Despite the threat of poor weather, the 2017 season has got underway at Qatar on a dry track and with no threat of rain, as yet. The Moto3 riders were the first to take to the track, with KTM rider Bo Bendsneyder leading for most of the session. The Dutchman was only bounced from the top of the standings at the very end, when first Joan Mir, and then Phillip Oettl took over at the top.
Two men have emerged from the 2017 preseason as favorites. In many ways, Marc Márquez and Maverick Viñales are alike. Both are young, handsome Spaniards with an aura about them. Both grew up racing, and were immediately fast on every new bike they swung a leg over. Both have a keen intelligence, especially about racing, and what matters.
But above all, both Márquez and Viñales are driven by their ambition. They enter each championship with the fixed intention of winning. They have talent to spare, but more than that, they both have a deep understanding of what it takes to win a world championship, and are prepared to put in the work, to make the sacrifices needed to achieve their goal. They are single minded, obsessed with winning.
They are two very different characters. Márquez is cheerful, gregarious, outgoing. Whenever you see him, he is always laughing or smiling, joking with the people around him. He loves company, and spends almost every waking minute of each race weekend in the garage with his crew. When he joined the Repsol Honda team, he was allowed to take most of his Moto2 team, and crew chief Santi Hernandez worked under the tutelage of Cristian Gabarrini. At the end of his first year, Márquez demanded that HRC brought the last two members of his former Moto2 team into the Repsol Honda garage, and Gabarrini was moved on to other duties, despite being regarded as perhaps the best crew chief in the business.
Franco Morbidelli and Taka Nakagami cemented their status as Moto2 front runners at the Qatar Moto2 test, Morbidelli ending the final day of testing as fastest, Nakagami leaving Qatar as fastest rider overall.
Romano Fenati leaves the Moto3 test in Qatar as fastest rider overall. The Rivacold Snipers Team rider barely circulated on the final day of the test, but his time from Saturday was good enough to top the overall timesheets, and lead a Honda clean sweep going into the first race.
While the high winds which have battered the Losail International Circuit on Sunday have badly hampered the Moto3 class, the larger, heavier Moto2 bikes have had less trouble with the wind. After the first two sessions of the last day of the test, Franco Morbidelli is once again the fastest man in the Moto2 class. The Marc VDS rider was quickest in the second session, nearly three tenths quicker than Miguel Oliveira had been on the KTM in the first session of the day.
High winds are plaguing the Losail International Circuit on the last day of the Qatar Moto2 and Moto3 test, wreaking special havoc on the Moto3 bikes, making it hard for them to set a time. The first session saw little action, especially as there were also drops of rain about. More bikes took to the track in the second session, in which Gabriel Rodrigo set the quickest time of the day so far. But Rodrigo's time is a second and a half off the times of yesterday, meaning the test has been less than productive.
Takaaki Nakagami has taken back control of the Moto2 class, topping the final session of the day for the Moto2 class to end the second day of testing as fastest. The Honda Team Asia rider held off the Marc VDS riders, both of whom had previously monopolized the top of the timesheets. Franco Morbidelli set the second fastest time of the day, just five hundredths of a second slower than Nakagami, while Alex Marquez was nearly a quarter of a second off the pace of the Japanese rider.
Romano Fenati took a clean sweep on the second day at Qatar, topping the timesheets for all three of the test sessions for the Moto3 class. But the competition hotted up behind the Italian in the second and third sessions on Saturday, Jorge Martin and Aron Canet both closing to within a few hundredths of Fenati.
Gabriel Rodrigo was the first KTM rider, the Argentinian rider a quarter of a second off the time of Fenati. Livio Loi had a strong evening, putting the Leopard Honda into fifth, and finishing ahead of Nicolo Bulega on the Sky VR46 KTM.
After losing the first day of the Moto2 and Moto3 test to rain, both classes got straight to work once the track opened at a dry Losail Circuit in Qatar today. Conditions were far from ideal, though, as reflected in the times. On a hot track during daylight, fastest Moto2 man Tom Luthi was 2 seconds slower than the Moto2 pole record, and Romano Fenati was a second and a half off the pole record for the Moto3 class.
The final test of the 2017 preseason for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes has had to be abandoned after the first session. Dark clouds and high winds had threatened the track during the opening Moto3 session, with only a handful of bikes taking to the track. But heavy rain started falling shortly afterwards, leaving the track soaking, and not drying out. After consultation with the teams and riders, the test was abandoned.