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.
The Repsol Media Service issued the following press release, containing an interview with Dani Pedrosa, looking ahead to the 2017 MotoGP season:
Dani Pedrosa faces the start of the 2017 World Championship after a positive preseason, in which he has been one of the fastest riders on the grid.
Third at the last official test, Dani Pedrosa closed preseason with a good feeling and a positive progression –after also finishing high up the order in Australia and Malaysia. The Repsol Honda rider, who has achieved at least one victory in each of his 11 seasons in MotoGP, will be one of the men to beat when the season gets underway on Sunday, March 26th.
How do you come into the 2017 season?
It's early in the 2017 WorldSBK season but already plenty of people are crowning Jonathan Rea as a three time champion. To anyone thinking that with 22 races remaining that the championship has been sewn up, it would be wise not to count any chickens just yet.
Rea has most certainly been the class of the field so far in Australia and Thailand but they are two tracks that the Kawasaki rider had been heavily favored to win at. Phillip Island is a wide open race to open the year but Rea has traditionally been a force at the Australian circuit. Likewise in three years of visiting Thailand he has won five races. There's a lot that can be taken from the opening three rounds of the year but it will take a couple of European rounds before a clear picture truly emerges.
Many (though not all) questions were answered at the Qatar MotoGP test. One of the most frustrating questions of the 2017 preseason has been answered at last, however. For weeks, MotoGP pundits have been puzzling over what could be in the 'salad box' slung under the tail of the Ducati Desmosedici GP17. Was it a device to counter chatter (or 'jounce', as it is more properly known)? Was it something to do with Ducati's patent on a variable exhaust nozzle for providing thrust?
At Qatar, Motorcycle News reporter Simon Patterson finally got a straight – though unofficial – answer from Ducati. The 'salad box' contains a bunch of electronics moved from the front of the GP17 to allow Ducati to use their new aerodynamic fairing. That fairing has a much narrower nose, to allow for the large ducts and airfoil surfaces which Ducati have used to replace their winglets. The reduced space in the nose forced Ducati to relocate the components which had previously been on a mount behind the front section of the fairing.
This revelation has allowed me to feel a brief sense of smugness. Since the 'salad box' first made an appearance, I had suspected that the contents of the box had more to do with relocating components from elsewhere, rather than any active function itself. "The question may not necessarily be what is in the box," I wrote before the Qatar test, "but what did putting whatever is in the box in there allow the Desmosedici GP17's designers to move around elsewhere." As it turns out what Ducati's engineers were chasing was some empty space.
There were three Ducatis in the top five at last weekend’s final preseason tests – which is why Jorge Lorenzo may just make history next week
The two big questions ahead of next week’s season-opening Qatar Grand Prix: will Maverick Viñales win first time out with Yamaha, or will Jorge Lorenzo win first time out with Ducati?
We already know Viñales will most likely be competitive everywhere, while Lorenzo will probably be fast wherever the Ducati works, which includes Losail, where the bike was in the thick of the fight for victory in 2015 and 2016.
Miguel Oliveira is one of the brightest minds in the Grand Prix paddock. A quiet, calm presence, the Portuguese rider is widely admired throughout the paddock. His modesty and his down-to-earth attitude mean that he does not garner a great deal of attention off track, nor does he seek it.
His performance on track does, though. Oliveira came very close to winning the 2015 Moto3 championship, staging a remarkable comeback which saw him recover from a 110-point deficit with six races to go to close to within 6 points of Danny Kent at Valencia. At the Jerez Moto2 tests, Oliveira was similarly impressive, finishing regularly in the top three.
That success is in no small part due to his return to Aki Ajo's Red Bull KTM Ajo Motorsport team. At Jerez, Finnish team manager spoke glowingly of his return to the fold, and Oliveira returned the compliments. We spoke to Oliveira at some length at Jerez, covering a vast range of subjects. Oliveira spoke of the KTM Moto2 bike, and of its development. He told us why he went endurance racing last year, and what he is doing to help develop young Portuguese talent. And he talks about his other career, studying to be a dentist. That study, and his approach to it and to racing, gives a fascinating insight into a very intelligent and grounded young man.
In the run up to the 2017 MotoGP season, the Repsol Media Service issued the following press release, containing an interview with Marc Marquez. In it, he discusses his goals and expectations for the coming season:
Marc Márquez faces his fifth season on the Repsol Honda team with the aim of retaining the MotoGP World Championship.
Notes from the second WorldSBK race in Thailand: