42 laps)
“Today in the beginning it looked like it would be a very hard day because the track was very dirty and very slippery. We did three exits and it didn’t get better. But afterwards as all the riders went out everything got much better, we had one set of tyres completely destroyed so we put some new ones in and tried two new electronic settings for the throttle control. To be honest the first one was really bad and I still wasn’t happy with the second one. So we decided finally to come back to the original set-up and put a soft tyre in to chase a lap time. There was nobody out there so I had to push on my own and on my last lap I set my best time, which I was surprised by but I am confident now with the bike so I am happy with the work we have done and hopeful of making better lap times in the future.”
Jonas Folger was again the fastest rookie, as in Phillip Island, and the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider lined up just behind Lorenzo on the timesheets in P6, with a best of 1:55.640. French fellow rookie teammate Johann Zarco ended Day 1 in P9 in another impressive performance from both.
Jonas Folger – Position: 6th – Time : 1’55.640 Laps: 37
“Today was the first time that I experienced the Losail track on a MotoGP bike and I felt really good immediately, yet not just on the Yamaha, but also with regards to the track itself. The Michelin tyres are working well so we were able to get up to speed quickly and then we continued our solid work. The team and I began to set up the M1 a bit and I rode both of my bikes, which was useful because in Australia, we did not completely decide which one would be better for me. However, after today’s work, we now know the bike that we will use and we will carry on with it tomorrow. All in all, it was a great day and I am happy with how we commenced proceedings here. We will aim to maintain this positive start and gather as much information as possible when I get back on the track.”
“It was our first night in Qatar and I’m happy to be back on the Yamaha and working again. My feeling on the bike is already more positive than it was in Australia and I think that I have more references on this track. I was just doing my job but my times continued to get better and I moved up the field, which is pleasing. I am still working on my riding style so that I can get the best out of the M1 but we have a very high potential as the bike’s grip and it’s behaviour when it enters the corners is encouraging, therefore, I focused on improving myself on every lap. Once I am at a level that I am confident with, we will begin to adjust the bike more thoroughly. Nevertheless, today we made some advances with the Yamaha and I altered my style also so we were able to finish in a solid way. It has been a good start and I will keep pushing.”
‘Maniac’ Andrea Iannone completed the top ten despite crashing; a 1:55.751 after 41 laps putting the Italian just ahead of compatriot Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) in P11.
Andrea Iannone – P10 – 1:55.75
“In this first day we have focused on the settings. We are encountering new problems similar to chattering and we are trying to find some solutions. I also incurred a crash, with no injuries, just because I was trying to push it to the limit. I’m struggling to find the right feel with the front end. I do not feel completely confident in hard braking, and then when I get to the maximum leaning I feel the front sliding away and in fact this was the cause of the crash. However, I’m positive because my feeling is that the classification is not really reflective of our stage of development. I struggle on the single lap, but my pace is not that far from the top riders. Of course, we have to work on all aspects, to be performing both in the timed attack and in the pace, but for sure the first thing is the one we have to improve most.”
11th – Danilo Petrucci – 1’55.830 – 33 laps
“Today we worked hard managing to bring down the development program of the bike. We had to do so many things and we collected a lot of information. I’m happy becouse it means that tomorrow we can start focusing only on the bike set up. I am also pleased with how I lapped today. I had the chance to do only one run of 10 laps and I did my best time at the end with used tires. As of tomorrow, we have the chance to work on pace as well as single lap performance, and also introduce some more improvements”.
Rins took his usual step-by-step approach to start the preparation for the first race. His performance on the timesheet was not so positive (18th with 1:56.589), but his focus was to work on the machine set-up and to focus on his riding style and in improving his lines. He also incurred a crash, which is pretty typical for debutants at the Losail circuit, which luckily didn’t result in any injuries.
“Finally, I’m pleased by how the day went. Honestly, this circuit is proving to be a little harder than I expected it to be, performing in the MotoGP class. Being in the dark of the night, it’s pretty complicated to find the right references for the braking points and the lines, but I’m learning lap-by-lap. I also incurred a little crash, but I feel good. I had no injuries, and I really look forward to tomorrow, to trying the new modifications and improvements we have in our plan and in trying to get a better and better performance.”
Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager
“With Andrea, we are working on some issues we are encountering. Some things we see can be improved and his feel is not yet at 100%. We should find some solutions or ideas to make the machine better in every aspect. Today was a very useful day as we collected a lot of data that will help us to find some solutions for tomorrow. Alex had a pretty standard first day, his lap-time can still be improved, but we will try to do the same as we did in previous tests where in the second and third day he improved consistently. Both of them incurred some crashes: Andrea’s were pretty innocuous, while Alex crashed at corner 2, which is a sort of price to be paid by all the newcomers to this track.”
Jack Miller ended 14th on the timesheet with a time of 1’56.017, which put him just over a second off the fastest time of the opening day, set by Andrea Dovizioso. Both Team Estrella Galicia riders were testing today with the latest specification engine from Honda for the first time. Their initial impression was positive, but both felt that they needed more time to refine their respective set ups to better suit the characteristics of the revised engine.
Jack Miller – 14th – 1’56.017
“Today was like it always is the first day in Qatar; we spent most of the first session sweeping the track. Even so, every time I went out on the bike I felt faster and I ended the day with a quicker lap time than I’ve posted here before. But we still have room for improvement. I’m not completely happy with how the bike is working at the moment, but that’s a combination of the dirty track and getting a feel for the latest spec engine we’re using for the first time here. We made some steps today, but tomorrow we need to make even more. At the moment we’re getting a little chatter in some corners and the bike is a touch nervous, so it won’t always hold the line. At this track that’s crucial because if you go offline then you’re onto the really dirty part of the circuit, so that’s something we need to work on tomorrow. But, overall, a positive first day here in Qatar.”
Rabat, who was riding for the first time since sustaining injuries in a testing crash in Sepang at the beginning of February, ended the day 21st on the timesheet with a time of 1’57.455.
Tito Rabat – 21st – 1’57.455
“After being off the bike so long the feeling at the beginning today was a little strange and it took some laps to get used to the speed again. But with more laps came more confidence and I was happy to prove I was fit enough to test the bike. There is some pain from the knee when changing direction through turns eight and nine, as well as through nine and ten, but it’s manageable. We kept the runs short, didn’t push for a fast lap and instead just focussed on finding a good feeling with the bike. Of course I’m not so happy with the position on the timesheet, but I’m happy to finish the first day on the bike with no issues and, more importantly, no crashes. Tomorrow we will continue in the same way, to build the confidence and to push without crashing.”
15th – Scott Redding – 1’56.085 – 37 laps
“I’m much more satisfied than the previous tests where we had to face some issues. We struggled a lot in those tests trying to find the problem. At Phillip Island the start was not good while here I immediately felt the feeling and things got better lap by lap. We have not changed much, and when I put the new tire I was able to improve a lot my lap-time. As a result I’m happy. When the temperature has drop I no longer felt at ease and we preferred not to take unnecessary risks.”
Álvaro Bautista spent today comparing two versions of the Ducati GP16 he will ride this season, although he missed the opportunity to set a fast lap when track conditions were at their best. The Spaniard is confident that some more specific changes will help him give hi
16th Álvaro Bautista 1:56,116 (43 laps)
“Today we had two Ducati GP16s available to ride so we took the opportunity to test a lot of things on both. It was a day to try things, to recapture our rhythm and wrap up some work we had unfinished from other tests. We lost a little time at the end trying out some new software from Ducati, which meant we couldn’t use a new tyre because the track conditions were no longer optimum. Tomorrow, when everything is in its place, we can work on the smaller details.”
Action continues on Saturday at Losail International Circuit, with two official days of testing now left until the lights go out for FP1 at the same venue on the 26th March.
QATAR TEST – Classification after Day One
1. Andrea DOVIZIOSO, Ducati Team – 1:54.819 – Lap 26 / 36
2. Maverick VIÑALES, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – 1:55.179 +0.360 – Lap 49 / 60
3. Cal CRUTCHLOW, LCR Honda – 1:55.420 +0.601 – Lap 28 / 28
4. Karel ABRAHAM, Pull&Bear Aspar Team – 1:55.613 +0.794 – Lap 42 / 42
5. Jorge LORENZO, Ducati Team – 1:55.616 +0.797 – Lap 27 / 46
6. Jonas FOLGER, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 – 1:55.640 +0.821 – Lap 27 / 37
7. Valentino ROSSI, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – 1:55.679 +0.860 – Lap 43 / 48
8. Dani PEDROSA, Repsol Honda Team – 1:55.692 +0.873 – Lap 21 / 38
9. Johann ZARCO, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 – 1:55.705 +0.886 – Lap 45 / 54
10. Andrea IANNONE, Team SUZUKI ECSTAR – 1:55.751 +0.932 – Lap 30 / 41
11. Danilo PETRUCCI, Octo Pramac Racing – 1:55.830 +1.011 – Lap 33 / 41
12. Marc MARQUEZ, Repsol Honda Team – 1:55.899 +1.080 – Lap / 39
13. Aleix ESPARGARÓ, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini – 1:55.916 +1.097 – Lap 32 / 43
14. Jack MILLER, Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS – 1:56.017 +1.198 – Lap 49 / 59
15. Scott REDDING, Octo Pramac Racing – 1:56.085 +1.266 – Lap 23 / 37
16. Alvaro BAUTISTA, Pull&Bear Aspar Team – 1:56.116 +1.297 – Lap 31 / 43
17. Loris BAZ, Reale Avintia Racing – 1:56.193 +1.374 – Lap 25 / 31
18. Alex RINS, Team SUZUKI ECSTAR – 1:56.589 +1.770 – Lap 41 / 48
19. Pol ESPARGARÓ, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing – 1:56.665 +1.846 – Lap 44 / 46
20. Sal LOWES, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini – 1:57.090 +2.271 – Lap 24 / 38
21. Tito RABAT, Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS – 1:57.455 +2.636 – Lap 36 / 46
22. Mika KALLIO, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing – 1:58.039 +3.220 – Lap 32 / 32
23. Bradley SMITH, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing – 1:58.755 +3.936 – Lap 35 / 46
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.