Vinales edges Morbidelli on final day of Qatar MotoGP test

Rins third as Miller winds up fifth on the timesheets.

Image: Supplied.

Day three of MotoGP testing at Qatar saw Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Vinales emerge fastest, narrowly edging out Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar).

Vinales set the pace with a 1m53.858s to head the field, while Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) wasn’t too far behind, just 0.033s in arrears, with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in third a couple of tenths back. Fourth went to Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), as the inline-fours came out on top.

At Yamaha, the day three timesheets made for good reading and even more so overall, as Quartararo was third fastest in the combined standings. Vinales has looked like the man with the threatening race pace with Quartararo extremely close to him, Morbidelli has been consistently quick and Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) seems happy and fast despite not being quite as far up the order (P12 overall).

It wasn’t all perfect reading for the Iwata marque though. Quartararo suffered a technical issue on Sunday and on Monday, and Rossi crashed on day three – rider okay. Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team director Massimo Meregalli was pleased with the progress made with improved grip and on acceleration, saying the 2020 package ‘is very competitive’.

Quartararo said his race simulation on day three was very pleasing, pretty much every lap was in the 1:54s and the Frenchman didn’t go for a proper time attack – the 20-year-old going as far as saying ‘there’s margin for more’. That bodes very well for the 2019 Rookie of the Year.

The main job for Team Suzuki Ecstar, meanwhile, was to continue comparing the standard and new chassis, nothing radically new was on the GSX-RRs of Rins and Joan Mir as they focused on the finer details: adjustments in setup and gathering data for the race.

Mir was sixth on day three and the combined timesheets. Along with Yamaha, Suzuki look arguably in the best shape ahead of the Qatar GP with both the Sepang and Qatar Tests proving very good for the Hamamatsu factory. Rins confirmed he is ‘so happy’ with the work done over the three days at Losail International Circuit – and Mir echoed his thoughts too.

Breaking the domination in the top five was a job for Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) on day three. The Australian was the top Ducati in fifth, 0.247s off the top, and said he completed a couple of time attacks and two longer runs. The number 43 is ‘quietly confident’ heading into the opening weekend of the season, and clocked the fastest-ever top speed at Losail, a ridiculous 355kph.

In the Bologna factory camp, Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) was sporting new front aero on one of his bikes, while his other GP20 had the older aero fitted. The Italian said he was pleased with his 22-lap race simulation on day three, but the one-lap pace still needs work ahead of the grand prix. Teammate Andrea Dovizioso was still trying the new swingarm.

Ducati Team manager Davide Tardozzi said the engine is working very well but corner speed – especially on maximum lean angle at the apex – still needs work. In addition, Tardozzi said they are experiencing some issues adapting to Michelin’s new rear tyre.

After finishing P6 on day two, Johann Zarco (Reale Avintia Racing) didn’t improve his time as the Frenchman finished P14 overall, two places ahead of Petrucci, with Dovizioso – who was happy with his long run pace – P10 and Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) P11. Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) was just 0.040s off Petrucci’s time.

It was a busy and intriguing day for reigning champions Honda as Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) started with three bikes in his garage, one of those being Takaaki Nakagami’s (LCR Honda Idemitsu) 2019 RC213V. Marquez was seventh overall, Nakagami less than a tenth off.

Nakagami’s teammate Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) completed 70 laps as HRC went in search of finding improvements on the final day in Qatar, with the Japanese giants testing things ‘from two or three years ago; according to Repsol Honda team manager Alberto Puig. Crutchlow said he was happy with his pace, but over one or two laps the number 35 is struggling with stopping the bike and grip with the new tyre.

Premier class rookie Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) completed another 47 laps as the Spaniard admitted it was a difficult test for himself and the team, but the reigning Moto2 world champion was reasonably confident that he has a decent pace for the race weekend.

One of the riders of the test based on timesheets alone has to be Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rookie Brad Binder, however. The South African slammed in a mighty impressive 1m54.283s on day three to leave him ninth on the combined and day three times, just 0.425s from Vinales’ pacesetting lap.

As his teammate Pol Espargaro explained earlier in the test, KTM didn’t have anything new to try on day three as they don’t want to start getting lost. Working for the race was the Austrian factory’s objective as it seems their initial 2020 base is pretty much sorted, however there was a slight blip for Espargaro on the final day as he crashed unhurt at turn two.

Over in the Red Bull KTM Tech 3 camp, Miguel Oliveira and premier class rookie Iker Lecuona finished P19 and P20, but the gaps were only 1.150s and 1.443s respectively.

Speaking to motogp.com’s pitlane reporter Simon Crafar on day three, Aprilia Racing Technical Director Romano Albesiano confirmed their sole purpose was to decide on the engine spec they’ll use for the season.

At the end of play, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) finished P13 on the timesheets, just over half a second off Vinales, with test rider Bradley Smith completing a further 55 laps on Monday as Aprilia continue to gather crucial data on their brand new RS-GP. Espargaro said he showed a strong pace on race simulation, lapping in mid-1m54s for plenty of laps was good news for the number 41. A busy test for both riders means Aprilia have a lot of analysing to do before the Qatar GP…

The series returns to Qatar on 8 March for the season-opening round.

Detailed results

Source: CycleOnline.com.au

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