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2017 Qatar MotoGP Test Saturday Notes: A Glimpse Of The Future

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.

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2017 Qatar MotoGP Saturday 10pm Times: Times Tighten At The Top

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.

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2017 Qatar MotoGP Saturday 9pm Times: Viñales Leads, Ducati Rolls Out New Fairing

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.

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2017 Qatar MotoGP Saturday 8pm Times: Viñales Leads As Speed Records Broken

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.

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2017 Qatar MotoGP Friday Notes: A Treacherous Track, and HRC's Bulges

At Sepang, after losing so much time to the weather during the shakedown test ahead of the official test, Ducati boss Gigi Dall'Igna said that there was no point using Sepang as a test circuit, if the surface was not going to dry. "Maybe we have to test somewhere else," he said.

Now MotoGP is somewhere else. At Qatar, where the rain is never a concern (well, almost never), and the teams don't have to worry about the track not drying up. But arguably, the teams get even less track time at Qatar than they do at Sepang, even when it rains. The test starts at 4pm, with the fierce Arabian sun still beating down on the track. Sunset is two hours later, and it takes a while for the track to cool to the normal temperatures which will be found at the race.

Track temperatures are fine after dark, at least for a few hours. Around 10pm, an hour before the track closes, the dew starts to form. The time at which it starts tends to vary, depending on temperature and humidity, but it is very rarely before 11pm. Invisible damp patches on the track mean riders start to crash without warning. The sensible riders wait for the unlucky riders to crash, then take that as a signal to scurry back to their garages and call it a day.

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2017 Qatar MotoGP Friday 10pm Times: Dovizioso Leads Some Surprise Names

With an hour of the first day of the MotoGP test at Qatar to go, the Ducatis have taken over at the top of the timesheets. Andrea Dovizioso is already under Jorge Lorenzo's race lap record, set here last year, and is over a third of a second clear of the field. Maverick Viñales is currently second on the Movistar Yamaha, a quarter of a second ahead of Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda.

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2017 Qatar MotoGP Friday 7:30pm Times: Marquez Leads In Early Stages

While the Moto2 bikes were still circulating in Jerez, the MotoGP riders took to the track in Qatar, for the final preseason test of the year. With the test starting at 4pm local time, while the sun is still up and the track is still scorching, only the KTMs took to the track, with a lot of testing parts to get through. 

At 7:30pm, the track had seen plenty of action, with everyone having circulated (the only rider missing being Hector Barbera, still recovering from a broken collarbone). Marc Marquez was fast from the off, swapping places with Maverick Viñales before seizing control. Dani Pedrosa is currently second, nearly half a second off the pace of Marquez, while Jorge Lorenzo is back up to speed on the Ducati, helped by a track which he loves and which suits the bike. Big surprise is Aleix Espargaro in fourth, the Aprilia obviously working well. 

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