HRC test rider sets the pace in a day that was blighted by the conditions, all the rookies get their first taste of MotoGP™
HRC test rider Stefan Bradl finished top of the pile at the Qatar Shakedown Test as windy conditions made it difficult for the riders to get a decent amount of running in. Two Yamaha test bikes were inside the top three on the timesheets but the pace was a considerable amount away from where we’d normally see them, nevertheless though, it was sensational to see MotoGP™ bikes back on track.
Heavy winds nearing 40km/h at the Losail International Circuit heavily affected the opening few hours of track time, with fastest man Bradl some four seconds shy of Maverick Viñales’ (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) best time from the 2020 Qatar Test in the opening exchanges. He did go on to improve his pace throughout the day, his fastest being a 1:55.614 – 1.2 seconds ahead of anyone else and a couple of seconds down on the all-time lap record. Bradl was riding with a carbon inserted chassis, the same one he finished the season so brilliantly on in 2020.
Limited grip with lots of dust and sand on the track meant it was far from ideal conditions for anyone, but thankfully the wind died down towards the evening as the sun disappeared off the horizon, but the wind still played a major part in proceedings.
It was a huge day for the three MotoGP™ rookies. Reigning Moto2™ World Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama Racing) was on track after a slight scare when attempting to fly to Doha, the Italian returning an inconclusive PCR test but thankfully made it in time for the Shakedown Test. Bastianini was the quickest rookie on track, the Italian finished 4th with a best time of 1:58.051, 2.4 seconds shy of Bradl. 35 laps completed for Bastianini equals valuable – yet limited – experience gained.
At this stage though, it’s all about gaining experience for the rookies and the first one out was Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Avintia), the Italian eventually finishing 8th on the timesheets, 2.7 seconds from P1. Marini completed 33 laps, plenty more hopefully coming in the upcoming five days for the 2020 Moto2™ runner-up and his competitors.
Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin endured his first MotoGP™ crash, the Spaniard was unhurt when he went down on the exit of Turn 3 after hitting a bump. Martin crossed the line 31 times on Friday afternoon, finishing his maiden day as a premier class rider with a 1:58.875. More to come from the Spaniard in – hopefully – better weather conditions for the remainder of the test.
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Lorenzo Savadori is also gearing up for his first full season as a premier class rider and he was out on Aprilia’s all-new RS-GP. As Simon Crafar reported from on the ground in Qatar, the 2021 machine is basically a whole new package. It features a new engine that gives improved power across its range, a new seat unit, a new top and bottom exhaust along with a new tail unit, new front aero and in addition, Aprilia have a holeshot device attached to the rear linkage.
In short, the 2021 Aprilia is brand-new. Savadori wasn’t joined on track by teammate Aleix Espargaro, the Spaniard choosing to sit out Friday’s running, with Savadori heading out on the number 41 bike at stages. The Italian was 7th after posting a 1:58.273.
What else did we see? Well, Cal Crutchlow returned to the fold as a Yamaha rider and was lapping on more than one bike, the British rider sharing test YZR-M1s with fellow Iwata test riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Kohta Nozane. It’s hard to tell who set the second and third fastest times, but Crutchlow looked like he was enjoying his first day as a test rider.
Ducati Lenovo Team test rider Michele Pirro ended the day 0.005s behind Bastianini in fifth place, and the Italian was seen riding Jack Miller, Francesco Bagnaia and Johann Zarco’s (Pramac Racing) machines during the Shakedown Test. Ducati debuted new wings today, we’re surely going to be seeing more innovations from the Bologna factory throughout the Qatar Test when all the riders are allowed on track.
Sylvain Guintoli and Takuya Tsuda were lapping on Team Suzuki Ecstar’s GSX-RRs, the duo finished P9 and P12 respectively. Guintoli said that Suzuki have a major programme ahead with testing new parts, the Frenchman was over the moon to be back on the bike after five months off. The reigning World Champions will welcome King of MotoGP™ Joan Mir and teammate Alex Rins for the rest of the track action, will they remain the team to beat in 2021?
MotoGP™ Legend Dani Pedrosa was putting in the laps for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, the Spaniard finished 11th on the timesheets and was seen testing a new tail unit for the Austrian factory. Pedrosa completed 34 laps, he’ll be joined by his four teammates on track tomorrow and for the remainder of the test.
With the wind causing plenty of issues for the Shakedown Test, an already busy and vital Qatar Test is about to become even busier over the next week. Saturday sees all the full-time riders get their legs over MotoGP™ bikes for the first time in 2021, let’s hope the conditions calm down and allow for plenty of action to take place. – www.motogp.com