Bradl dominates Friday’s MotoGP shakedown test in Qatar| Christina Bulpett | MotoGP
A shakedown for test riders and rookies officially kick-started the 2021 MotoGP season in Qatar today ahead of five full days of premier-class action this week.
With much of the usual pre-season schedules stunted by pandemic restrictions, it was all hands on deck for the factory and independent teams at the Losail International Circuit, despite strong winds delaying Friday’s opening on-track action.
Britain’s Cal Crutchlow made his debut as the official Yamaha test rider alongside fellow M1 riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Kohta Nozane, however, with the trio sharing the available machinery, individual timings were difficult to identify.
Heading proceedings for the majority of the session, Repsol Honda’s solo representative, Stefan Bradl, was over a second clear of the rest after seven hours of track activity. After spending the day focusing on electronics, his fastest effort, a 1’55.614 - set on his 55th lap - was the time to beat overnight, leaving the number 2 Yamaha machine slotting neatly into second, ahead of a further YMC machine.
Ducati’s promising trio of rookies got quickly up to speed during the evening session with Enea Bastianini taking the team honours in the final hour, despite describing his first lap on a GP bike as “a disaster!”
The Avintia rider’s 35th attempt, sat him fourth at the close of play, with a fastest time of 1’58.051 - 2.4 seconds adrift of Bradl’s best and just 0.005 ahead of Ducati workhorse Michele Pirro - on tyres that had already seen 25 laps.
“I wait all the winter for this moment. It has been incredible for me, the power of the bike, it’s a lot! Step-by-step I source more feeling with the bike and the final two runs were better. I have to improve a lot [but] for the first day, I’m happy. I have only one word - FAST! Very amazing.”
Luca Marini and Jorge Martin looked equally as comfortable aboard their respective Desmosedici’s after 30-odd laps each of the Losail layout, circulating less than a second shy of their Bologna teammates, in eighth and 10th respectively, despite the Pramac youngster getting caught out with a highside at turn-three on the most recent of the Ducati-spec machines, with an hour to go.
“For sure, not the best way to finish my first day on a MotoGP bike” explained Martin at the close of session. “It was a strange crash because I was almost straight and I touch a bump and the bike started shaking and I couldn’t stop and finally crashed. Luckily I’m okay because it was super fast, the bike not that much! It’s a pity but I think the work we did today was great.
“It was a great experience, the first laps. I just tried to get in a great position but anyway the power was crazy, it never ends. You can ask for more and it always comes.”
A day after being announced as Aprilia’s race rider for the coming season, Lorenzo Savadori rode unchaperoned for the Noale outfit despite the team’s concession status, with Aleix Espargaro choosing to sit out due to Friday’s track conditions. The young Italian seemed far from concerned, however, as he concluded the day seventh in the standings.
Sylvain Guintoli flew the flag for Suzuki Ecstar in ninth, with a 1’58.6, having spent the day evaluating the 2022-spec engine, almost three seconds ahead of teammate Takuya Tsuda, with Dani Pedrosa running slightly under the radar for KTM in 11th and a best time of 1’59.055.