Yamaha has struck another blow ahead of season 2020, with Maverick Vinales heading a top three lockout for the manufacturer in the Qatar test ahead of next weekend’s opening Grand Prix.
Vinales – who topped both post-season tests – posted a final-day 1:53.858s to be the fast man in the three-day test, with the Monster Energy Yamaha ace leading Petronas Yamaha SRT duo Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo on combined times.
The week wasn’t without hiccups for Yamaha, with Quartararo – who topped the Sepang test earlier this month – suffering technical dramas in Qatar, while Valentino Rossi crashed on Day 3.
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Vinales’ pace was one thing, but his work rate was another, with the Spaniard posting a day-high 84 laps on the final day. Rossi was P12 on combined times, but said he “isn’t far” from where he wants to be as he adapts to the new tyre.
The Petronas duo were just as optimistic, with Quartararo’s pace hovering in the 1:54s as he executed race runs on Day 3.
The same couldn’t be said for reigning champions Honda across the three days, with Marc Marquez – who is still battling after off-season shoulder surgery – at one stage running on Takaaki Nakagami’s LCR Honda 2019 RC213V. Such were Honda’s woes that factory team manager Alberto Puig conceded they were testing things “from two or three years ago”.
Suzuki continued to make inroads into what looks like an improved 2020 effort, with Alex Rins and Joan Mir looking to hone in on the GSX-RR’s race package.
Ducati brought a tweaked front aero package to Qatar, with Danilo Petrucci also testing the older aero. Jack Miller, aboard the Pramac Racing GP20, slammed in the fastest-ever top speed at the Losail International Circuit, with the Aussie clocked at a staggering 355km/h. Miller ended the Qatar test fastest of the Ducatis and was P5 overall.
Still, Ducati’s question marks on corner speed from Sepang carried over into Qatar – and even more questions sprouted once vision emerged of the Ducatis deploying the ‘holeshot device’ – used to lower and lock the rear suspension, assisting acceleration at the start of a race – on the exit of corners.
Dovizioso was P10 overall ahead of Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) in P11, with Johann Zarco (Reale Avintia Racing) P14 ahead of Petrucci (P16).
However, the standout of the final day – and indeed, the test – was Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rookie Brad Binder, who ended up ninth on combined times. Binder was just 0.425s off Vinales’ flyer, even as KTM looked to find their feet in race trim.
Aprilia kept a quiet profile with Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) ending up P13 as they continue to learn with the brand new RS-GP.
MOTOGP QATAR PRE-SEASON TEST: COMBINED TIMES
1. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha) 1:53.858
2. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) +0.033s
3. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.180s
4. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) +0.210s
5. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) +0.247s
6. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) +0.271s
7. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) +0.291s
8. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) +0.381s
9. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory) +0.425s
10. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) +0.454s