After Yamaha topped all three days of the Sepang Test with Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Suzuki struck back in Qatar as Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) led team-mate Joan Mir to lock out the top and the two Hamamatsu factory machines were split by just 0.002.
Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) kept it close, ending the day just 0.032 in arrears, but it was Ducati who stole many a headline with what looks like a ride height adjuster…
Team Suzuki Ecstar Team Manager Davide Brivio confirmed that there’s nothing new to test in Qatar, but after success at Sepang – and a 1-2 on Day 1 in Qatar – it’s looking good for the Hamamatsu factory. Their engine choice is also clear as they switch their main focus to back-to-back chassis testing; the one tested in Sepang that was well-received. In addition, Rins has said a Suzuki hole-shot device will arrive in time for the Qatar GP, if not here at the test, while Mir continues to work on his position on the GSX-RR. Can they keep setting the pace on Day 2?
Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager
“We continued where we left off in Sepang, confirming the items we chose there. So now we’re trying to decide exactly what we’ll homologate for the season. We did a time attack at the end of the day, which not everyone did, but it’s still positive to have both riders at the top. We collected good information and Alex and Joan both worked very well. So, overall, today was good and we’re ready for the next two days.”
Alex Rins – P1
“I did one time attack right at the end of the day just to see how it would go, I wasn’t very confident because the temperature and humidity were dropping a bit, but in the end it went well, and I was able to set the fastest time. We tried a lot of things today and did lots of back-to-back comparisons, so that leaves me with a good feeling. Tomorrow we’ll continue this type of work.”
Joan Mir – P2
“I’m quite happy with today’s test because I felt comfortable with the bike straight away and we’re working well, so it’s been positive. There are still two more days to go and we have to continue improving and working. The track is a bit slippery, but it’s not as bad as I expected, and I was happy to set a good time and spend so much of the day at the top of the timesheets – it’s important and a good feeling, the consistency is crucial and it’s a good result.”
At Yamaha, the 2020 engine also seems to be set in stone and the factory riders of Viñales and Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) have the holeshot devices fitted, with the quartet of Yamaha riders confirming parts and electronics work on a different circuit.
“We always come to the Qatar Test with great motivation because once the team starts this test, we know the first race and the start of the season is near. Our goal for these three days is to confirm the progress we made at the Sepang Test, making sure the improvements we made for riding that track are also beneficial here, and to create a good set-up for the race. We received positive rider feedback so far, both see improvements compared to last year and the previous test. Losail is a very different track compared to Sepang, but both Maverick and Vale were immediately feeling comfortable today. Of course there are still some areas we would like to work on. We will continue our testing schedule tomorrow with the main intention to do a race simulation here at 1800.”
Maverick Viñales – P3
“I felt comfortable on the bike straight away. I think, compared to Malaysia, I feel much better on the bike. We were trying many things today which were important to clarify for the race here in Qatar. Actually, I‘m very happy about the work we did today. I need more laps to understand the bike better, find ways to push the bike with new or used tyres. But I think we’re on the right path. With the new bike we are faster in top speed, in some areas I can be faster than last year, so that is very positive. With just a few laps on this track we are already close to the level we were at last year. The rhythm is much better. During the race is when you can finally see everything, but I feel positive and I feel confident about the bike. It‘s a good sign that we are doing a good job, not only on the track but also in the box.”
Sepang Test pacesetter Fabio Quartararo tried the hole-shot device on Saturday and was pretty positive about it, and he continued getting to grips with the 2020 YZR-M1, finishing P8 with a best time of 1:55.204 and working more on his race rhythm.
Fabio Quartararo – P8
“We worked on the pace today and tomorrow we will aim to make a step forward. I’m already feeling good on the bike and this is really good because we know that the first race will be here and we are making some progress. In Malaysia we made some time attack laps but our goal was to work on the pace, it’s the same here. At the end of last year we achieved pole positions but no wins, so the goal for this year will be some victories! Finally, I tried the holeshot device and it was something different to get used to, I only did two starts and already it feels good.”
Team-mate Franco Morbidelli – who is on the YZR-M1 2020 A-spec – finished P5. The Yamahas look strong once again as all four finished inside the top eight, with Rossi slotting into P7.
Franco Morbidelli – P5
“I’m quite happy with the work we have done today. We focused on adapting to this track and trying to see what the conditions are like. We were quite surprised because the conditions were already good and the performance from the tyre was good also. I managed to do the race distance with the same tyres across my runs and there’s parts of the track where the used tyres are really good. We are doing small steps in different aspects like chassis components and aerodynamics but all are positive. The plan is tomorrow to continue with a similar plan than today and maybe do a race simulation on the third day.”
Valentino Rossi – P7
“It is a positive day because we confirmed what we saw in Sepang. At the end I finished in P7 but throughout the day I was quite constant and had a good pace. So, we are very happy because it looks like the bike is improving compared to last year and the first test. We work well in the box, and we were able to improve. For the fight for the victory I need a little bit more, two or three tenths in the hot lap, but also in terms of pace. Some riders are a little bit faster than me, so we have to work. But it‘s just the first day, and we are already faster than last year. We have a positive feeling with the bike.”
And so… Ducati. Arguably the biggest talking point on Day 1 was the rumoured ride height adjuster that was predominantly seen on Jack Miller’s Pramac Racing GP20. Ducati Team Manager Davide Tardozzi admitted they have “something” new they are trying, but wouldn’t say much else. Both Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and team-mate Danilo Petrucci stonewalled…
Other than that, the goal for the Borgo Panigale factory was to work more on Michelin’s new tyre, something that both Dovizioso and team-mate Petrucci put time into at the Sepang Test. Right at the end of the opening day, Petrux leapfrogged to P4 to sit just 0.172 off top spot, saying he feels quite positive but suffered a few issues and needs more track time.
Danilo Petrucci – P4
“It has been a first complicated day of testing. Unfortunately, some small issues prevented us from taking full advantage of the track time available today. Despite that, the feeling with the bike is good, and now we only need to run constantly to get further confirmations on our work. I am quite happy with the behaviour of the Desmosedici even if there are still a few aspects that we need to improve, but I hope tomorrow we will be able to take a further step forward”.
Pramac Racing’s Francesco Bagnaia was P9 after getting another 56 laps under his belt on the GP20, with Dovizioso (P11), Johann Zarco (Reale Avinita Racing) – another solid outing for the Frenchman in P12 – and Miller (P13) all within a second of the Suzukis.
Pecco Bagnaia – P9
“It was a pretty positive day, we worked mainly on my feeling, and we found a solution that I liked, I think we are following the right way. This is a bit of a special track for the set-up but we are getting closer and closer to the solution.”
Both Dovizioso and Miller crashed unscathed, the Italian lamenting it was whilst trying focused on trying “something”. Was it the same something?
Andrea Dovizioso – P11
“I am quite satisfied with today because we were able to find a good feeling with the bike, which was better than the one I had in Malaysia. We did a few tests, and all of them were positives. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to complete the program that we had for today, but in general, we had a good pace, and we were able to set the fastest lap time with a medium compound tyre that had already done seventeen laps. Shame only, that I had a small crash towards the end of the session, that didn’t allow us to complete an interesting test”.
Jack Miller – P13
“Today we tried different set-up looking for the right one to face the race because the set up at this circuit is very different from Sepang. In the afternoon the wind limited us a little bit, unfortunately I had a small crash on the out-lap but I had a good feeling with the bike and I feel satisfied, ready to go back to work tomorrow.”
At Honda, fresh of the back of a new four-year HRC deal, Marc Marquez got a valuable 42 laps under his belt as he continued to recover from shoulder surgery, finishing P6 on the timesheets with a best of 1:54.823. He cited improvements in front graining compared to 2019 here, but lamented compromises in other areas – and that the track in Qatar is both physically tougher for his shoulder and “exploits” Honda’s weaknesses.
Marc Marquez – P6
“Today we started well but I am struggling a bit more than in Malaysia with my shoulder. In the long corners here, especially the long right handers, I feel my shoulder. I was able to ride how I needed to but we kept calm and did what we needed to. As always, Qatar is not an easy circuit for us and we’re aiming to be as strong as possible. It’s just the first day of testing so I am not looking at the timing screens and instead I’m looking at our garage and working how we need to.”
Team-mate Alex Marquez didn’t have the smoothest day as the reigning Moto2 World Champion crashed – thankfully unhurt – twice at Turn 7 and Turn 10, but another 57 laps for the rookie was important after impressing at Sepang. The number 73 was on track with a new front fairing too.
Alex Marquez – P21
“Unfortunately I arrived in Qatar and I have been feeling a little sick. It’s nothing serious but I do not have my full power and in MotoGP you need to be at your best. Even like this we were able to get a good amount of work done and we started to work more with the setup of the bike. I had a crash today; this is how you find the limit as a rookie so I’m not focusing on it. We have tomorrow to work again so we are looking forward to that and hopefully working to our maximum.”
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) had another busy day of testing, the British rider completing 50 laps and finishing up in P19.
Cal Crutchlow – P19
“Today was another long testing schedule, we didn’t have so many parts to test today, but we had some things we needed to try with electronics to try and improve the stopping of the bike and the corner entry. I don’t think we improved that much today and judging by the lap time and pace we need to improve for tomorrow, the next day and also the race weekend. But we’re trying our best and we’ll have a look tonight with all the engineers from my team and HRC to improve the feeling for me to be able to go faster tomorrow.”
LCR Honda Team-mate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was P15 as he – like Marquez – comes back from shoulder surgery, and he confirmed he’s still struggling with endurance, as well as trying to find the limit and understand the 2019 RC213V. That’s his goal for Sunday: at least 15 laps in a row.
Takaaki Nakagami – P15
“We are definitely improving the physical condition because the last test in Sepang was really tough and not what we wanted. But now, two weeks later we are here and the potential is improving and I’m quite happy about the feeling with the bike. Of course we need to improve some areas, but for the first day we are quite happy. The shoulder was beginning to hurt at the end of the day, but during the day it was much better than during the Sepang test. I’m really happy about this as it’s the most important thing and I’m looking forward to the second day. If the shoulder is ok, tomorrow we are planning to do race distance, which is really important for the race weekend, that’s our target anyway.”
Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s main target on Day 1, meanwhile, was to continue setting up the new RS-GP, and the Spaniard was joined on track by test rider Bradley Smith in the team’s 2020 colours. Espargaro – an early pacesetter in Qatar – was tenth with a best time of 1:55.268, with Smith putting 54 laps on the board for Aprilia. Although Espargaro admitted he didn’t feel “super good” when the temperature dropped in the evening, he said he tried a few things different things on Day 1, with everything still a voyage of discovery.
Finally, at KTM, chassis comparisons were ongoing in the factory camp, as well as a workout for the new swingarm we saw appear at Sepang. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the leading orange machine on Day 1 in P14, 0.987 off Rins’ time, and at a track that’s “tough” for them. Espargaro also says the new package is an all-round improvement and they’re focused on not “getting lost” ahead of the race weekend by trying anything too drastic.
New team-mate Brad Binder was just a couple of tenths behind and the fastest rookie as he continued to adapt, and he said it was almost like learning a whole new track initially, with a marked difference between the intermediate and premier classes at Losail.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), meanwhile, said he had a bit of a tough day, the Portuguese rider suffering with rear traction, but he and his team have ideas to improve the feeling on Day 2. Moreover, Oliveira said he’s feeling better physically than he did at Sepang with regards to his shoulder, as he’s another in recovery. His teammate Iker Lecuona was a few tenths behind him.
Miguel Oliveira – P18
“This first day has been a bit tough, to be honest. We have been struggling slightly, especially to find traction with the rear tyre. The first day is always a bit tricky regarding the track conditions, therefore we couldn’t really start that early. We have a long way to go, still and I’m convinced, that we can be much more competitive than what we have shown today. We already have a few ideas in mind to try for tomorrow in order to improve the place and the speed.”
Iker Lecuona – P20
“The feeling for the moment is very positive. I improved throughout the day and was quicker on the last laps of my last run with used tyres. I managed to go a bit quicker following Miguel, which helped me a lot. I also try to learn from other riders. Today, I’m happy about our work. I know that I need to continue to learn and to improve, but step by step we are getting there.”
#QatarTest 2020 Day One Times
RINS Alex 42 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 1’54.462
MIR Joan 36 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 0.002
VINALES Maverick 12 SPA Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP 0.032
PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA Ducati Team 0.172
MORBIDELLI Franco 21 ITA Petronas Yamaha SRT 0.238
MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA Repsol Honda Team 0.361
ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP 0.414
QUARTARARO Fabio 20 FRA Petronas Yamaha SRT 0.612
BAGNAIA Francesco 63 ITA Pramac Racing 0.742
ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 0.806
DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA Ducati Team 0.846
ZARCO Johann 5 FRA Reale Avintia Racing 0.898
MILLER Jack 43 AUS Pramac Racing 0.968
ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 0.987
NAKAGAMI Takaaki 30 JPN LCR Honda 1.165
BINDER Brad 33 RSA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 1.182
RABAT Tito 53 SPA Reale Avintia Racing 1.245
OLIVEIRA Miguel 88 POR Red Bull KTM Tech 3 1.275
CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR LCR Honda 1.295
LECOUNA Iker 27 SPA Red Bull KTM Tech 3 1.673
MARQUEZ Alex 73 SPA Repsol Honda Team 2.090
SMITH Bradley 38 GBR Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 2.565
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