Scott Redding has topped the second session of free practice for the MotoGP class, with riders chasing a place in Q2 with an eye to the weather later this evening. With forecasts showing a chance of rain in FP3, almost everyone put on soft tires at the end and pushed for a fast lap.
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Racing is back. No more messing about trying to extrapolate data points from testing to hypothetical performance on race weekends. This is a race weekend. Now, we have actual data from free practice to extrapolate data points from to hypothetical performance during the actual race. Yes, it sounds identical, yet it is subtly different. There are only three more sessions of free practice, qualifying, and then the warm up before the race. No more engine updates, no time to test new parts. Only time to nail down a decent set up and give it everything you've got, or "my 100%", as non-native English speakers like to say.
The MotoGP field were lucky to get a session of free practice in. The weather in Qatar has been extremely unstable, and storms keep blowing in and out of the peninsula. The possibility of rain has caused a bevy of emergency measures to be taken. Previously, racing in the wet had been regarded as impossible, due to the reflection of the floodlights on the wet surface, but last month, FIM and Dorna safety representatives Franco Uncini and Loris Capirossi did some laps of the track at night.
Capirossi and Uncini decided that the track as safe enough to ride, even in the wet. But the race would only happen if the riders had all had time on a wet track under the floodlights, to judge the situation for themselves. "[Capirossi] has been behind a car," Cal Crutchlow said on Wednesday. "But it's different when there are 23 people on the grid. A lot more can happen."
Pecco Bagnaia has topped the timesheets in only his second ever free practice session in the Moto2 class. The Sky VR46 rider put in a late charge to dislodge Taka Nakagami from the top of the timesheets, who just inched ahead of Fabio Quartararo. With Bagnaia and Quartararo in first and third, that puts two of the Moto2 rookies in the top three.
Bo Bendsneyder has topped the timesheets in the second session of practice for the Moto3 class. The lanky Dutchman put in a fast lap towards the end of the session that would not be challenged at the end, in conditions which were significantly more difficult than FP1, the wind having picked up significantlly.
Maverick Viñales has not just picked up where he left off during testing, but picked it up a notch as well. The Movistar Yamaha rider led for most of the session, only relinquishing top spot for a few minutes towards the end of the session as the other riders started chasing a fast lap. But as the final minutes ticked away, Viñales laid down a couple of punishing laps, to seize control of the session. His fastest lap wa sa 1'54.319, a hundredth of a second faster than his best lap at the test in Qatar two weeks ago.
Tom Luthi has made good on his status as Moto2 championship favorite, ending the first session of free practice for the intermediate class at Qatar. Luthi led a very close field, Taka Nakagami ending second, just eight hundredths of a second behind Luthi, and less than six hundredths ahead of Miguel Oliveira on the KTM.
Despite the threat of poor weather, the 2017 season has got underway at Qatar on a dry track and with no threat of rain, as yet. The Moto3 riders were the first to take to the track, with KTM rider Bo Bendsneyder leading for most of the session. The Dutchman was only bounced from the top of the standings at the very end, when first Joan Mir, and then Phillip Oettl took over at the top.
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.