Ecstar Suzuki duo Alex Rins and Joan Mir put in virtually identical laptimes to set the pace on the first day of MotoGP testing in Qatar.
Rins ended his Saturday with a 1’54.462 - half a second under Jorge Lorenzo’s four-year-old lap record - with team-mate Mir only 0.002s in arrears.
Rins left it late to set a to pip Mir with Maverick Viñales (Monster Yamaha) completing a top three split by 0.032.
Arguably the biggest talking point on day one was Ducati’s ride height adjuster that was predominantly seen on Jack Miller’s Pramac Racing GP20. Ducati Team Manager Davide Tardozzi admitted they have something new on their bike that they are trying.
Otherwise at Ducati, the main goal was to work on Michelin’s new tyre, something that both Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and teammate Danilo Petrucci struggled with at the Sepang Test. Right at the end of the opening day, Petrucci leapfrogged to fourth to sit just 0.172 off top spot.
Pramac Racing’s Francesco Bagnaia was ninth after getting another 56 laps under his belt on the GP20, with Dovizioso, Johann Zarco (Reale Avinita Racing) – another solid outing for the Frenchman – and Miller all within a second of the Suzukis. Both Dovizioso and Miller crashed unscathed, with the Italian sounding positive, saying the feeling is better than in Malaysia.
The Qatar test for most teams is about fine-tuning what they learnt in the Valencia, Jerez and Sepang tests and it seems Yamaha are one of those teams who aren’t trying many new things at the Losail International Circuit.
Their 2020 engine seems to be set in stone and the factory riders of Viñales and Valentino Rossi have the holeshot devices fitted, with the quartet of Yamaha riders confirming parts and electronics work on a different circuit.
Sepang Test pacesetter Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) continued getting to grips with the 2020 YZR-M1. He finished eighth with a best time of 1’55.204, with teammate Franco Morbidelli – who is on the YZR-M1 2020 A-spec – finishing fifth. The Yamahas are looking strong as all four finished inside the top eight, with Rossi slotting into seventh.
Suzuki Ecstar boss Davide Brivio confirmed that both Rins and Mir don’t have anything new to test in Qatar. After a successful Sepang test, their engine choice is also clear as they switch their main focus to back-to-back chassis testing - the new one tested in Sepang that was well-received, compared to the older version with a carbon cover.
In addition, Rins has said a Suzuki holeshot will arrive in time for the Qatar GP, if not here, while Mir continues to work on his position on the GSX-RR.
Over in the Honda camp, fresh of the back of a new four-year HRC deal, Marc Marquez got a valuable 42 laps under his belt as he continued to recover from shoulder surgery, finishing sixth on the timesheets with a best of 1’54.823.
Team-=mate Alex Marquez didn’t have the smoothest day as the reigning Moto2 World Champion crashed – thankfully unhurt – twice at turns sevenb and ten, but another 57 laps for the rookie was important after impressing at Sepang. We also saw the number 73 on track with a new front fairing.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) had another busy day of testing, the British rider completed 50 laps and finished §9th, with teammate Takaaki Nakagami finishing 15th. The Japanese rider is another Honda rider who is continuing rehabilitation from winter surgery, and Nakagami confirmed he’s still struggling with endurance, as well as trying to find the limit and understand the 2019 RC213V. Expect Crutchlow to be further up the timesheets when he and Honda go for a qualifying type run.
Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia’s main target on day one was to continue setting up the new RS-GP, and the Spaniard was joined on track by test rider Bradley Smith in the team’s 2020 colours.
Espargaro – an early pacesetter in Qatar – ended tenth with a best time of 1=‘55.268, with Smith putting 54 laps on the board for Aprilia. Espargaro admitted he didn’t feel “super good” when the temperature dropped in the evening, with the number 41 saying he tried a few other things on Day 1.
At KTM, chassis comparisons were ongoing in the factory camp as well as continuing to try the new swingarm that we saw appear at Sepang. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the leading orange machine in 14th, 0.987 off Rins’ time, with teammate Brad Binder just a couple of tenths behind.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) said he had a bit of a tough day, the Portuguese rider suffering with rear traction, but he and his team have ideas to improve the feeling on Day 2. Moreover, Oliveira said he’s feeling better physically than he did at Sepang with regards to his shoulder.