While their factory counterparts are on aircraft heading back from Phillip Island, everyone not on a factory team (that's factory, small F, not Factory Option, capital F capital O) have spent the day at their own test at Qatar. As always, the first day back at the desert track means a horribly dusty surface, which led a large group of riders to sit out the first hour or so of the test. Once the more eager of the riders - none more so than Danilo Petrucci, keen to get back on a bike for the first time after the winter layoff - had cleaned the track a little, and the track had cooled after the sun had gone down, the full pack headed out for the final test before the season started.
It came as no surprise to see Aleix Espargaro topping the timesheets a the end of the day. The NGM Forward rider has been fast all pre-season, Espargaro extracting every last ounce of performance from the Forward Yamaha, taking full advantage of the softer rear tire made available to the Open class machines (and now nicely color-coded to make tire choice more visible.) There is however no more mention of FTR in the Forward garage, the bikes appearing as Forward Yamahas on the entry list, and Colin Edwards admitting to Motorcycle News that he did not expect to see a chassis from FTR this year. The rumors of unpaid bills appear to have some weight behind them, despite the official denial issued by FTR in February.
Aleix Espargaro led a trio of Yamahas, finishing ahead of Tech 3 riders Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. Though Smith was a quarter of a second slower than Aleix, the Englishman was clearly working on his pace, consistently lapping in the high 1'55s, where Aleix only posted the one very fast lap. Brother Pol continues to impress with the pace of his adaptation ot the class, setting the 3rd fastest time, seven tenths off the pace of Aleix. The two satellite Hondas ended just behind Pol, but both on identical times, both Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl posting a 1'56.081. Andrea Iannone set the 6th fastest time, but was nearly 1.4 seconds slower than Aleix Espargaro on the Open Pramac Ducati.
Friday at Qatar was a busy day for those in positions of power. Many meetings were held to discuss the 'Factory 2' proposal put forward by Dorna, with MotoGP technology chief Corrado Cecchinelli and Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna seen heading off for a discussion. Ducati were very unhappy with the proposal, team boss Paolo Ciabatti telling GPOne.com, 'I would like to know which part of the regulations state that the Open category is a low cost category.' Meanwhile, Dorna Events Director Javier Alonso explained the decision on the MotoGP.com website as being a concession to the Open class teams. They had complained that they could not compete against Ducati, and did not have the resources to handle the much more sophisticated software update provided by Magneti Marelli. Fausto Gresini told GPOne.com that it was clear that Ducati's switch meant that the series had lost sight of the idea of the Open regulations, to cut costs. Lucio Cecchinello had also complained to Speedweek.com that the switch by Ducati and the Open regulations were unfair on him and his rider, Stefan Bradl. This is clearly a soap opera that is set to run and run.
|1||41||Aleix Espargaro||Yamaha Forward Open||1:55.386|
|2||38||Bradley Smith||Yamaha M1||1:55.639||0.253||0.253|
|3||44||Pol Espargaro||Yamaha M1||1:56.072||0.686||0.433|
|4||19||Alvaro Bautista||Honda RC213V||1:56.081||0.695||0.009|
|5||6||Stefan Bradl||Honda RC213V||1:56.081||0.695||0.000|
|6||29||Andrea Iannone||Ducati GP14||1:56.780||1.394||0.699|
|7||5||Colin Edwards||Yamaha Forward Open||1:56.961||1.575||0.181|
|8||68||Yonny Hernandez||Ducati GP13 Open||1:57.318||1.932||0.357|
|9||69||Nicky Hayden||Honda RCV1000R Open||1:57.574||2.188||0.256|
|10||45||Scott Redding||Honda RCV1000R Open||1:57.922||2.536||0.348|
|11||7||Hiroshi Aoyama||Honda RCV1000R Open||1:58.151||2.765||0.229|
|12||8||Hector Barbera||Avintia Kawasaki||1:58.503||3.117||0.352|
|13||17||Karel Abraham||Honda RCV1000R Open||1:58.833||3.447||0.330|
|14||23||Broc Parkes||PBM Aprilia||1:59.121||3.735||0.288|
|15||63||Mike Di Meglio||Avintia Kawasaki||1:59.294||3.908||0.173|
|16||9||Danilo Petrucci||Aprilia ART||1:59.358||3.972||0.064|
|17||70||Michael Laverty||PBM Aprilia||2:00.055||4.669||0.697|