After three days of testing at Sepang, it’s over to Losail for those last changes before the season begins at Losail International Circuit from 8thto 10thMarch 2019
From the 23rd to 25th February, MotoGP™ makes its first visit of the year to Losail International Circuit in Qatar for the second and final preseason test of 2019, two weeks before the season opener at the same venue.
Track activity for the Qatar Test will be from 4pm to 10pm with free entrance to the Grandstand for all the spectators and all fans have the chance to enter the Paddock during the test just showing your ticket for the Grand Prix of Qatar.
After the first outing in Malaysia teams now have to make their final preparations for the year on everything from aero to engines, and they’ll be trying new things as well as comparing new data with their findings from the very different venue of Sepang. So what are we looking out for?
Engines, for those without concessions – which now includes Team Suzuki Ecstar after their stellar 2018 – are one of the biggest keys. From the start of the season factories aren’t able to make changes and the very same Suzuki showed in 2017 how a slight misstep can wreak havoc on the season as a whole.
There’s no sign of that from the Hamamatsu factory so far in 2019 though, and Ducati and Honda both also seem happy after Sepang, the latter trying two specs. Yamaha, after a more difficult couple of seasons, also saw plenty of positive comments about the engine coming from Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) in Malaysia. They’ve had one to work with and no direct choice in 2019 per se, but the Spaniard specifically pointed out improvements in acceleration. That’s been a key issue for the Japanese factory, so that bodes well…but will that remain true at a different venue?
Aerodynamics – formerly winglets, now “aero fairings”; specificity important – are another key component that teams must make a final decision on during the Qatar Test. This year it’s a simple choice of two fairings for the year, one of which must be decided upon before the season begins, the other mid-way through, and neither of which can be changed once homologated. And this time around, they also have to fit in a specially designed homologation unit that judges the legality of the fairing – if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t race. At Sepang, Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati Team) and Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) crashed on their different aero fairings they were trying so they’ll want to get a little more track time under their belts in Qatar before decisions are made, and past Ducati, traditionally the masters of aero innovation, we saw plenty of different options up and down pitlane. “There are always positives and negatives,” said Viñales of aero, and the Qatar Test is the last chance for teams to decide which positives outweigh which negatives.
Another man who will finally be able to continue his own adaptation in Qatar is Jorge Lorenzo. After breaking his scaphoid and being forced to miss the Sepang Test, the five-time World Champion will be able to get back on his new Repsol Honda machine at Losail and continue getting up to speed. So as well as the final adjustments to the machinery, he’s sure to be a key talking point of the Qatar Test come struggle or shine, as will new teammate Marc Marquez after surgery on his shoulder. Will their fights back to fitness steal the headlines from Honda’s testing program? And is that because – cue the Jaws music – it’s all going so scarily well behind the scenes?