MotoGP: Qatar Test So Far

Published on March 10, 2021
By Jack Hammersley

The MotoGP riders have already had two days of testing at the Losail International Circuit. With three more days before the first round, who will be looking to make improvements during the next days of testing?

The biggest surprise of the testing so far over the first two days has been Aprilia Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro, who topped Day One of testing and finished third position in the combined standings, while also setting Aprilia’s fastest ever lap time at the Qatar circuit. Eyes will be on Aleix to see if he and the Aprilia Gresini squad can continue their good form with the final three days of testing, before the start of the season.

Factory Ducati’s Jack Miller has started testing in the same fashion as he ended the 2020 season, finishing in the combined standings in second position. While Jack got to grips with the Desmosedici GP21 quite quickly, the team look to have improved their rear grip troubles which plagued them many times last season, as well as Ducati bringing out a new aero fairing. Jack will be looking to keep up the form of the past two days to fight for the victory in the first round in two weeks time.

Another rider to continue his form from last season is Franco Morbidelli, who currently holds 4th in the combined times. The Petronas SRT rider took 3 wins and two further podiums in 2020, and is beginning this season as a force also. While improving on his 7th place position on Saturday, the Italian achieved a time of 1:54.153 the following day – just 0.001 seconds behind Aleix Espargaro in third.

Johann Zarco has had to adapt from the Desmosedici GP19 to the GP21, after the switch from the Esponsorama Avintia Ducati Team to the Pramac Racing Team, and didn’t waste time as he showed instant pace finishing in sixth position at the end of Day One, and maintained that position in the combined standings. He’s still looking to fully adapt to the new GP21, but was unable to get the full potential out the bike which he wanted. These next three days will be useful for Johann to get fully to grips with the bike.

Stefan Bradl has been a surprise package, finishing as the top Honda over both days of testing, ending the combined standings inside the top five. The Honda test rider spent most of last season in place of the injured Marc Marquez, and with questions still hanging over whether Marc will be able to race at Qatar, Stefan could prove to be a strong package in the opening rounds, and these next three days may show the potential of Stefan and the Honda.

Fabio Quartararo struggled on Day One, ending his first day as a Factory Yamaha rider at the bottom of the four Yamaha riders in 15th position, after not feeling comfortable on the bike. However, on Day Two, the Frenchman had a much better feeling and was able to set the fastest time of the testing session and being the only rider to enter the 1:53 bracket. However, Quarataro was unable to get a full assessment on the new 2021 chassis, and these next three days will be crucial for the Frenchman to get the understanding of where he and Yamaha are at with the new chassis.

The rookies Luca Marini, Enea Bastianini and Jorge Martin had three days to adapt to their new machines, with taking part in Friday’s shakedown test. Enea, who is riding onboard the Avintia Esponsorama GP19 Ducati, was able to finish as top rookie, setting a 1:55.486 on his 35th lap of 45. With three extra days, the reigning Moto2 World Champion will be looking to remain ahead of his fellow rookies. SKY VR46 Avintia’s Luca Marini spent the three days adjusting to the bike in order for it to be comfortable and to get the right fit with the GP19 Ducati. Marini ended up just a tenth of second slower behind his teammate Enea Bastianini and will be looking to make further steps on the Bologna Bullet in the next three days. Spaniard Jorge Martin had a bad start to his first test on the GP21 Ducati, having a violent crash at turn three – losing control of the bike and falling at high speed. The Martinator didn’t let that halt his progress and adaptation to the 1000cc machine, also being just one tenth of a second behind Enea in the combined standings.

There are a few riders who didn’t have their first two days of testing going to plan; one of them being Petronas SRT’s Valentino Rossi, who spent the two days testing out the new 2021 chassis and also searching for rear grip – which he was unable to find a good setting for, and found the new chassis to be more similar to the 2020 chassis compared to the 2019, ending Day Two in 20th position. He’ll be looking to make great improvements with the M1 to be able to fight for podium in the opening two rounds.

Danilo Petrucci is also fielding a new bike with the RC16 KTM, after joining the Tech 3 KTM Team. Danilo, like his fellow Italian Luca Marini, was having to adjust to the bike and get good ergonomics with the RC16 machine. Danilo ended Day Two in 21st position, after having also suffered a small crash at Turn Six. Petrucci will be looking for a big step over the next three days to start 2021 in a positive way.

2020’s rookie of the year South Africa’s Brad Binder also struggled over the past two days of testing, ending in 24th position. Brad suffered two crashes on Day Two and was unable to find the speed that he was looking for. The 25-year-old will be looking make further steps with RC16 over the next three days. With his teammate Miguel Oliviera finishing Day Two in 11th, Brad will be looking to get ahead of his renewed teammate from Moto3 and Moto2.

The LCR Team duo currently sit mid-table, with Takaaki Nakagami in P13 with a 1:54.60 – one position ahead of new teammate Alex Marquez, who remains 0.262 seconds behind. With three days of testing remaining, there is plenty of time for the pair to improve their laps, so mid-table can be seen as a comfortable position for now. Along with Nakagami’s consistency in results last season, with a few podium opportunities weaved in, it is expected for the Japanese rider to be a fighter again come race day. Adding to mix in 2020 was also the younger Marquez, who became a hot topic both on and off track, surrounding his move to LCR, it will definitely be interesting to see how the Spaniard progresses, be it in testing or the races themselves.

While the grid got used to being back on track, Yamaha also added a string of test riders into the fray. The line-up consisted of Cal Crutchlow, Kohta Nozane and Katsuyuki Nakasuga. Each rider had a different machine to work with over the two days, with the bike on top being that of Franco Morbidelli’s machine – tested by Crutchlow – which sits on the combined timesheet in 15th position. The other two test bikes consisted of the 2020 machine, and a 2021 bike with a 2020 chassis and an estimated 2019 engine – to shake things up a little. The latter pair ended the weekend in P23 and P28, respectively.

With the tests to continue this morning, will Quartararo remain on top, or will someone else transform the timesheets?

Qatar Test’s Day 3 will begin at 14:00 Local Time (GMT +3).

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