The last day of testing in Qatar threw up a whole bunch of surprises, clouding what had started to look like a pretty clear picture of the season to come. The first, but probably least, surprise, was that diminutive Spaniard Dani Pedrosa topped the timesheets, setting a time 2/10ths faster than Stoner's pole record of 1'55.693, proving once again that the 800s are going to start smashing lap records from the first race. In second place was Suzuki's John Hopkins, who had set his fast lap in the morning. He would not long enjoy his fast time, as 3 laps later, he highsided viciously, fracturing his scaphoid, the bone in the wrist which kept both Makoto Tamada and Alex Hofmann out of several races during the 2005 season. Hopper is slated to miss the Jerez test next week, and will hope to be fit for the season opener in March.
Valentino Rossi set the 3rd fastest time, the only other rider to crack the 1'56 barrier, Yamaha's dominance intact, but not looking as total as in the past two days. But in 4th place, perhaps the biggest surprise of the test: Pramac d'Antin Ducati's Alex Hofmann. The team has been turned around totally since last year, the influx of cash, allied to better rubber and better equipment starting to pay off the Italian industrial equipment manufacturer's investment.
Rossi's team mate Colin Edwards, whose fastest time was set on race tires, slipped to 5th place, ahead of another surprise. Randy de Puniet showed that the form he demonstrated in Sepang was no fluke, by ridng his Kawasaki to a 6th fastest time, ahead of the two factory Ducatis, elder statesman Loris Capirossi leading his younger team mate home. Alex Barros rounded out the trio of Ducatis to take 9h fastest time, ahead of the 2nd Honda rider, Marco Melandri's Bridgestone-shod Gresini RC212V.
The nastiest surprise was for reigning World Champion Nicky Hayden. His testing nightmare continued, only managing to set a 14th fastest time, having to suffer the indignity of both the satellite Gresini Hondas, Shinya Nakano on the Konica Minolta Honda, and Dunlop-shod Makoto Tamada ahead of him. With a crash and a blown engine yesterday, Hayden will surely be glad to leave Qatar behind and head for Jerez.
Slightly better news today for the Ilmors. Andrew Pitt finished the test ahead of more than just his team mate, for a change, having managed to improve his time by close to 2 seconds. The gap with the leaders is still large, but getting smaller. At the bottom of the timesheets, the walking wounded of Olivier Jacque and Jeremy McWilliams bravely soldiered round the track to set rather disappointing times.
The entire circus now ups sticks and shifts to Jerez in Southern Spain, for the official IRTA test, which starts next Friday. At Jerez, there'll be no more hiding. All times will be logged, recorded, and can be analyzed and compared. The season is so very close.
|1||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||1'55.471|
|2||John Hopkins||Rizla Suzuki||1'55.825|
|3||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha Factory||1'55.954|
|4||Alex Hofmann||Pramac d'Antin||1'56.315|
|5||Colin Edwards||Yamaha Factory||1'56.371|
|6||Randy de Puniet||Kawasaki Racing||1'56.753|
|7||Loris Capirossi||Ducati Marlboro||1'56.807|
|8||Casey Stoner||Ducati Marlboro||1'56.834|
|9||Alex Barros||Pramac d'Antin||1'56.950|
|10||Marco Melandri||Honda Gresini||1'56.980|
|11||Shinya Nakano||Konica Minolta Honda||1'56.980|
|12||Makoto Tamada||Dunlop Yamaha Tech3||1'57.232|
|13||Toni Elias||Honda Gresini||1'57.246|
|14||Nicky Hayden||Repsol Honda||1'57.269|
|15||Chris Vermeulen||Rizla Suzuki||1'57.365|
|16||Kenny Roberts||Team Roberts||1'57.408|
|17||Carlos Checa||Honda LCR||1'57.497|
|18||Sylvain Guintoli||Dunlop Yamaha Tech3||1'58.379|
|19||Shinichi Ito||Ducati TTT||1'58.974|
|20||Andrew Pitt||Ilmor GP||2'00.455|
|21||Olivier Jacque||Kawasaki Racing||2'02.081|
|22||Jeremy McWilliams||Ilmor GP||2'02.612|