MotoGP: Sandstorm In Qatar Brings Testing To Premature End (Updated)

MotoGP: Sandstorm In Qatar Brings Testing To Premature End (Updated)

© 2021, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc. By David Swarts.





More, from a press release issued by Aprilia Gresini Racing:




The strong winds and a dirty track forced the MotoGP riders to wrap up early for the IRTA tests in Qatar, the second session on the Losail track. In any case, the work done so far gives Aprilia good reason to be optimistic for the first two rounds of the 2021 season which will be held just days away right here on the same asphalt.

These were just the first steps toward a new season and further confirmation is needed, but the new RS-GP, which already had positive feedback during the private tests in Jerez, showed good competitiveness both on the flying lap and in terms of pace. Especially with Aleix Espargaró, consistently among the fastest, whereas garage mate Lorenzo Savadori, although showing improvement, had to reckon with soreness from a shoulder injury that is proving to be more troublesome than expected.

Such a young bike obviously has room for improvement, so the team will be working on that in about ten days during the first official weekend. With the realistic goal of battling in the leading group.


Aleix Espargaro (41). Photo courtesy Aprilia Gresini Racing.
Aleix Espargaro (41). Photo courtesy Aprilia Gresini Racing.



“It’s a shame we weren’t able to lap today and about the crash yesterday during the race simulation. Besides that, I am satisfied. These tests confirmed the good job that was done over the winter. The 2021 RS-GP has improved. We were consistently fast in spite of the extremely high level demonstrated by the Championship. This does not mean that there is no work to be done. We were unable to try everything we wanted to and, above all, only in the race will we truly be able to understand where our level is. Goals? Keep our feet on the ground, well aware that we can finally battle in the leading group.”


Lorenzo Savadori (32). Photo courtesy Aprilia Gresini Racing.
Lorenzo Savadori (32). Photo courtesy Aprilia Gresini Racing.



“These tests were severely conditioned for me by problems with my shoulder. It is an injury that would need some down time to heal. From now to the race there will be a bit of time to recuperate, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to be at 100%. In any case, we were able to see the improvements on the new RS-GP which is more stable, has more grip and provides better ergonomics. There are areas where I still am not entirely confident, for example coming out of corners, but we’re working on it. Both with the team and changing my riding style, also listening to Aleix’s valuable advice.”




More, from a press release issued by Sky Racing Team VR46:


A sandstorm forces the rider of the Sky VR46 Avintia into the pits on the last day of testing.

Doha (Qatar), March 12th 2021 – The 2021 pre-season officially closed in Doha for Luca Marini who was unable to get on his Ducati MotoGP today due to a violent sandstorm that hit the Losail circuit since early morning.

A Day3 therefore characterised by work in the garage and dedicated to analyse the data collected yesterday during the race simulation. The overall balance is positive for the Sky VR46 Avintia: 5 days of testing, a long run and a best lap time of 1’55.022.


Luca Marini (10). Photo courtesy Sky Racing Team VR46.
Luca Marini (10). Photo courtesy Sky Racing Team VR46.


Luca Marini:

Unfortunately today the weather did not allow us to get out on the track, but we have worked a lot in the garage. We had all the data from yesterday’s simulation to analyze, especially the tyres drop. We were also able to compare ourselves with the other Ducati bikes and the goal for the race weekend is to be able to find a better feeling on the front and enter into the corners more incisively and turn better.

Ruben Xaus:

Today was a kind of relaxing day due to a sandstorm. Our plan was to work on the time attack, but the track was very dirty. Some riders did a couple of laps, but the asphalt was super tricky. We have close five days of test, I am satisfied, we have tried many things and we are growing session by session.




More, from a press release issued by Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing:

Sand and dust slow down progress on final day in Qatar

The fifth day of preseason testing didn’t see much action at the Losail International Circuit today, as sand and dust combined with wind delivered some difficult track conditions, which prevented the Tech3 KTM Factory Racing duo and the rest of the MotoGP World Championship field to further work on their race setups.

Yet, Danilo Petrucci was one of the few riders registering a lap time while trying out the conditions. With the asphalt being far from ideal, he returned to the Tech3 KTM Factory Racing garage after just two flying laps, but went out again with more than one hour on the clock after the track was cleaned a bit. He eventually concluded the day on top of the time sheets.

At the same time, Iker Lecuona opted to wait for the circumstances to improve, but didn’t see a good chance to make use of the ultimate day ahead of the first race weekend in 2021, which kicks off in exactly two weeks’ time.

Danilo Petrucci (9). Photo courtesy Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing.
Danilo Petrucci (9). Photo courtesy Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing.



Danilo Petrucci

Position: 1st

Time: 1:58.157

Laps: 9

“I’m pleased with the progress throughout our four days here at the Losail International Circuit. Unfortunately, we couldn’t use this final day to improve further. Anyway, we have some clear ideas about what we need. I’m really looking forward to the first race.”

“I’m also very happy about the work with the team and the environment. Of course, we still need to improve, because our goal is to fight at the top. For the race weekend, we will start from zero, so I’m optimistic to begin this new adventure.”


Iker Lecuona (27). Photo courtesy Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing.
Iker Lecuona (27). Photo courtesy Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing.


Iker Lecuona

Position: –

Time: –

Laps: –

“Finally, it was very difficult to ride on this last day due to the conditions of the track and the weather, so together with my team I decided not to ride in order to don’t take any unnecessary risks.”

“Overall, I learned a lot during these four days of testing. I improved a lot, although my lap time is not the best yet. Today I wanted to try to do a long run and a time attack, which was unfortunately impossible due to the weather. For sure, there’s a lot of work left for us. During the Grand Prix weekend, we need to check several things, but I feel that we can improve already on Friday in order to be closer to the top 10 during the first race.”

Hervé Poncharal

Team Manager

“The Tech3 KTM Factory Racing team is done with the preseason tests. It’s been a busy schedule here in Doha and sure it was very interesting to finally do some laps on our MotoGP bike for both our riders, maybe even more for Danilo, who was riding KTM RC16 for first time, but also for Iker after he has been out of action for quite long.”

“We made progress on each single day with both riders, but clearly, there is still some work to do, some steps to make and we definitely have to improve. Of course, we already have some ideas of how to improve, but I think everybody on the grid has that. So, we will see. Right now, we are a bit more than 1.5 seconds to the fastest riders, which is quite a big gap.”

“Hopefully in terms of race pace we will see less than that gap, but it’s quite clear, that it will be not enough to fight for the top 5. The good thing I can say is that we are not far from our KTM colleagues. This is showing that Danilo has understood the KTM already quite well and that Iker made progress too. Sure, it’s not enough having the four KTMs close to each other, but we face more or less all same issues and we will be stronger when the four of our riders are to find solutions.”

“We still have some things to test, there is a great work atmosphere inside the KTM squad, which is the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team and Tech3 KTM Factory Racing team. To have that method of working can only help us.”

“Now it’s time to fly back home for a week. There will be a lot of brainstorming and meetings at the KTM headquarters and I fully trust them to find solutions to be closer to the top guys by the week after next week. The main target of this test was to get the riders back to the MotoGP feeling. We did some good work with Michelin and passed all the info to KTM, so altogether we did our mission, but of course we are in a very positive frame of mind and fully motivated.”

“The preseason test is the preseason test, one flying lap is one fast lap, but hopefully the race weekend can be kind of a different story. If we could be in the top 8 after round one, we can be pretty happy. We have to work on this. Danilo and Iker are bringing an incredible positive atmosphere to the garage. There’s a great feeling inside, everybody is happy to be there, to be working together and this is how you do a great season.”

“We have 19 races, very different circuits and I think, some of them will suit our bike better. So, let’s go back home, have a rest, think about what can be done, come back with a fresh mind and sure Friday in two weeks we will restart from scratch. Hopefully the whole picture will be a bit different and we will be closer, but I’m pretty sure about that.”

“A huge thank you to the organizers and Dorna for taking care so well of the whole paddock. I would like to express my gratitude to everybody involved in the vaccine opportunity, because it is definitely going to make everybody’s life a lot easier. Our job is to move and travel from one country to another and this I think this vaccine is mission one. What Carmelo Ezpeleta and the whole team together with the Qatari authorities have done, is amazing. I’d like to thank everyone for that great chance!”




More, from a press release issued by Ducati Lenovo Team:

Ducati Lenovo Team riders end official pre-season MotoGP testing in Qatar

The final day of pre-season testing for the 2021 MotoGP season in Qatar ended prematurely for the Ducati Lenovo Team riders who, due to high temperatures, strong winds and sand on the track, opted to remain in the pits today. Both Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia had already completed their respective work programmes yesterday, anticipating today’s worsening weather conditions.

Therefore, the overall time classification is confirmed, which sees Miller in first place thanks to the extraordinary lap time set on Wednesday evening with his Desmosedici GP21. On that occasion, the Australian rider improved the current track record, held by Marc Márquez and dating back to 2019, by 197 thousandths. In addition to Jack’s unofficial record, the Qatar Test also saw another Ducati achieve a significant result. The Pramac Racing Team’s Ducati Desmosedici GP of Johann Zarco reached a speed of 357.6 km/h yesterday, setting a new overall MotoGP record.

Pecco Bagnaia was fifth overall at the end of the test, thanks to a fast lap in 1:53.444 from yesterday “time attack”. The rider from Turin declared himself satisfied with the work done with his team in the two tests and aims to be even faster in the next race weekend in Qatar.

Everything is ready for the start of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship, which will get underway in just three weeks at the Doha circuit. The Ducati Lenovo Team riders will return to the track on 26th-28th March for the season opener, the Qatar GP, while the following week, from 1st-4th April, the Doha GP will be held at the same Losail Circuit.


Jack Miller (43). Photo courtesy Ducati.
Jack Miller (43). Photo courtesy Ducati.


Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team, #43) – (1st, 1:53.183)

“I’m delighted with these two test sessions in Qatar. The team has done an outstanding job during these five days, and now I feel ready to face the first two Grands Prix of the year at this track. Yesterday’s race simulation went well, and we were also able to get positive feedback from the different tests we did on the bike. My feeling with the front end is excellent, and it allows me to get the most out of the track. Our speed isn’t bad either. I’m excited and can’t wait to get back to racing”.


Francesco Bagnaia (63). Photo courtesy Ducati.
Francesco Bagnaia (63). Photo courtesy Ducati.


Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team, #63) – (5th, 1:53.444)

“I’m sure that in these days we did a great job. Right from the start, I had a good feeling with the bike, and I feel I’m ready for our first Grand Prix of the season. Unfortunately, the heat and the strong wind, and the sand on the circuit, didn’t allow us to take to the track today, but fortunately, we could finish our programme yesterday. Now we have to be concentrate on the race weekend. In yesterday’s simulation, I had a good pace, and I feel I can still improve my time attack: it will be important to do so to get the start from the first two rows of the grid for the race”.

Luigi Dall’Igna (Ducati Corse General Manager)

“I’m pleased with the work we were able to do in these five days of testing. We had many new items to test, but fortunately, we were able, thanks to our riders, to make a first important selection and identify the path to follow ahead of the first race. Among the materials we tested was the new fairing, which is different from the previous ones. Now we will analyse the data we have collected over the last few days to decide whether to introduce it or not. Both our riders did well: Jack started with the same mentality he had at the end of last season, and Pecco is also very determined. We are confident and ready to start the season”.




More, from a press release issued by LCR Honda Castrol:


After four long days of tests already at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, the LCR Honda CASTROL Team and their new recruit Álex Márquez decided not to take to the track for a final fifth session on Friday. Strong winds during the day had caused a lot of sand to be blown onto the track surface, making conditions even more treacherous than normal, and with the Catalan nursing a foot injury from day four, it was decided the sensible option was to stay in the pit garage and work on data analysis.

Márquez had already had the chance to fine-tune the set-up of his factory Honda RC213V in the previous four evening sessions, and was very satisfied with the progress made with his new outfit in the only pre-season test afforded to the MotoGP field this season. The Spaniard will now return home to make his final preparations, ahead of the curtain-raising Grand Prix of Qatar, which begins at the same Losail venue in two weeks’ time.


Alex Marquez. Photo courtesy LCR Honda Castrol.
Alex Marquez. Photo courtesy LCR Honda Castrol.


Alex Marquez

“We took the decision last night not to ride on this last day of the test, so that we were in better shape for the race weekend in two weeks’ time. Also, the weather at the track wasn’t great this evening. I still went to the track to have a good look at lots of videos and data information in order to improve even further.

I’d like to say a big thank you to the LCR Honda CASTROL Team for this first test. I feel so good with the bike and team and I am ready to start the season. I am looking forward to being here again with the team in Qatar, and hope I can be at one hundred percent after my injury to my right foot.”




More, from a press release issued by Team Suzuki ECSTAR:



Losail International Circuit. Photo courtesy Team Suzuki ECSTAR.
Losail International Circuit. Photo courtesy Team Suzuki ECSTAR.


Pre-season testing for the MotoGP field came to an abrupt end in Qatar today after sandstorms swept across the circuit in Doha, leaving track conditions too risky to ride on.

Despite best efforts from organisers to clean some of the sand away, only a handful of riders ventured out on track with the majority being forced to sit out the final day.

However, despite losing a day, both Team Suzuki Ecstar’s factory riders felt satisfied with the work carried out during the four test days they completed. Joan Mir and Alex Rins were both able to try a lot of items brought from Japan, and this allowed them to compare options and continue building the optimum 2021 package.

The work put in by the team’s two test riders, Sylvain Guintoli and Takuya Tsuda, who both completed a high number of laps over their five days testing, has also allowed the entire squad to feel confident ahead of the first race of the year, also in Qatar.

Shinichi Sahara – Project Leader & Team Director:

“The last test day hasn’t been the best for everybody because of the weather and track conditions, but apart from that we have still managed to test and prepare. We’ve covered almost all the items that we wanted to and both riders are in very good shape ahead of the season opener, our bikes are also looking strong and balanced. Nothing is certain until we race, but we feel that we’re in a good starting position.”

Ken Kawauchi – Technical Manager:

“Due to the situation with Covid-19, the whole paddock has missed out on a lot of testing during this pre-season and last. This means every test is crucially important, and we tried to get through as many items as possible. It’s a shame to lose a day due to the weather conditions, but we still managed to complete almost all of our program. There are a few small things to improve on, but we have collected a lot of data. The next stop will be the race weekend and we feel ready for it.”

Joan Mir:

“It was a shame we couldn’t ride today because we still had some things to try and we were saving some tyres to use on this final day. I would have liked to work a bit more but it simply wasn’t possible due to the sand storm. Despite losing track time today, it has been a great test and I’m really happy. There are still some areas to improve, but even if we’re not the strongest that we can be, we are strong. We’ll work in the next couple of weeks and come out ready for the first race.”

Alex Rins:

“The test was quite good, we tried many things and I’m super happy with all the hard work the team has done. They brought a lot of pieces and items to Qatar and it was really helpful to compare everything, we found what worked well and what wasn’t so good. I feel really prepared for the race in a few weeks and I’m excited to jump on the bike.”

Sylvain Guintoli:

“I’ve done around 300 laps during the test days, and I was ready for more today but unfortunately the track wasn’t! However, we used the testing time very well and covered a lot of areas, so we’re pleased with what we’ve done. I was able to try the 2022 engine and lots of things for the 2021 bike. It feels fantastic to be back on track with the GSX-RR, and I feel confident with how the package is going for Joan and Alex. Everything feels quite balanced, which is important, because it’s easy to gain in one area and lose in another. Let’s see how the races go now!”




More, from a press release issued by Monster Energy Yamaha:


Losail (Qatar), 12th March 2021


Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo were unable to continue their testing progress on Day 5 due to dust and wind on the Losail International Circuit. They did put in a few practice starts at the end of the day, but didn’t improve on their personal best times set earlier in the Qatar MotoGP Official Test.

The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team were raring to get back to work and put in race simulations on Day 5 of the Qatar MotoGP Official Test, but the track conditions prohibited any testing action by Maverick Viñales and Fabio Quartararo for most of the day.

The duo put in a few practice starts in the final hour of the session. However, neither were able to better their personal best laps of the Qatar test so far.

Viñales‘ 1’53.244s lap time that he set yesterday earned him second place in the combined Qatar Test timesheets, with a margin of 0.061s to first. Having already completed most of the evaluation programme, he is feeling confident for the start of the 2021 season.

Quartararo‘s 1‘53.263s lap from Day 3 puts him in third place in the combined Qatar Test results, 0.080s from the front. He too is keen on returning to the Losail International Circuit in two weeks‘ time for the Grand Prix of Qatar held from 26th-28th March.



It‘s a shame that we couldn‘t ride today due to the track conditions. There was a bit of a storm that blew a lot of dust onto the track, and that obviously made it too risky to head out. Luckily, we had already completed most of the evaluation process yesterday, so this missed day of testing – though not ideal – is not a huge concern to us. We will use the next two weeks to further analyse all the data that we collected over the four days of riding in Qatar. Let‘s start the 2021 season!


Maverick Vinales. Photo courtesy Monster Energy Yamaha.
Maverick Vinales. Photo courtesy Monster Energy Yamaha.



After this test my feelings are very positive. We are calm. We understand the situation, we know which direction we need to follow, and we have been working very hard on being as fast as we can, especially at the beginning of the race. The behaviour of the bike is nice, it‘s handling well. This is important with a full fuel tank. Right now, we are on a good level. We got done what I wanted to accomplish during this test. I feel ready for the start of the season.


Fabio Quartararo. Photo courtesy Monster Energy Yamaha.
Fabio Quartararo. Photo courtesy Monster Energy Yamaha.



Honestly, despite not being able to really ride today, I‘m feeling optimistic. I finished the test in a good way. I‘m really satisfied with my pace and I feel ready for the race. Of course, the conditions might be different then, but I feel happy so far. I wanted to ride today, just to go over some details. There was nothing important to try, but I wanted to do a race simulation. Still, I‘m happy with the job we have done so far, because we did everything that we needed to do.




More, from a press release issued by Repsol Honda:

Conditions limit running as testing concludes in Qatar

Dust and sand drastically limited running on the final day of testing, the red flag brought out to allow the circuit to be cleaned at one stage.

Completing only eight laps on the final day, Pol Espargaro ended the final day of testing in fifth with a 2’01.303 – this time was seven seconds off his best lap of the test. Despite the lacklustre end, Espargaro and the entire Repsol Honda Team leave very pleased with the foundations they built over the five days.

Stefan Bradl entered the track after the red flag allowed for the track to be cleaned. Like Espargaro, his laps were limited and Bradl set a best time of 1’49.432 to end the day second.

Action resumes at the Losail International Circuit on Friday, March 26 as Free Practice 1 at 15:40 Local Time marks the official start of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship season.


Pol Espargaro (44). Photo courtesy Repsol Honda.
Pol Espargaro (44). Photo courtesy Repsol Honda.

Pol Espargaro

FIFTH  2’01.303

“I wouldn’t really call what we did laps, but this is what the situation was for everyone. Anyway, with just four days of testing we have done very well. I feel quite prepared for the first race and to do this in such a short time against riders who have been on their bikes a long time, it’s a release. I have adapted to the Honda well; I want to thank all the Repsol Honda Team for their work over these days. The team has been great, and we have made the most of the testing time we are given. Now we see what the season will bring.”


Stefan Bradl (6). Photo courtesy Repsol Honda.
Stefan Bradl (6). Photo courtesy Repsol Honda.

Stefan Bradl

SECOND  1’59.432

“Unfortunately today there’s not much to talk about because the weather and the sand was not very good, the conditions meant we couldn’t try anything. Six days on the bike here, it started very well but we had a couple of tough moments towards the end – this happens. We have worked through our test plan and now the engineers have a lot of good data to study. We can be happy because the bike is working well, and I think Honda is in a good position for the first race.”




More, from a press release issued by PETRONAS Yamaha SRT:

Qatar test concludes with wind and sand for Morbidelli and Rossi

Frustrating final day with no running for PETRONAS Yamaha SRT due to poor track conditions

The final day of pre-season testing in Qatar for PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team was disrupted by sand on the circuit due to significant winds, with the track closed for cleaning for a portion of the day. Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi opted not to run when the day’s running resumed in the final hour, ending the test fourth and 11th respectively in the combined times over the past three days.

Morbidelli has shown good speed throughout the Qatar test, regularly appearing among the top riders on the timesheets. Now entering his third year with the Malaysian squad, he has been able to reacquaint himself with his machine and evaluate developments. Morbidelli, who posted his fastest time – 1min 53.323secs – yesterday, completed 241 laps in total and was fourth in the combined times from the past three days.

The pre-season test has been Rossi’s first chance to ride the PETRONAS Yamaha SRT YZR-M1 and acclimatise to his new team for 2021. The Italian tested various parts over the four days of track running, including different chassis options, as well as a new cowling. Rossi’s highlight of the Qatar test came yesterday when he completed his personal best lap around the Losail circuit. Across the four days he completed 212 laps and ended 11th in the combined times with a best lap of 1min 53.993secs.

The next time Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi will be on track at Losail International Circuit will be for the first round of the 2021 MotoGP season: the Grand Prix of Qatar (26-28 March).

Razlan Razali, Team Principal

Testing is one of the most important activities for preparation ahead of the first race of the year and the Qatar test was made even more important than ever due to the cancellation of the Sepang test this year. Although the results of the test are not conclusive, it does provide us with a base to prepare for the first round, test those things that need it and make sure that everything works. It’s a shame about the conditions today, but I’m pleased to see that both Franco and Valentino have had some very positive sessions: Valentino has been able to test a lot of parts and Franco has been able to work on getting the maximum from his Yamaha YZR-M1. It’s still early days though, what matters is that our two riders are happy and ready for the first round in Qatar.

Wilco Zeelenberg, Team Manager

Finishing the test with a day of no riding is not really what we wanted, but after four days of good, hard work we are quite satisfied and ready to come back for the race, we were able to test what we needed to. Today’s plan included a long run and some small things to try, but overall the main things have been completed, so we have a clear plan of what we want to do for the race. Both riders have a good feeling with their bikes and we were able to improve lap times, which was one of our tasks. In fact, I think both of them were half a second quicker than they have ever been in Qatar. I’m happy with what we’ve achieved and now just looking forward to the first race.


Franco Morbidelli (21). Photo courtesy PETRONAS Yamaha SRT.
Franco Morbidelli (21). Photo courtesy PETRONAS Yamaha SRT.


Franco Morbidelli

4th (1:53.323)

I feel like this test was really good for us; we’ve been able to try a lot of things and we’ve been quite quick as well, which is good. I’m happy with the work we’ve done and feel ready for the first race weekend. It’s a pity we couldn’t complete a long run to have more data today. Of course, there are always things that can be improved or updated, but we’re in a good place. It’s difficult to say what will happen in FP1 at the Qatar GP, because this track can become quite windy and dusty, like we saw today. We have tried many settings so that we can be ready to react according to the track conditions that we face. The aim will of course be to fight for the top positions, but we will need to see where everyone is at the first GP.


Valentino Rossi (46). Photo courtesy PETRONAS Yamaha SRT.
Valentino Rossi (46). Photo courtesy PETRONAS Yamaha SRT.


Valentino Rossi

11th (1:53.993)

Today was a shame because we still had some evaluations outstanding. In particular I wanted to do a race simulation, but the conditions prevented this with a lot of wind and sand. Fortunately the forecast predicted this so we were able to do the important things yesterday. After the four days of running, the balance is good and I was quite strong yesterday. There are a lot of riders on different bikes that are strong, but we’re definitely in the pack with them and our race pace looks to be good. We improved day by day, there is a really good atmosphere in the team, and I feel like we are ready for the start of the season.




More, from a press release issued by LCR Honda Idemitsu:


The final day of pre-season testing in Qatar came to a low-key and dusty close as high winds ensured the majority of riders weren’t able to carry out any meaningful work on the track. Takaaki Nakagami of LCR Honda IDEMITSU completed the most laps of anyone on Friday, but times were well down on previous sessions due to the amount of sand blown on to the Losail International Circuit.

Only five riders managed to post full laps with Nakagami completing a total of 12 in a much-reduced stint. While he was frustrated in his attempts to make some long runs as planned, the Japanese star was able to spend some time practising his starts ahead of the new season and felt it was still beneficial to have got out on the circuit.

With testing now finished, the 2021 MotoGP season gets underway at the same venue in Doha in two weeks’ time.

Takaaki Nakagami 

“Today we had to wait in the pit for a long time to get better conditions, in the end I tried to go out to check the track condition but it was really difficult to make a lap and understand anything. We made a few laps but after that we changed strategy to making practise starts for the race weekend and this was useful because it’s a new bike and a new system to start the bike. It was very interesting and we got good feedback for the race weekend, unfortunately we were not able to make any long runs or do more laps, but we are ready for the race weekend. We’ll have a strong mentality and I can’t wait for the racing to start.”




More, from a press release issued by KTM Factory Racing:


MotoGP 2021 IRTA test Losail (QAT)

Five days, two tests, 35-hours of track time and hundreds of laps of the Losail International Circuit: both Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and Tech3 KTM Factory Racing rounded-off their only pre-season outing prior to the first two rounds of the 2021 MotoGP series, due to take place at the same race track in Qatar on March 28th and April 4th.

The Losail International Circuit has held a unique place on the MotoGP calendar since its inauguration in 2004. For 2021 the floodlit venue, a short distance outside the city of Doha, hosted the sole warm-up for the upcoming season through five days of testing where both KTM teams worked on their race set-ups and options for the KTM RC16 ahead of the opening Grand Prix at the end of the month and the homologation deadline.

After three wins and nine podium results in only their fourth season of MotoGP in 2020, KTM have lost their concessions for the campaign. They therefore focused on sustaining their potent engine performance while working on mileage, electronics and further refinement of the motor that has been frozen for development in 2021 in accordance with the championship rules. In addition to the 2021 bikes KTM also freighted a wealth of new components to Qatar for the four racers as well as test rider Dani Pedrosa to evaluate. They included variations on their aerodynamics and upgrades to the WP Suspension systems.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing duo Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder notched plenty of circulations of the fast, windy layout and in varying temperatures as afternoon sunshine turned to dusk, evening and humidity throughout the test. Sadly, the last day was hit by strong gusts and a lot of sand on the asphalt which prevented most of the grid from further work and scrubbed the chance for time attacks in earnest. In the final combined standings Oliveira placed 16th while Binder, who did manage a few minutes on track, ended the visit in 17th.

Tech3 KTM Factory Racing pair Iker Lecuona (his second season with the French crew and second in the category) and Danilo Petrucci (the sole ‘rookie’ to the KTM line-up for ’21) were also embarking on their respective journeys for base setting and feeling. The Spaniard was 23rd while the Italian 19th from the last three days.

Miguel Oliveira: “I have to say that I’m honestly very happy to work with such a professional group of people. There was a transition for me from Tech3 to Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and there were more people filling more roles and that makes you feel appreciated as a rider. I put in maximum effort to do a good job and test all the things we needed and get good laps. I would have liked to have gone a bit faster by using the last day but, overall, I am very optimistic and hopeful for the racing weekends ahead. Let’s go racing.”

Brad Binder: “It was quite a tricky test for us. It started well but then I had a couple of small crashes and that interfered with our plan quite a bit. By the fourth day I was feeling a lot more comfortable again and riding bike like I want. It would have been nice to have had one more day but we’ll come back here in a week or so with a couple of things still to try and, from which, I’m sure we’ll up-our-game once more.”

Danilo Petrucci: “I’m pleased with the progress throughout our four days here at the Losail International Circuit. Unfortunately, we couldn’t use this final day. Anyway, we have some clear ideas about what we need. I’m also very happy about the work with the team and the environment. Of course, we still need to improve, because our goal is to fight at the top. For the race weekend, we will start from zero, so I’m optimistic to begin this new adventure.”

Iker Lecuona: “Overall, I learned a lot during these four days of testing. I improved a lot, although my lap time is not the best yet. Today I wanted to try to do a long run and a time attack, which was unfortunately impossible due to the weather. For sure, there’s a lot of work left for us. During the Grand Prix weekend, we need to check several things but I feel that we can improve already on Friday in order to be closer to the top ten during the first race.”

Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Race Manager: “It was tough to put the whole winter test plan into five days here and at least we got four days in good conditions. We had a full program with all four riders and we went through most of the stuff but there are still some things we’d like to see and check before the season starts. Losail has been a difficult track for us in the past and to use the strengths of our bike, but, you need to deal with all sorts of conditions in a championship and sometimes it’s not too bad to start in a place where you’ve struggled before. You can learn a lot from this process. The riders did a really good job and were very focused. Miguel did not hammer the super lap-times but did long runs and we were very happy with those. Brad had a few crashes but we know how fast he is, and the fourth day was very good. Danilo is a new rider for Tech3 so he had to get used to the bike and our philosophy behind it but by day three he made a really good step for times and rhythm and understood more about how he needs to use the RC16. I think he will have a good season. Iker did a lot of testing and that probably didn’t help him for time attacks. He did try some ideas for the future which could help a lot. Dani Pedrosa and the test team were looking at the future version of the bike and working on a lot of stuff with race pace. We saw some potential there and that was very positive.”

Sebastian Risse, Technical Coordinator MotoGP: “This was a unique off-season and pre-season. Everybody had to adapt to the circumstances but for us we lost the concessions and wanted to work even more with Tech3 for development and that involves a lot of preparation in the background. We came to Qatar with a lot of ideas and parts and, as usual, this track is very ‘special’ with the winds and the differing temperatures of the asphalt. So, we had to use the time wisely. We worked on development in almost all areas of the bike: engine, chassis, swingarm, aerodynamics, suspension, electronics while deciding how and when to do it. Then, finally, put it all together. The riders had a busy schedule, aside from being able to work in the ‘normal’ way as a race team. We haven’t shown everything we can just yet. It’s clear to see that Losail is not the easiest for our bike but I think we have a good base. Now we have to assemble everything we know for the races here, which will be a different game, as always. Whatever happens in Losail we have a full season ahead and we are ready to attack it. Overall the bike is quite a bit better than last year. It’s not a big revolution but we want to use this season to take all the potential from the RC16, and I think we’re well-placed to do that.”




More, from a press release issued by Dorna:

That’s a wrap! Miller ends Qatar Test on top

The Australian remains fastest overall after Day 5 sees conditions worsen in the desert… but the top three are covered by less than a tenth

Friday, 12 March 2021

And just like that, 2021 pre-season testing for the MotoGP™ riders and teams is over. Five largely hectic days at Losail International Circuit see Jack Miller and Ducati Lenovo Team head into Round 1 as the combination to beat, with Miller’s 1:53.183 taking the honour of the fastest ever two-wheel lap in Qatar. The Bologna factory are chased by a trio of Yamahas who are all within a tenth and a half, as Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), teammate Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) enjoy a successful pre-season to complete the top four.

Unfortunately, the final day of the Qatar Test flattered to deceive. High winds caused dust to scatter across the track, which in turn meant barely anyone ventured out. With just over two hours of the first and only pre-season test remaining, Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) and Danilo Petrucci (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) were the only two riders to have set a lap time, but eight seconds slower than Miller. The red flags then came out as cleaning machines ventured out to try and improve the conditions, but the majority of the work was already done and dusted for the teams and it was an early pack up.

Nevertheless, we’ve seen plenty of laps laid down across the other four days of Official Test action, as well as the Shakedown for test riders and rookies last Friday. So where are we ahead of Round 1?

In the hands of a charismatic Australian, Ducati will head into the first Grand Prix as the fastest. Miller’s blistering time attack lap on Wednesday evening was proof that he and the new GP21 are looking like a formidable partnership this season, with the innovation kings of MotoGP™ – of course – bringing plenty of new parts to test in Qatar. The most notable was some new front aero, a significant change and something we’ve not seen before. Elsewhere, the famous ‘salad box’ is a different shape on the new bikes, and another big change we’ve seen in 2021 is the front holeshot device that most of the factories have now got. Ducati, along with Aprilia, Honda, KTM and Suzuki have been seen launching off the line with the bike squatted at the front as well as the rear.

Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) ends testing inside the top five behind his factory teammate and the trio of Yamahas, and sounded very positive about his work at Losail. Pecco was visibly pleased with the race pace work he had done throughout and when he pushed for a qualifying-esque time, he wasn’t far away at all – 0.261s to be exact.

Thanks to Johann Zarco’s (Pramac Racing) 1:53.899, Ducati have all their non-rookie riders inside the top 10 ahead of Round 1. Consistently the quickest rider through the speed trap – Thursday seeing him reach a new unofficial record of 357.69km/h down the start/finish straight – Zarco was another rider who seemed happy with his performance overall. The Frenchman commented on Thursday that he had worked a lot on race pace and had plenty of things to try, not all of which were good, but that they got through a lot.

Zarco’s Pramac Racing teammate Jorge Martin ended the Qatar Test as the fastest rookie. The Spaniard sits P14 thanks to his 1:54.483, an incredibly respectable time from the Moto2™ graduate who is just 1.3s away from Miller’s all-time – unofficial – lap record. Reigning Moto2™ World Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama Racing) finished just 0.022s behind Martin in P15, with Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia) claiming P21 – 1.839s shy of Miller.

For the Ducati trio, the week in Qatar has been largely positive with lots of laps completed by all: Martin clocked 159 in the Official Test, Bastianini 178 and Marini 204. All will have been a learning curve as the trio now head back to Europe, do some homework and get set for their MotoGP™ Grand Prix weekend debuts.

Factory Team Manager Davide Tardozzi rated Ducati’s Qatar Test as a 9/10, the Italian was pleased with every aspect: speed, attitude, and morale of the team. Confidence is brimming in the red camp but one thing that must be said is that traditionally, Losail is a great circuit for Ducati…

At Yamaha, the marque once again proved that their one-lap pace is meteoric. The aforementioned Viñales, Quartararo and Morbidelli all pushed for a fast lap time when they set their best times of the test, and even though they lost out to Miller, things are still looking good for Yamaha in that department. However, it’s race pace and lots of other intricate details that all four of their full-time riders have been working on most in Qatar.

On Wednesday, Yamaha rolled out a new aero fairing and new mudguard. Top speed is still a slight weakness, and these updates seem aimed at reducing the gap to the likes of Ducati and Honda. Moreover, the Yamaha riders have been testing a new chassis and the signs have been positive. It looks like the decision has been made to use it this season.

Second fastest Viñales was seen working hard on his practice starts. On Wednesday and Thursday, pitlane reporter Simon Crafar reported that the number 12 must have been into double figures with the number of times he’d come to the end of pitlane, sink the rear of his Yamaha and launch himself down into Turn 1. It’s a point that Viñales has been focusing on in pre-season testing, as well as the opening handful of laps. We’ll see if his hard work will come to fruition in due course…

New factory recruit Quartararo said it took him a good 30-40 laps to get reacquainted with his YZR-M1 monster on Saturday, but once the Frenchman had regained his confidence at the controls, all seemed to go well. The 2019 Rookie of the Year said he felt comfortable on the new chassis and had tried “many things”, much like teammate Viñales, with race pace looking fantastic for all the Yamahas. Team Manager Massimo Meregalli said both of his riders are feeling very confident, with parts like the chassis and aero body approved by both.

Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) join their factory counterparts in looking good in race trim. Rossi, judging from the timesheets, was the only rider out of the quartet who didn’t look at slamming in a time attack, but The Doctor is sounding in very good spirits heading into his 26th Grand Prix season. The nine-time World Champion ends pre-season testing 11th overall, with his 1:53.993 proving his best-ever lap at Losail.

Sixth on the combined timesheets was Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro. As has been heavily reported, their 2021 RS-GP is almost completely new: the engine, chassis, two aero designs, exhausts and ‘salad box’ have changed, and Aprilia also have their first carbon swingarm – which means Suzuki are the only manufacturer that doesn’t have this feature. In addition, the aforementioned front holeshot device was being used to great effect by the Spaniard. A 1:53.640 best time was enough to get Espargaro within half a second of Miller, very promising signs indeed.

Massimo Rivola, Aprilia Racing CEO, gave their pre-season a 7/10 rating. Understandably, the factory are trying to keep their feet on the ground after a promising 2020 season didn’t materialise into results in the season proper, but he was pleased with the progress shown in Qatar. Rookie Lorenzo Savadori ended the test in P26, 2.571s away, but the Italian has been nursing a shoulder injury throughout.

Meanwhile, it’s fair to say that World Champions Team Suzuki Ecstar have gone under the radar somewhat at the beginning of 2021. Reigning MotoGP™ World Champion Joan Mir finished P7 overall, one place and 0.033s ahead of teammate Alex Rins. A new chassis and a new swingarm have been used in Qatar as well as all the other little bits that all riders and teams play with, and Suzuki also get a head start on next season with Mir, Rins and test rider Sylvain Guintoli giving a 2022 engine a run…

Mir has admitted that both Ducati and Yamaha look better on overall pace as it stands, but the GSX-RR duo aren’t far away at all. Losail International Circuit isn’t one that naturally goes hand in hand with Suzuki, but the riders are feeling good and have made improvements from last year’s bike – a worry for the other teams. In Mir’s own words: “We are competitive, we are not slow, and it’s only testing.”

Next, we come to Honda. It was a somewhat mixed Qatar Test for the Japanese giants, but the main and overriding positive is the efforts of Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team). The Spaniard set the exact same time as ninth place Zarco to finish just inside the top 10, but the outright lap time shouldn’t be the main thing to look at – and that goes for all riders. Espargaro’s adaptation from KTM to Honda has been seamless; the number 44 impressing just about everybody in the paddock with his performance so far. Closing out the test, Pol Espargaro described his debut as a “pain release” from a winter full of anticipation.

Tech-wise, Honda brought three different chassis to Qatar: one ‘standard 2020’, one with carbon bonded onto the frame and a completely new one. Some new aero was testing by Stefan Bradl (Honda Test Team) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) in the opening exchanges of the test, and we’ll wait and see if HRC bring it to the opening race weekend.

Nakagami was the second best Honda rider on the overall timesheets in P12, just ahead of Bradl in P13. Both of these riders suffered more than one crash, and a Turn 2 tumble on Wednesday saw Bradl sit out the afternoon session. Honda saw their riders hit the deck 10 times in total – more than any other factory. Unfortunately for Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol), a big highside at Turn 9 on Thursday evening resulted in a small right foot metatarsal fracture, but the two-time World Champion should be fit to ride at the Qatar Grand Prix.

Repsol Honda Team Manager Alberto Puig didn’t want to give much away about his feelings regarding the Qatar Test, but he was very pleased with how “smooth” his new rider has adapted. One huge talking point over the next 14 days will also be whether Marc Marquez will be on the bike in Qatar after his latest check-up went very well. Are the signs there for the eight-time World Champion to link up with impressive teammate Espargaro and the rest of the Honda camp in the near future?

After an outstanding 2020 season, KTM haven’t hit the ground running in 2021 on the timesheets as yet, but it is testing. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the fastest RC16 rider and the double 2020 race winner was P16, 1.343s away from the time set by Miller. Teammate Brad Binder finishes 0.165s behind Oliveira on the timesheets in P17, but the Austrian factory have little data in Qatar: no race here last year with their new and improved package has seemingly hampered them and Losail isn’t KTM’s strongest layout.

They did bring plenty of new items to test though. Simon Crafar called them the “winners on the hardware front” and the most notable changes from the naked eye was the slimmer new front fairing that – seemingly – has a few more ‘shark teeth’ carved in. As well as this, test rider Dani Pedrosa was the first seen sporting KTM’s new seat unit.

Oliveira didn’t seem downbeat at the end of the test as the Portuguese star said there have been positive things to take and there are no specific worries at this stage. The number 88 did point out that KTM are struggling to exploit the maximum from the package at the minute, but it’s the timesheets don’t tell the story.

Danilo Petrucci, meanwhile, has completed his first test on a KTM machine and the Italian is pleased with the progress he’s made over the four proper days on track, with some clear ideas of what is needed to improve on his 1:54.895 best. Teammate Iker Lecuona says he has learned a lot and has improved a lot too, but also recognises that there is work to do to close down the faster guys.

So just like that, MotoGP™ 2021 pre-season testing is over. Next up: the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar. In two weeks’ time the premier class warriors will be back on track at Losail, but it will be during a race weekend. Before that, the Moto2™ and Moto3™ riders will be taking part in a three-day Official Qatar Test, so make sure you keep up to date with that and all the reaction from the MotoGP™ Test on!

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