MotoGP Qatar test, Day One: Movistar Yamaha Dominates, Repsol Honda Suffers…A Lot

Lorenzo and Rossi cruise to first and third quickest, bracketing Suzuki’s Maverick Viñales; Marquez and Pedrosa struggle to 10th and 13th, respectively

Jorge Lorenzo 2016
Jorge Lorenzo reasserts his dominance at Qatar.Photo Courtesy of Movistar Yamaha

Lacking 48 hours to the start of the 2016 MotoGP season—there are just two more days of testing before the Qatar Grand Prix to be held on March 20—Yamaha seems to have a clear advantage over its archrival Honda. In the first session of Qatar’s night test, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi positioned their factory M1s in first and third, while Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa couldn’t do any better than 10th and 13th.

“We have had a bad day,” explained Marquez to the few journalists present in Losail for the tests. “This has been always a difficult circuit for us; it is signed with red on our calendar. Of course you always wish to arrive here and find out that things have suddenly changed…but unfortunately it didn’t happen. Today we have suffered a lot.”

While Lorenzo flew on the fast and flowing Losail circuit, showing speed and confidence, Marquez assumed at a certain point that he was taking too many risks considering it was just day one out of three-day test. “There was no sense to keep pushing over the limits of the bike. I just adopted a safe rhythm and concentrated on working to improve the bike.”

Maverick Vinales 2016
Maverick Vinales continues to impress, finishing second on day one of Qatar testing.Photo Courtesy of Suzuki-Racing.com

Pedrosa’s feelings weren’t much better. “This circuit is full of the type of turns in which we suffer,” lamented the Spaniard, painting a complicated panorama. Only on braking and entering into the turns does the RCV seem to work. But from the apex on to the exit: ”I am simply not able to use the line I want. We were in the same situation in Malaysia, but there I could catch up on some braking points…here there aren’t any.”

“We are too slow exiting and if we want to do it faster, we have to slow down in the middle,” pointed out Marquez, explaining that the problem this time is much more due to chassis setup than electronics. “With the electronics and engine-wise we are set. In fact, since Sepang we decided which engine to use. As there is no option to change things in the engine, we have to accept what we have.”

Marquez’s resignation–not defeatism, mind you—contrasts with Lorenzo’s tranquility. The world champion said that he had the same good sensations as in Malaysia, where he beat his rivals by almost one second. “The combination Yamaha/Michelin has worked here perfect again. I feel relieved because after the Phillip Island test, where things didn’t work so well, I was doubting; which was the real world for us, Malaysia or Australia? Fortunately it seems that Phillip Island was the exception.”

Valentino Rossi 2016
Valentino Rossi feels good about Yamaha's odds in 2016.Photo Courtesy of Movistar Yamaha

Lorenzo’s teammate Rossi had the same feelings. Despite a crash in his first lap of the session, Rossi finished the first night test in a very positive state of mind. “We have confirmed the competitiveness of our bike. It is nice to ride,” said the Italian, “and is consistently fast. Although we haven’t done any long runs yet, my sensation is that the tires will allow us to maintain the same rhythm the whole race distance.”

The other name of the night has been again Maverick Viñales who, imitating his performance in Phillip Island, finished the day in second, inlaid between the Yamahas of Lorenzo and Rossi. The young Spaniard seems to have found the confidence in Suzuki’s new GSX-RR. Combining the new engine –in Qatar if you have no power you have no change- with the 2015 chassis -2016 version has more grip but is less agile- he is able to ride constantly fast and safe.

The ascension of Viñales matches with the problems of Aleix Espargaró…a classic situation. Last year's number one Suzuki rider is watching how the “young kid” is growing quickly, while he is suffering more and more. Espargaró crashed in the last test in Phillip Island twice; in Losail he crashed at the end of the session when, with the ground temperature already down, he tried to catch up the time difference with his teammate. “Aleix is in a difficult mental moment”, said Davide Brivio, Suzuki’s team manager, to Sport Rider.

More tomorrow…

Marc Marquez 2016
Marc Marquez is not feeling so good about his odds in 2016.Photo Courtesy of MotoGP

MotoGP Qatar Test Day One Results:

  1. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1:55.452

  2. Maverick Viñales (SPA) Team Suzuki Ecstar 1:55.880

  3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1:55.894

  4. Andrea Iannone (ITA) Ducati Team 1:56.119

  5. Scott Redding (GBR) Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati 1:56.213

  6. Hector Barbera (SPA) Avintia Racing Ducati 1:56.320

  7. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Ducati Team 1:56.388

  8. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) LCR Honda Team 1:56.510

  9. Bradley Smith (GBR) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1:56.517

  10. Marc Marquez (SPA) Repsol Honda 1:56.523

  11. Aleix Espargaró (SPA) Team Suzuki Ecstar 1:56.552

  12. Pol Espargaró (SPA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1:56.747

  13. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team 1:56.910

  14. Yonny Hernandez (COL) Aspar Ducati MotoGP 1:57.021

  15. Loris Baz (FRA) Avintia Racing Ducati 1:57.121

  16. Jack Miller (AUS) EG 0.0 Marc VDS 1:57.850

  17. Michele Pirro (ITA) Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati 1:57.891

  18. Tito Rabat (SPA) EG 0.0 Marc VDS 1:58.016

  19. Stefan Bradl (GER) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1:58.066

  20. Eugene Laverty (IRL) Aspar Ducati MotoGP 1:58.269

  21. Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) HRC Test Team 1:58.744

  22. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1:58.753

  23. Takuya Tsuda (JPN) Suzuki Test Team 2:00.578