The Qatar MotoGP test got off to a slow start as expected, with nothing moving on track until an hour after the track had opened. First to venture out was the rookie Iker Lecuona, soon after joined by other rookies.
From the humid heat of Malaysia to the cool desert night air, MotoGP enters the final test before the season kicks off in two weeks. The Qatar MotoGP test is something of an oddity, and hard to quantify. It comes too late to make any major changes to the bike, yet plays a crucial role in exposing vital weaknesses in the factories' MotoGP machines. It is a place where you won't see any major updates being rolled out, but it is also the test where factories are looking to catch each other out. With just two weeks to go to the start of the season, it is too late for anyone to understand and copy any brilliant new ideas before the start of the season.
The main purpose of the Qatar test is to verify engine configurations. All six factories rolled out new engines, updated over the winter break, at Sepang, but the Malaysian circuit is deceptive. Hot tropical air, a big, wide track with very few tight, low-gear corners means that it is hard to tell whether additional power has pushed the engine over the fine line between aggressive and uncontrollable.
Getting it right
As one more championship in WorldSBK has now run its enormously unexpected final course, the off-season gives us time for both reflection and plotting a path forward.
OK, that’s the reflection over, what about 2020 and beyond?
The WorldSBK series does not quite restart its new season preparations just two days after the old season, as it does in MotoGP. In those terms it took a bit over two weeks to get WorldSBK bedded in again, but most teams are already getting into 2020 mode after two days of tests at Motorland Aragon.
The FIM has announced the 2020 WorldSBK Calendar today. The series will hold 13 rounds in 10 different countries, starting at the end of February in Phillip Island, and ending on 11th October in Argentina.
The calendar sees a certain amount of reshuffling. The Qatar round of WorldSBK has been moved from the final race of the year to be second, and takes place a week after the opening MotoGP round at the Losail circuit. Qatar takes the place of the disappearing Thai round at Buriram, which has dropped WorldSBK in favor of MotoGP.
Oschersleben returns to the calendar, bringing WorldSBK back to Germany, with that race being held at the end of July. And Barcelona is to host both MotoGP and WorldSBK, the Superbike round to be held from 18th-20th September next year.
WorldSBK standings after the final race of the year:
The final standings of the World Supersport championship:
The last race of the season took place on a warm night with a cooling track. Third place in the championship was undecided between Alex Lowes, Michael van der Mark and Toprak Razgatlioglu.
The World Supersport championship's last race of 2019 will be the title decider. Three riders are in contention, with Randy Krummenacher leading Federico Caricasulo and Jules Cluzel.
World Superbike standings after the Superpole race at Qatar:
The Qatar weekend's only daytime race is the longest ten lap race, contested in 33ºC heat. Toprak Razgatlioglu pulled into the pits as everyone else lined up on the grid, his race over before the lights went out.