It was a slow start to testing for the Moto3 World Championship in Qatar, their first session on track run with the sun still in the sky and the track quite dirty. As a result, not all riders went out on track but those who did went out to test a new hard rear tyre for Dunlop. This tyre will be used for Argentina and will only be used at the Qatar Test for non-night sessions; the tyre allocation for the Qatar race will be soft and medium compounds as in 2015.
With the track cleaned after the first session, riders and teams focused on shorter runs to perfect their set-up before looking towards race simulations later in the test. The early sessions were especially important for KTM who have a new engine, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) topping the first session. Although Honda continues to use the same engine as in Jerez and earlier private tests, Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was able to lead the second session.
The third and final session of the day saw Livio Loi (RW Racing GP), Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) and Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) all trade fast laps towards the end of the session. With just over three minutes remaining, there was a red flag brining the day to an early end.
However, it was Jorge Navarro’s 2’06.176 from the second session which stood as the fastest lap of the day. This was a miniscule 0.006s slower than Alexis Masbou’s pole time from 2015.
Loi’s 2’06.462 saw him top the final session and slot into second overall. After a difficult start in the lightweight class in 2013 and 2014, the young Belgian rider has looked strong during the build up to 2016. Just 0.160s behind Loi in the second session was Quartararo, the Frenchman still several tenths off his qualifying time from the 2015 race.
Showing well yet again was Niccolo Antonelli, the Italian making it three Hondas in the top five. Much like Loi, after several difficult seasons Antonelli is now asserting himself as a bona fide front-runner and podium challenger. Fifth was Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46), the Italian again showing well after leading testing in Jerez. His aim for this final test is to improve his consistency. All of the top seven were able to get below the 2’07 barrier.
Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team), Andrea Migno (SKY Racing Team VR46), Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) and rookie Bo Bendsneyder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) completed the top ten. In classic Moto3™ style, the top 21 riders were within two seconds of each other.
Danny Aldridge, MotoGP Technical Director, also made a statement in regards to recent allegations of a manufacturer exceeding the 13,500 rpm rev limit in 2015. After deeper investigation Aldridge and his team found nothing unusual or unexpected about how the rev limiter was working and that the cut point was, and is, consistent across all engines. The Moto3 Class Working Group, with delegates from each manufacturer, will have a meeting during the Qatar GP to discuss rules and further regulations.
After their first official run on track in Jerez just a fortnight ago, riders in the Moto2 World Championship were back in action at Qatar. This was the beginning of three days of testing ahead of the season opener on the 20th of March at the same circuit. While Axel Pons (AGR Team) blitzed the field at the Spanish track, times were much closer in Losail though many of the same names remained at the top.
Aside from set-up work, Kalex riders continued to test the new tank, radiator and revised frame supplied for 2016. Many riders were also working with the new Kalex aerodynamics package, boasting a revised shape.
Fortunately for the intermediate class, Moto3 riders had cleaned much of the dirt off the track during their first session. This allowed them all to immediately get to work. Times were fast from the beginning of the day as Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) led both the first and second sessions with laps in the low 2’00s.
The Brit was also towards the top of the times in the final session, but a 2’00.071s from Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) demoted the Brit to second. Both riders are using the newest version of the Kalex and 0.013s split them at the top of the time sheets as the first day of testing concluded. The duo had strong seasons in 2015, frequently battling for the podium and often victory. Lowes started the 2015 Qatar GP from pole with a 1’59.423, no riders able to get within half a second of the pole time on Friday.
Completing the top three was Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), the Japanese rider setting a 2’00.131 on his 19th lap of the final session. This was already 0.8s faster than his Qualifying time from 2015, the Moto2™ veteran finding the form which saw him claim four consecutive second place finishes in 2013.
After a strong showing in Jerez, Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) continued to work on improving his bike with his new team and ended the first day of the test in fourth. The German achieved his first win in the intermediate class in Qatar in 2015 and is eager to repeat it in 2016 and start his campaign on the right foot once more.
Rounding out the top five was reigning Moto2 World Champion Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) with a 2’00.542, 0.471s off Rins’ lap. It was a quiet Jerez Test for the champion, but he has already managed to significantly reduce the gap to the front riders here in Qatar.
Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten), Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team), Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) and Moto3™ World Champion Danny Kent (Leopard Racing) made up the top ten, all under a second from Rins.
Xavier Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) was the leading Tech 3 bike in 22nd, ending ahead of the experienced Dominque Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten). Meanwhile Efren Vazquez (JPMoto Malaysia) continued to work on his Suter, Vazquez the only rider on the Swiss frame in 2016, and ended the opening day in 29th.
Testing resumes on Saturday the 11th of March at 15:00 Local Time.
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