Yamaha leads Ducati and Aprilia at the Qatar Test with the Frenchman breaking the 1:54 barrier on Sunday evening
Day 2 is done and dusted at the Official MotoGP™ Qatar Test and it’s Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Fabio Quartararo who leads the way, as the Frenchman becomes the first and so far only rider to dip into the 1:53s. Ducati Lenovo Team’s Jack Miller was less than a tenth off his Yamaha rival and once again, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was up the sharp end on the brand-new RS-GP – a 1:54.152 saw the Spaniard place 0.212 off Quartararo.
Day 2 brought the best conditions the riders have faced since pitlane opened at the Losail International Circuit on Friday afternoon. There was still a little bit of wind swirling across the track but nowhere near as bad as the Shakedown and Saturday’s first Official Test Day – great news for the runners. Midway through Sunday’s action, HRC test rider Stefan Bradl had beaten Aleix Espargaro’s Day 1 pace – albeit by mere thousandths – and the pace would get quicker as the day passed by.
Aprilia’s number one soon returned to the summit, with Franco Morbidelli slotting as close as he possibly could behind the RS-GP on the timesheets – 0.001s in it heading into the final hour. Quartararo then jumped up to P1 with just over half an hour to play with the first 1:53 lap time of the test as the pace intensified under the lights, Miller snuck into P2 shortly after.
Fastest man Quartararo confirmed late on Saturday evening that Yamaha have a new chassis to try in Qatar. After struggling in the first “30 or 40 laps” to get the feeling on his YZR-M1, the Frenchman was happy. 59 more laps completed on Sunday for El Diablo, but he’s been suffering with heavy blisters on his hands.
Quartararo said that he needs a little bit more time compared to teammate Viñales to set that quick lap time from the off on new tyres, and it’s difficult to say whether the new chassis is better or not. A carbon swingarm and other new parts were also tested by the Yamaha men on Day 2.
Maverick Viñales also confirmed that Yamaha have been trying plenty of things, his main focus so far has been rear grip – the Spaniard saying testing so far has been “general, big things” and judging from the timesheets, it’s going pretty well for the Iwata factory. Both riders seem to be very pleased with their progress so far with Viñales ending Day 2 in P7, 0.455s from his teammate. It wasn’t a totally slick day for Viñales on Day 2 though, both he and test rider Cal Crutchlow crashed at Qatar’s notorious Turn 2 – both were perfectly ok.
Both Petronas Yamaha SRT men also felt great after Day 1 and although Valentino Rossi’s P20 on Day 2 doesn’t really reflect good feelings, The Doctor seemed upbeat as he and Yamaha go through plenty of different things to try. After a “great first day at the office”, Morbidelli’s second day at the office also looked to have gone well after finishing up in P4 – a couple of tenths shy of former teammate Quartararo.
Ever the innovators, Ducati were seen with some more new toys on Day 2 in addition to the new aero we’ve seen Michele Pirro, Miller and Francesco Bagnaia riding with at some points. A new rear wheel that they’re using to monitor the forces going on at the rear end was seen, but this could just be for testing purposes – remains to be seen whether this will be something the Bologna brand race with. Interesting nonetheless.
The front-end holeshot device was today confirmed, this is something that Aprilia, Honda, KTM and Suzuki have at their disposal too. The second fastest Ducati on track was Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) in P6, with Bagnaia ending the day P9 on the timesheets. Chatting at the end of Day 2, Miller confirmed that he’s enjoying himself on the bike and was able to push a little for a time attack towards the end, the Australian also ran with the new aero for pretty much the whole day – but hinted that something more is coming soon…And, as expected, the Ducati riders are flying high in the speed traps – yet again they’re the ones to catch on raw straight-line speed.
Ducati’s trio of rookies were once again out on track finding their feet on the fire breathing Desmosedicis, and it was reigning Moto2™ World Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama Racing) who was fastest on Day 2. The Italian shaded it by just over a tenth to teammate Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Avintia) as the Italians claimed P16 and P18 respectively, a good day for both.
Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin suffered his third crash in three days and completed the least amount of laps of any full-time MotoGP™ rider on the second Official Test day. Martin was perfectly fine after the Turn 16 tumble though and was able to claim P19, 0.027s behind Marini. All three rookies have impressed so far and to finish one and a half seconds off Quartararo’s pace is good progress.
Aprilia tried to play down their Day 1 success but on the evidence that Aleix Espargaro was third fastest on Day 2, there’s plenty of reason to be excited in the Noale camp. The entire new package seems to be going well as Espargaro put 69 more laps on the clock, with teammate Lorenzo Savadori adding 41 to his tally. The latter finished P17, 1.630 seconds away from top spot.
Espargaro explained that he did a long run to understand what the bike is going to be like over race distance, he had good reports but said he and Aprilia need to find a way to enable him to ride it more relaxed – the new bike is more physical than last year. The number 41 improved by half a second though and as expected, they’ve been trying lots of different things. Overall, it was a happy Aleix Espargaro with three days of pre-season testing left.
Honda had some new aero to try on Day 2, all four riders were seen sporting the new fairing at some points during Sunday’s action. Repsol duo Stefan Bradl and Pol Espargaro were sitting pretty at the top of the timesheets at the halfway point as the latter’s adaption from KTM to Honda continues to be smooth. Eventually, Espargaro finished the Day in P12 after another 62 laps under his belt on the RC213V, with Bradl continuing to mix it with the top times to finish P5.
LCR Honda Castrol’s Alex Marquez crashed unhurt twice on Day 2, one at Turn 16 and one at Turn 2. Teammate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) also went down, the Japanese rider suffering his second crash of the Test – also a Turn 2 – but he too was ok. The duo were seen on Honda’s new fairing and finished together on the timesheets, P12 for Nakagami and P13 for Alex Marquez. Nakagami confirmed that some areas of the new fairings were good, others were not. More testing is needed to understand better.
Aforementioned, Team Suzuki Ecstar were one of five teams to bring a front-end holeshot device to the Qatar Test. World Champion Joan Mir and teammate Alex Rins were both comfortably sitting inside the top 10 heading into the final hour of the day, with test riders Sylvain Guintoli and Takuya Tsuda lapping once more. A new chassis is on the agenda for the Hamamatsu factory as well as some other unconfirmed parts, but so far it looks like all is well in the silver and blue ranks as they packed up early on Day 2 – a good sign? Make of that what you will.
Mir confirmed that he enjoyed his second day on track, rediscovering 2020’s feeling was on the agenda and the number 36 did exactly that. One of Mir’s main aims is to improve his qualifying pace, but the Spaniard said today wasn’t the day to properly delve into that. Rins confirmed he tried a new swingarm which made the bike a little more stable, and the number 42 also tried the 2022 engine that Guintoli has been testing. Great reviews, especially on top speed, coming out of Rins’ mouth on that particular subject.
KTM were another manufacturer that debuted a new fairing today in Doha. This one was narrower than their old one and it was pictured on Miguel Oliveira’s Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machine, with initial feelings being positive. However, with the wind, it’s difficult to properly tell how useful it is. Oliveira was the fastest RC16 rider on circuit, claiming P11, 0.726s from Quartararo. Mike Leitner also confirmed that KTM have developed a 2021 engine and will be able to use it this season, after losing their concessions in 2020.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) described his day as a “little bit challenging” and suffered two crashes towards the end of the day. The South African was fine and although P24 on the timesheets suggests there’s struggles on that side of the garage, Binder confirmed everything is running pretty smoothly – nothing to worry about just yet. The number 33 also ran with the updated fairing we previously mentioned. Danilo Petrucci and Tech3 KTM Factory Racing teammate Iker Lecuona were P21 and P23 respectively, a quiet day for the orange men.
A couple of days rest on Monday and Tuesday is now on the agenda for the riders, before the three remaining days get underway on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Catch up with all the interviews and reactions from the previous couple of days on motogp.com and across social media, with the final three days set to be very busy indeed.
Top 10 Day 2:
1. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) – 1:53.940
2. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.077
3. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 0.212
4. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.213
5. Stefan Bradl (Honda Test Team) + 0.270
6. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.416
7. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.455
8. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.575
9. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.711
10. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.718