Viñales heads Yamaha top three lockout in Qatar
Spaniard fastest from the two Petronas Yamaha SRT riders at the Qatar Test as 2020 preseason ends
Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) has ended the Qatar Test at the summit thanks to a 1:53.858 on the final day in Doha. The Spaniard pips Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) to top spot by just 0.033 after the three days, with fellow Petronas Yamaha SRT rider Fabio Quartararo finishing P3 on the combined times, despite failing to go quicker on Monday.
Overall it was a great test for Yamaha, but there will be slight worry that Quartararo suffered technical failures on both Sunday and Monday, in addition to Valentino Rossi’s (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) Turn 2 crash on Day 3. The Doctor was uninjured and ventured back out during the last hour of the test, with teammate Viñales completing the most laps of anyone on the final day – 84 for the number 12. Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team Director Massimo Meregalli was pleased with the progress made with improved grip and on acceleration, saying the 2020 package “is very competitive” – good news for Yamaha fans. Rossi finished 0.474 off his teammate’s time, placing the nine-time World Champion in P12. Overall Rossi was happy, the feeling with the bike is good and he “isn’t far” but he needs to work more with the tyre.
Quartararo said his race simulation on Day 3 was very pleasing, pretty much every lap was in the 1:54s and the Frenchman didn’t go for a proper time attack – the 20-year-old going as far as saying “there’s margin for more”. That bodes very well for the 2019 Rookie of the Year and teammate Morbidelli was also very upbeat.
It was a busy and intriguing day for reigning Champions Honda as Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) started with three bikes in his garage, one of those being Takaaki Nakagami’s (LCR Honda Idemitsu) 2019 RC213V. Later on Day 3 Nakagami’s teammate Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) completed 70 laps as HRC went in search of finding improvements on the final day in Qatar, with the Japanese giants testing things “from two or three years ago” according to Repsol Honda Team Manager Alberto Puig. Crutchlow said he was happy with his pace, but over one or two laps the number 35 is struggling with stopping the bike and grip with the new tyre. A predicament for HRC for sure.
Premier class rookie Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) completed another 47 laps as the Spaniard admitted it was a difficult test for himself and the team, but the reigning Moto2™ World Champion was reasonably confident that he has a decent pace for the race weekend. Nakagami said his condition was better than it was on Day 2, the Japanese rider putting in an impressive effort on the 2019 Honda to finish P8 on the times.
The main job for Team Suzuki Ecstar on day three was to continue comparing the standard and new chassis, nothing radically new was on the GSX-RRs of Rins and Joan Mir as they focused on the finer details: adjustments in setup and gathering data for the race. Along with Yamaha, Suzuki look arguably in the best shape ahead of the Qatar GP on 8th March, both the Sepang and Qatar Tests have been very good for the Hamamatsu factory, with Rins confirming he is “so happy” with the work done over the three days at the Losail International Circuit – Mir echoed Rins’ thoughts too.
One of the riders of the test based on timesheets alone has to be Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rookie Brad Binder. The South African slammed in a mighty impressive 1:54.283 on Day 3 to leave him ninth on the combined times, just 0.425 from Viñales’ pacesetting lap. As his teammate Pol Espargaro explained earlier in the test, KTM didn’t have anything new to try on Day 3 as they don’t want to start getting lost. Working for the race was the Austrian factory’s objective as it seems their initial 2020 base is pretty much sorted, however there was a slight blip for Espargaro on the final day as he crashed unhurt at Turn 2. Over in the Red Bull KTM Tech 3 camp, Miguel Oliveira and premier class rookie Iker Lecuona finished P19 and P20, but the gaps were only 1.150 and 1.443 respectively.
In the Bologna factory camp, Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) was sporting new front aero on one of his bikes, while his other GP20 had the older aero fitted. The Italian said he was pleased with his 22-lap race simulation on Day 3, but the one-lap pace still needs work ahead of the Grand Prix. Teammate Andrea Dovizioso was still trying the new swingarm as Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) posted the fastest-ever top speed at the Losail International Circuit, a ridiculous 355 km/h was clocked by the Australian and it was Miller who ended the Qatar Test as the leading Ducati rider in P5 overall. Miller said he completed a couple of time attacks and two longer runs, the number 43 “quietly confident” heading into the opening weekend of the season, but Sector 3 needs work.
Ducati Team Manager Davide Tardozzi said the engine is working very well but corner speed – especially on maximum lean angle at the apex – still needs work. In addition, Tardozzi said they are experiencing some issues with Michelin’s new rear tyre. After finishing P6 on Day 2, Johann Zarco (Reale Avintia Racing) didn’t improve his time as the Frenchman finished P14 overall, two places ahead of Petrucci, with Dovizioso – who was happy with his long run pace – P10 and Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) P11. Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) was just 0.040 off Petrucci’s time.