After a couple of days break the men of MotoGP climbed back on their motorcycles overnight to get down to the important business of pre-season testing once again at Qatar. Conditions were good at the Losail International Circuit overnight with less wind than had plagued riders over the course of the previous two-day test. New aerodynamic developments continue to be tested by most brands and the leaders in this area appear to still be Ducati.
Jack Miller overnight set the fastest ever motorcycle lap of Qatar while sporting the new fairing on his 51st and final lap of the day.
“It felt mega, when you can put together a lap like that it is always a nice feeling. We had perfect conditions today, no real wind since the last test and there was plenty of rubber on the ground, to be honest the humidity never really came up that high tonight. Did a bit of a long run then threw another tyre at it late in the day after getting through what we needed to do today.”
Pramac Ducati rider Johann Zarco clocked the highest numbers through the speed trap clocking 352.9 km/h and also tested some new aerodynamic developments.
Johann Zarco – P4
“Today we made another step forward, lap after lap I felt better and better. I would have never thought to find a feeling like this, we improved a lot especially on the bike control. We still have to work on some things but we are going in the right direction.”
Ducati were not alone though as various aero packages on Suzuki and KTM machinery while a new rear hole-shot device, chassis and carbon-fibre swing-arm were tested by Yamaha. KTM also tried out a new chassic and exhaust system. Suzuki were also doing chassis development and sported carbon-fibre swing-arms during the day.
HRC test rider Stefan Bradl crashed and left the circuit with neck soreness after completing only 15 laps. HRC will desperately hoping that their primary test rider will be available for the next two days of the test.
“We had another good start to the day and I was feeling good on the bike, unfortunately I had a crash at Turn 2. This has been a tricky corner for everyone this test, but I was pushing for the limit. The crash itself wasn’t a problem but when I got to the gravel I rolled awkwardly and quite hard and I felt quite sore. I went for a medical check and there’s nothing serious, but we decided to rest today because we still have two important days. The aim is to be recovered for them.”
Taka Nakagami and Alex Marquez also both went down again, making it seven crashes for the LCR riders so far in testing this year already.
Alex Marquez – P15
“Ok, it’s the first day of the second test here in Qatar and it was quite positive for us. It was an important day to compare important things and to be clear on which bike we will start the 2021 season on. It was clear, so the right choice for me is what I will choose and tomorrow it will also be important to work on just one bike and improve the set-up, but I feel quite good. The rhythm is not bad, but if you look at our competitors (and how they’re performing) we still need to improve and we have some margin there. But I think we’re working in a good way, there was no time for a time attack, but tomorrow we will plan for that as it’s important to try the bike in a time attack and be closer to the top.”
Takaaki Nakagami – P10
“Today was not too bad at all. We tested some quite important things today, and everything was quite clear in my mind – I had a good feeling on the bike with the new items. The lap time was also much more consistent than on the last two days here. The feeling on the bike, the pace and the lap time were quite competitive. Of course, we need to improve in some areas, especially in some sectors of the track. We are definitely heading in the right direction and I feel much more comfortable on the bike, so I’m pretty happy with today. Let’s keep working hard for the last two days of testing!”
Pol Espargaro was smiling with his efforts in getting to grips with the Honda though and ended the day fifth quickest, half-a-second off Marc Marquez’ fastest ever lap of Qatar, which had been the outright benchmark at the circuit before proceedings got underway on Wednesday.
Pol Espargaro – P5
“Today was another really good day, speaking honestly the progress has been better than I was expecting. It’s coming naturally and I am finding and understanding the limits more and more. Still there are some tenths to find over the fast lap, but we are making big steps, I was eight tenths faster today, so it means we are constantly changing our references and we are always learning. But more important than this is our consistency, and this is really where we have been working and what I am happy with. I am still working a lot on myself, but now we can start to experiment a bit with the bike. It’s positive.”
Yamaha might have been a long way behind on the top speed charts but that didn’t stop Monster Energy Yamaha duo Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales from finishing the day in P2 and P3 respectively. Quartararo was less than a tenth away from Miller’s new outright benchmark for the 5380-metre circuit.
Fabio Quartararo – P2
“I’m so happy about my lap. It’s one of the best laps I’ve ever done! Today we tried many things and made a big step with our pace on the last runs. In general today was a good day. I can be happy, because we improved our feeling with used tyres – and that was our goal. We have made a step with the pace. We have two more days of testing and we’re ready for it. I just want to stay calm and keep working.”
Maverick Vinales – P3
“I think that today has been really positive. I had a small crash in Turn 1, but that was just a matter of the cold and me riding with a medium tyre. But overall, we can be happy. We were trying to work on improving race starts, which is our clear objective at the moment. I need to do more laps to keep getting more and more comfortable on the bike. Yamaha is doing a good job. The rhythm is there. At the end of the day I did two to three fast laps. It seems like I can ride with a nice flow, which is important, and I can keep up good lap times all the time.”
Aprilia will still be taking much encouragement from the performances of Aleix Espargaro, the Spaniard P6 overnight. There was a crash for Aleix and a few technical problems also reduced the number of laps that Aprilia put in on Wednesday.
Valentino Rossi was the fastest Yamaha through the speed trap at 343.9 km/h and finished the day in P13 on the timesheets, two places behind his Petronas SRT team-mate Franco Morbidelli.
Franco Morbidelli – P11
“Today we have been working hard testing and I didn’t really do a proper time attack. We focused a little bit more on trying to make some improvements and squeeze a bit more performance out of the race configuration. At the end of the day we finished outside of the top-ten, but it’s still early and the first day back after two days of no riding. We know the margins between riders will be small in the race, it’s going to make it difficult and every small detail is going to make the difference. We want to analyse everything to help us have a good race in the first two weekends.”
Valentino Rossi – P13
“Although I might not be happy with P13, it was a good day because we have improved upon the first two days of the test: both the time attack and the race pace are better. I think we are doing well, but the top guys are a little faster so there is still some work we need to do. We tried something new today with the chassis and cowling, which I like and this is good for improving the bike, so it’s been a positive day. We have improved everywhere, but especially the grip, and that made today very enjoyable. Now we will check the data to see where else we can improve.”
Suzuki duo Joan Mir and Alex Rins were P7 and P8 respectively. Joan Mir spent time working with different fairing variations in order to work on aerodynamics, then switched his attention to general performance including working on the electronics. Alex Rins used the day to work on the electronics and engine areas, before moving on to trying the swingarm he used a few days ago, and also trying the different fairing options.
Ken Kawauchi – Suzuki Technical Manager
“Both riders have already regained the good feelings they had last year, and that’s important. It means they’re ready to test many items and make good progress for the coming season. Joan tried a lot of different fairing specs. today, and we collected data around that. He also tried the 2022 spec. engine and gave us positive feedback in regard to that. Alex also used the 2022 spec. engine again, and some chassis items. It’s been a great day in terms of collection information and we’re pleased.”
Joan Mir – P7
“Today I tried the 2022 spec. engine, and it was really useful because it gives us an idea of how the future could be. After that we tried a number of other different settings and it all helps build the overall package for this year. I felt good today and I’m happy with my lap times despite not really pushing for a fast lap. It will be interesting to see how the next two days play out in terms of everyone being close on times.”
Alex Rins – P8
“We did a good job today and I tried many things. We worked the chassis, the swingarm that I tried last weekend, and a fairing with different winglets. Everything feels quite similar to last year but with an improvement, which is great. Today I didn’t go for a fast lap but I did improve my corner speed and that’s something I’m feeling positive about. The bike in general is feeling good!”
KTM might be a little worried on the back of their performances overnight. Miguel Oliveira was quickest for the Austrian brand but his time was 1.343-seconds off Miller’s benchmark and good enough for only 12th quickest. Binder suffered a crash and ranked P20 on the time-sheets, more than two-seconds from Miller’s benchmark.
Orange family newcomer Petrucci continued working on adapting himself to his KTM RC16 machine. The Italian lowered his personal fastest time from Sunday by 0.817 seconds. Likewise, Lecuona went 0.558 seconds quicker overnight than three days ago and is eager to resume his progress tomorrow. Despite those improvements Petrucci was in P17 and Lecuona P21.
Danilo Petrucci – P17
“I’m starting to understand the bike and we are working very well, because today every change we made has worked out. This means that I’m also beginning to really like the bike and manage to understand what is going on. I can let the bike do what I want, which is the most important thing. We reduced the gap to the others. For sure, there is still a long way to go in order to be closer to the top. But we have still two days left and I’m very satisfied about how the bike is working and how the team is working. So, we aim to continue this way tomorrow.”
Iker Lecuona – P21
“I have to say sorry to my team, because I crashed. There was no special reason for it, just a classic turn two crash in Losail. But apart from this, I’m quite happy, because I learned a lot, I improved a lot this time, my line and also my lap time. I was a bit unlucky, as during my time attack, I lost the front on the first lap, but managed to save it. On my second lap, I had one of the test riders directly in front of me, I passed him, but lost quite a lot of time. Finally, I know I can do better, so I’m very pleased. Hopefully we can prove that tomorrow.”
Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama Racing) was the fastest rookie on track in P14. The other two rookies are looking great too. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) improved his previous best time by half a second and has been checking Miller and Zarco’s data, confirming that in “three or four corners” he could immediately go faster. Martin placed P19 with a 1m55.010, with Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Avintia) three-tenths behind Martin in P22.
Enea Bastianini – P14
“Today I feel much more relaxed than in the past tests. We have made modifications to the bike and tried to find more stability by moving one step further. Today I can’t complain, tomorrow we will work on the pace, today was not bad at all and especially in the time attack that costs me more with new tires, there is a lot of grip and I have to understand how to make the rear tyre to work better. Tomorrow I will try to make more laps, and if possible, we will do a race simulation, in this way I will also test my physical form”.
Jorge Martín – P19
“A positive day, I am very happy. I tried different things to increase the feeling and I had a good pace. I’m getting better and better, I have to make the most of these last days of testing to be as competitive as possible during the race.”
Luca Marini – P22
“I am Happy, we have done a good job on the set up and the feelings are positive. I make a lot of laps with used tyres and I did a 10-laps long run at the end of the day for understanding the tyres drop and learn how to manage it with electronics. I feel better on the bike, also in terms of position, I started to feel then tyres and tomorrow we have scheduled a race simulation. I must work to be able to turn the bike as I want, check the rear tyre and from tomorrow we will have all data of the long run to analyse. The lap time is not bad, I expected a bigger gap from the top riders, and the pace is good”.
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