Qatar MotoGP test: Quartararo breaks 1’54 barrier to top the times

| | MotoGP

Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo claimed Sunday’s honours at the Qatar MotoGP test as the only rider to break the 1’54 barrier, with 40 minutes remaining of the closing session.

While the sun went down, the action on track was certainly starting to heat up as the final day of testing ahead of a two-day-break wound towards its conclusion.

Continuing Saturday’s impressive performance, Aleix Espargaro repeated his assault on the top of the timesheets, holding court with less than two hours to go with an impressive 1’54.152 lap set on his 42nd attempt - having remained within the top-six all day - however, his double celebration was not to be as Yamaha’s new signing let rip with 40 minutes to go.

The Frenchman set a blistering 1’53.940 lap - almost a second faster than Jorge Lorenzo’s 2016 record - although still six-tenths off Marc Marquez’ fastest ever time around the Doha circuit.

There was further pain to come for the Aprilia man as Jack Miller muscled his Ducati into second moments later, with a time just on the 1’54 bubble and Espargaro was relegated to third.

Franky Morbidelli had been rising up the times from sixth as the final hour began, just missing the Aprilia’s target by 0.001 but he was back out on track in the closing minutes to hunt for final improvements before eventually settling for fourth.

Maintaining his promising pace throughout the day, Stefan Bradl eventually settled for fifth as the session concluded, narrowly ahead of Johann Zarco and Maverick Viñales - the Yamaha rider suffering a dramatic turn-two crash as temperatures dropped for the session’s evening hours.

It was an early finish for the Suzuki effort behind, having spent the second day testing a new swingarm, with defending-champion Joan Mir heading Alex Rins for eighth and ninth as the pair called it a day happy with their progress. Remaining out of track for the full duration, Pecco Bagnaia, however, took the opportunity to spoil the party in the final minutes as he relegated Rins to the fringe of the top-10.

Aiming for top-KTM pride, Miguel Oliveira, sat the RC-16 in 11th - neatly ahead of recently-departed Pol Espargaro, who’s best of the day had been half-a-second shy of his brother’s earlier principle time.

Another team seemingly working in tandem, LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami and Alex Marquez rounded out the top-14 - the Japanese rider scalping his teammate in the final ten minutes - just under a second adrift of the fastest time and ahead of Cal Crutchlow’s test Yamaha and fastest rookie, Enea Bastianini.

Valentino Rossi concluded the day in 20th, 1.7s off the pace and behind youngsters Lorenzo Savadori, Luca Marini and Jorge Martin, while Tech3 KTM’s Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona finished 21st and 23rd respectively albeit ahead of factory rider Brad Binder, who suffered two crashes throughout the day, and Dani Pedrosa. Sylvain Guintoli, Michele Pirro and Takuya Tsuda rounded out the test rider times.

The test concluded with a raft of riders in practice start formation with Aprilia, Honda, Ducati and KTM all evaluating both front and rear holeshot devices.