Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) leaves Losail International Circuit after the Qatar Test having topped two of the three days, the first and final, and on Monday it was with a 1:54.208 to end the test 0.233 clear.
The top spot was again under threat from an incredible performance from rookie Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in second, however, with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) completing the top three. And, after a tougher Day 2 for Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), the ‘Doctor’ was back inside the top four just behind Marquez, with Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) another resurgent runner as he completed the top five.
So it’s Yamaha who leave Qatar on top despite a windier Day 3, with Viñales putting in 50 laps on Monday and Rossi 38. The Italian was pretty positive and said it came from putting “everything together”, but the Spaniard did still insist they need to improve and one of the big things he pointed out was edge grip, where he said the Yamaha is lacking a little compared to other manufacturers. 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.
Repsol Honda were the only other team and manufacturer to mix it with them on Monday, although both machines took tumbles – riders ok. Marc Marquez was third with a 1:54.613 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. 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, the five-time World Champion catapulted himself up to a 1:54.653 on Day 3.
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 1:54.789, with teammate Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) down in P17 after 39 laps.
Another big headline on the last day of preseason came from the consistently impressive Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who was a stunning seventh on a best effort of 1:54.770. The Spaniard put in 37 laps as the Austrian factory continue working on the details, and 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.
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 but they focused on long runs and race setup. 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.
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 1:54.852 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…
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.
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.