Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) left Losail International Circuit after having topped two of the three days. Overnight a 1m54.208s was the benchmark for others to measure up to after three days of testing, Vinales was 0.233 clear of Petronas Yamaha rookie Fabio Quartararo, an incredible performance from the 19-year-old Frenchman.
Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was back inside the top four just behind Marquez on the final day, with Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) another resurgent runner as he completed the top five just ahead of Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha). On combined times over the three days those riders were all one place further back as Suzuki’s Alex Rins’ time from day two was good enough for third quickest overall at the test.
Maverick Viñales – P1
“Honestly, I have been riding really good on the track, I felt like I was going very fast with the amount of grip that the track provided today. But we need to improve. I don’t have really good grip on the edge, so we need to keep working, especially in that area. On the acceleration side we improved quite a lot since Sepang, and at the moment I’m quite satisfied with what we have in the braking area. My race pace is not bad, I tried ten laps just to understand how the bike is doing, but it was very cold for the medium tyres. Anyway, I rode quite well, with quite a good rhythm. Maybe I could have pushed a little more. However, we still need to improve for the race. I think we are going to be ready. The race will be very important for us. Our bike has really positive points, but also a few negatives, so we now need to come to a conclusion and see where we can improve.”
Valentino Rossi – P5
“Today was a good day, we worked in a good way and I was quite strong. Also, with the race tyres my pace is quite good, and in the time-attack I was also OK. I’m in P5 at the end of the three days, which is not so bad. For me, also the race pace is quite good, although I think we will need something more to be able to try to fight. But today we already closed the gap by a lot, as we put it all together, with all the staff. I think that, for this night, we’re done, and we’ll see in two weeks if it’s enough.”
Massimo Meregalli – Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
“In the end, this test has been very productive. We came here to confirm the good points we found in Sepang. The riders’ feedback has been positive, even though the condition of the track has never been good during these three days. As this was an aspect that caused us to suffer in the past, we’re satisfied with our performance. Maverick has been impressive throughout the test, both with his best flying lap, a 1’54.2s, and his consistency. Vale, however, suffered a problem on Day 2, but today they were able to solve the issue and we found a good improvement, resulting in a 1’54.6s. We were able to try different items, including a new rear seat with different aerodynamics. We weren’t able to complete our entire schedule – due to the strong and bothersome wind – the race simulation included. Our engineers will use the coming break to analyse all the data in order to finalise the best set-up for FP1, that we are really looking forward to.”
Quartararo, meanwhile, did 48 laps and showed his Day 2 showing was far from a fluke, with teammate Franco Morbidelli shooting up the timesheets to sixth on Monday too. That makes good reading for both the Iwata marque and the new Petronas Yamaha SRT team, with all Yamahas in the top six on the final day, and the top seven on combined times.
Fabio Quartararo – P2
“It has been a very positive day for us. This morning the day wasn’t looking so good because it was cold and there was sand on the track, but in the end the wind dropped and once again every time I went out on track I felt better. So far this year I have only had six days on the bike and to be honest I feel very comfortable with it. I have managed to do a couple of really fast laps and that is what we were lacking at Sepang. Here we have not struggled to do the lap times, we were on the pace quickly and they have been fast. It was also good to get a race simulation in. Compared with the one I did at Sepang, this one was better in terms of my pace but it was also difficult because I was riding alone virtually the whole time. I think we are making gradual, non-stop progress.”
Franco Morbidelli – P7
“I am really happy with this three-day test in Qatar, we have tried a lot of different configurations. I have struggled a little to get completely comfortable with certain aspects but today we managed to get to the bottom of a few little problems. Now we just have to put it all together for the Grand Prix. Finally we have been able to make a good time attack. In general we have done a good job, now we just need to refine a few details to make sure we are competitive over race distance and also over one lap. With the data we have been able to gather here I am confident we can find the perfect package for the race and I am really happy with the job done by the whole team.”
Wilco Zeelenberg – Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team Manager
“The test here in Qatar has gone even better than we expected. We know that the Yamaha is quite suited to this track but obviously the lap times from Fabio [Quartararo] have been incredible and were beyond our expectations – everything went very smoothly for him. With Franco [Morbidelli], we have struggled quite a bit on crazy things. These things happen at testing, so I hope we have solved the majority of the issues. Even though the first few days didn’t go perfectly, he did a great job that allowed him to set a good lap time tonight. Looking back on our preseason as a whole I can only say that I think we can be proud of what we have created and everything we have achieved as a team so far. At the same time, we also need to be realistic and remember that we haven’t scored any points yet in the championship. It looks like things are under control for the moment, so let’s start racing!”
Repsol Honda were the only other team and manufacturer to mix it with Yamaha on Monday, although both machines took tumbles – riders ok. Marc Marquez was third on day three with a 1m54.613s and did 53 laps, again showing the capacity to put more mileage on his shoulder, and teammate Jorge Lorenzo took P5 just 0.040 off Marquez and 0.002 off Rossi.
Marc Marquez – P4
“I feel ready today, ready to start the season. Like yesterday we did a lot of laps, worked well and made some more steps. We’re still not 100% but we have a good feeling. Qatar is a track where normally we struggle, but at this test we are there with everyone else. It was a bit difficult with the wind and the temperature on track tonight but we still did what we needed to.”
After two much tougher days on the timesheets, hovering outside the top 15 as he both changes bike and comes back from a scaphoid broken only a month ago, five-time World Champion Lorenzo catapulted himself up to a 1m54.653s on Day 3.
Jorge Lorenzo – P6
“We started the test not adjusting the setting. When we started to work on the setting we were able to improve the bike and our speed. I could ride the bike better, we improved things a little here and a little there and made a big step to be competitive already. We’re very satisfied, the potential is certainly there and it is just my third day as an official Honda rider because before I wasn’t fully fit. When I’m fit and riding better, we can be even stronger.”
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), meanwhile, also had a solid final day as he finished the Qatar Test in eighth despite a crash, and the Japanese rider concludes testing with a sheet of consistent top tens. He did 50 laps with a best of 1m54.789s, with teammate Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) down in P17.
Takaaki Nakagami – P9
“I had a pretty nasty crash during the test, but fortunately I am ok. When I had the crash I took a fair bit of impact to my body, but I am thankfully fine apart from a little pain. In few days I’ll be good again. After the crash it was difficult, but we were able to improve the feeling and the lap time, so I am really happy to end the test like this. Now the pre-season tests are over, and I think we are ready for the season to start. I am hugely motivated to go racing, and happy with the whole LCR Honda IDEMITSU team. They have done a great job during testing, and I want to thank them for their efforts.”
Cal Crutchlow – P17
“Today my feeling was a little bit better with the bike, but we only had limited resources as realistically there was only one bike to use. Overall, I felt we improved the setting of the bike. Unfortunately, halfway through the session I had a crash, and it took us quite a bit of time to rebuild that machine. We went back out and did a couple of runs, and then we wanted to make a bigger change and that took some time again. We’re very pleased with the work we have done, and while we’re not pleased with the position, we never went after a lap time today. Overall, I think we have a better pace than what the position says because we just stuck with the medium compound tyres tonight. We’ll see what we can do in a couple of weeks’ time back here in Qatar, but we are all looking forward to being back racing.”
Another big headline on the last day of pre-season came from the consistently impressive Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who was a stunning seventh on a best effort of 1m54.770s. The Spaniard put in 37 laps as the Austrian factory continue working on the details, and
Pol Espargaro – P8
“I’m impressed by the potential of our bike and what we have done here. This is normally a track where we have struggled the last two years but to see us just half a second away is great. We did a good job, a good lap and a good rhythm. The conditions can change for the race but we can take a positive feeling from this test and have a good target for the GP. We still need to work carefully and concentrate on what we are doing. The conditions at the end were tough with the humidity going up and the temperatures dropping. There were a lot of crashes. Anyway, I think we can think big, and we have to do the best we can in the race but also be safe to not lose those first points of the season.”
The second quickest KTM was actually Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) on Monday as the Portuguese rookie was within around a second of Espargaro. Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was a little further down the timesheets on Monday in P22.
Miguel Oliveira – P20
“Today we definitely found harder conditions than the two previous days because of the wind. We started a bit slow in terms of lap time but then I was picking up the pace and riding quite good. Unfortunately, a crash ended the test, but I felt I was coming stronger and also the team made quite a few changes to the bike, with which I was very satisfied.”
Johann Zarco – P19
“A bit sad with the crash. It was colder and the Medium tyre was not good enough for me so I could not improve my performance. It was a shame because it was then hard to make another step. Anyway, I got more information and experience and maybe we found a limit, so we need to work more and move that onwards. I’m too slow at the moment – for the final day here anyway – but in consistency I am not too bad and we’ll see where I can be for the race weekend. I’m quite impressed by Pol’s performance today and I’m happy for him.”
Hafizh Syahrin – P23
“I’m very happy to improve my lap time and as well about the work on the last day with the team. We know, that we are still very far, although we were quicker. I started to understand a little bit how to adapt to the bike. We tried a race simulation, which was not really bad, but also not very fast, as we needed to understand the bike. At the same time, I did a race distance for the very first time with the KTM. We need to push harder during the race weekend, this is sure. Let’s see what we can do there.”
Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati Team), meanwhile, retained his stronghold on the timesheets amongst the Borgo Panigale machines. The Italian was ninth on Day 3 after another 43 laps, with teammate Andrea Dovizioso down in P15 after 50 laps, but the pair were focused on long runs and race set-up.
“Today we faced a bit more difficulties than expected as the conditions were quite windy, which prompted us to change the setup of the bike. However, we reacted quite well because, once I put the soft tyre on, we were able to post the best provisional time right away. Then, we switched our focus back to the race, running a simulation together with Andrea and trading positions, like what we did in Malaysia. I’m happy with the feeling with the bike: despite the colder track temperatures, we managed to be fast and I’m confident we’ll be ready come race time.”
Andrea Dovizioso – P15
“This closing day was complicated a bit by the wind, which didn’t allow to completely follow our program. We focused on some aspects and, while we’re not far from our rivals, there is still room for improvement. Honestly I can’t say I’m completely satisfied, but I’m also convinced we have strong potential and I’m confident we can have a strong race. We collected plenty of interesting data and it will be important to make the most of it to make sure we’re as ready and competitive as possible in two weeks’ time.”
The engine and fairing and bigger decisions were already made before the end of action. Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) improved to tenth on his final of 57 laps, and his teammate, rookie Francesco Bagnaia, wasn’t far off in P13 – just two tenths in arrears. He was closely followed by Reale Avintia Racing’s Tito Rabat.
Jack Miller – P11
“I’m satisfied with these three days of testing. We did a good job and the race pace was very good. At the end of the day, we tried a time attack with a good lap time even if the conditions of the track were not the best. There are still some details that we need to improve but we are in the right direction.”
Pecco Bagnaia – P13
“All things considered, I’m glad about these days of testing. I think that day after day we have improved in many areas. We only did one time attack but the chrono was not a goal. The important thing was to be confident about the race pace and we did a good long run. I’ll be back in Qatar in 10 days with great motivation.”
Between that Ducati invasion were nestled both of the Team Suzuki Ecstar machines. Although third overall from his Day 2 laptime, Alex Rins ended Monday in P11 on a 1m54.852s after 41 laps and rookie teammate Joan Mir was the second quickest rookie in P12. The gap between the two Hamamatsu factory machines was only a tenth and a half…
Alex Rins – P3
“My feeling was incredible and I’m very happy. As you can see from the time sheet, my pace is there, but when pushing for my best lap time I had a small crash. All of the requests I’ve given to Suzuki this winter, they have fulfilled. I feel very positive about the way the bike has been developed – it was a challenge to improve it because the base was already very good. For sure it will be tough when we start the first race, there will be a lot of fast riders and everybody is excited to start.”
Joan Mir – P12
“I’m really happy about the pace we have, and also about my feeling with the bike. We’ve made another step forward, which is really important for the race. We feel well prepared for the start of the season, although I couldn’t quite get the lap time I wanted due to a small mistake on my flying lap. But I feel I have potential and I’m close to the pace of the top guys, just a couple of tenths per lap down on them. There’s always more work to do, but overall I feel positive about what we’ve achieved in these days.”
Aprilia, meanwhile, were happy with their improvements and although Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was P16 and Aleix Espargaro P19, they were focusing more on longer runs, for Espargaro especially – and overall across the test Espargaro was P14. The Noale factory were also happy with the adaptation shown by Iannone after the Italian had to sit out much of Sepang with illness, which is a big positive after a difficult recent run.
Aleix Espargaro’ – P14
“Today we had a true race simulation planned to prepare the base for the first race. I was obviously unable to be fast on the flying lap like I was yesterday, but that was definitely not the goal. It was also important because we brought to light a few things that need to be sorted for the race. That is why you do the simulations and now the engineers will have a large amount of data to work on. The 2019 RS-GP is significantly better than the 2018 version. Now we need to work to make the bike fast throughout the entire race distance.”
Andrea Iannone – P18
“Today was the most positive day of this test session. I am not focusing on the standings. We had another tyre available to do a time attack, but I think that it is more important to keep working on the RS-GP. Our priority is to arrive at the race with a bike that is more manageable and to successfully improve turning – aspects we need to focus on. I generally don’t make predictions and I like to keep my feet on the ground. We’ll need to take full advantage of the technical package we have available to us and then draw the sums at the end of the race.”
Bradley Smith – P22
“I think that the package Aprilia has for the season start is good. These were three days of rather intense tests. I worked both on solutions to use already here in Qatar and on developments focused on the mid to long-term. This latter aspect kept me rather busy. In two weeks I’ll be on the track in a wild card slot, but I think that improving the RS-GP over the long term is the most important thing. I kept the guys on the team busy, both with the many changes and with a little crash today, but I have to say that they did a fantastic job.”
That’s it from Qatar and preseason is officially over – now all that remains is to race. With fifteen riders ending the test within a second, KTM in the top ten, the likes of Quartararo looking incredibly fast…what will the VisitQatar Grand Prix bring? Find out from the 8th to 10th March.
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