Qatar MotoGP test: Vinales finishes on top by 0.033s

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Monster Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales finished the final day of MotoGP testing in Qatar on top both the day’s timesheets and the combined times.

The Spaniard dropped under the 1’54s barrier with a 1’53.858 to knock fellow Yamaha runner Franco Morbidelli off top spot. The Petronas Yamaha man had been the first rider into the 1’53s with a 1’53.891 but he was beaten by just 0.033s.

Ecstar Suzuki’s Alex Rins completed the top three on a day when the leading 18 riders were covered by less than a second.

Overall it was a useful test for Yamaha, but there will be concerns that Fabio Quartararo suffered technical failures on both Sunday and Monday, in addition to Valentino Rossi’s turn two crash on Day 3. The Doctor was uninjured and ventured back out during the last hour of the test, with team-mate Viñales completing the most laps of anyone on the final day – 84 for the number 12.

Monster Yamaha boss Massimo Meregalli was pleased with the progress made with improved grip and on acceleration, saying the 2020 package ‘is very competitive’. Rossi finished 0.474 off his team-mate’s time, placing the nine-time world champion in P12. Overall Rossi was happy, the feeling with the bike is good but he needs to work more with the tyre.

Quartararo said his race simulation today 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’.

It was a busy and intriguing day for Honda as Marc Marquez started with three bikes in his garage, one of those being Takaaki Nakagami’s (LCR Honda Idemitsu) 2019 RC213V.

Nakagami’s team-mate Cal Crutchlow completed 70 laps despite his big crash yesterday 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.

Premier class rookie Alex Marquez 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 yesterday, the Japanese rider putting in an impressive effort on the 2019 Honda to finish P8 on the times.

The main job for 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.

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 today leave him ninth on the combined times, just 0.425 from Vinales’ pacesetting lap.

As his teammate Pol Espargaro explained earlier in the test, KTM didn’t have anything new to try today 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 two.

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 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, 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: 222mph was clocked by the Australian and it was Miller who ended the Qatar Test as the leading Ducati rider in fifth 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 sixth yesterday, Johann Zarco (Reale Avintia Racing) didn’t improve his time as the Frenchman finished 14th 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.

Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro finished P13 on the timesheets, just over half a second off Viñales, with test rider Bradley Smith completing a further 55 laps on Monday as Aprilia continue to gather crucial data on their brand new RS-GP.

Espargaro said he showed a strong pace on race simulation, lapping in mid-1:54s for plenty of laps was good news for the number 41. A busy test for both riders means Aprilia have a lot of analysing to do before the Qatar GP.

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