WorldSBK standings after the Thailand round:
World Supersport standings after the second race of the season:
Race two had riders hiding from the heat before the race started, facing twenty laps with an air temperature of 37ºC. The revised grid, with yesterday’s winner in ninth place, should make more of a difference than it did at Phillip Island.
The second round without Kenan Sofuoglu and the riders have seventeen laps to take as many points as possible before the reigning champion returns. Overbearing heat and fast wildcards add to the usual challenges of World Supersport racing.
As veteran MotoGP journalist Dennis Noyes pointed out on Twitter late on Saturday night, on Sunday, we will start to see some of the real truth of where everyone stands. Sunday is the last chance for the MotoGP field to do a full race simulation, putting together everything they have learned during winter testing. The last day of the test at Qatar will serve as a dress rehearsal for the race.
But Saturday gave us a quick peek at everyone's hands. The work now is more about refinement than revolution, and genuine speed is coming to the fore. The final timesheets from Saturday do not tell the whole story, but a general picture is starting to form. It is looking increasingly like the 2017 MotoGP championship is going to be fought out between Maverick Viñales and Marc Márquez. And while they focus on each other – which they are doing more and more – other riders, primarily Valentino Rossi, are waiting in the wings to strike.
Ducati show their hand
There was a little bit of revolution on display at Qatar on Saturday, however. Ducati finally rolled out their new aerodynamic solution. It is different yet again from the other four manufacturers who have shown off their winglet replacements. The top half of the fairing has been remodeled, to create a very slim nose section and a pair of large ducts, one either side. The shape and position of the ducts (see below) appear to create a very large aerodynamic surface, providing plenty of downforce.
There were no changes to the times set at 10pm. Only Bradley Smith improved his time.
The riders all upped their game as the second day of the MotoGP test at Qatar neared its final hour, and riders start clocking off. Maverick Viñales remains quickest, having improved his time by half a second, and lapping under Jorge Lorenzo's pole time from last March. Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi took a big step forward, the veteran taking second spot and closing to within three tenths of a second.
There have been few changes in the timesheets at Qatar with two hours of the second day left. Maverick Viñales leads as before, from Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo. Scott Redding has entered the top ten, jumping up into seventh spot.
The big news was Ducati rolling out their aerodynamics at last. Once again, their package is different from everyone else, a large loop on either side of the nose of the bike. No feedback on how it works yet, but the riders will surely be asked about it later tonight.
Testing is underway again at Qatar, for the second day of the final preseason test. The first two hours of the test were wasted as usual, as the teams judged that there was no point in going out on a scorching hot track during daylight, and so waited for the sun to set. The only exceptions were the usual suspects: KTM's Mika Kallio and Bradley Smith, both with a lot of work to do.
Jonathan Rea claimed a dominant victory at the Chang International Circuit, the reigning world champion setting a searing pace en route to his third victory in a row. When he arrived in Parc Ferme after Race 1 the Northern Irishman's emotions were clear for all to see as he celebrated his 41st WorldSBK victory.
“I felt really good and quite calm, my guys gave me a really good bike again and that was my plan,” said Rea. “We had a really good pace but Chaz also had a very fast pace, as did Marco, so I had to ride away into T1 to make the holeshot, I wanted to get my head down in T1 and I did it. I managed to get a good gap and then built up a rhythm, I was just doing my job and it was enough to win, so I’m really happy. Last year there was a big fight between me, Tom and Chaz but the bike’s improved a lot since last year, so I’m really happy with that.