Team SUZUKI ECSTAR’s Maverick Viñales scored a strong sixth position in the opening race of the 2016 MotoGP™ season at Losail International Circuit in Qatar tonight aboard his GSX-RR that equalled his best-ever finish in the premier class.
Team-mate Aleix Espargaró also put-in a strong performance, starting from 15th place on the grid and finally recovering to the 11th at the chequered flag.
Viñales’ start was effective, although the first corner saw him drop into seventh position. His early laps were very close to the top, keeping in contact with the leaders, although he was never able to lap in the 1’55s; the pace that he showed throughout the weekend. This led him to lose a few tenths-of-a-second each lap, which saw him lose contact at the head of the race. But he managed to keep hold of sixth position – that equalled his previous best result in Catalunya and Australia last season - which gives him solid points in the Championship.
Espargaró started his race with a change in the machine he decided with his team after the warm-up session. It was an extreme decision to find more confidence with the set-up, and this finally resulted in a solid race. Starting from the 15th place on the grid, his strategy was to recover as many positions as possible and this finally paid off; his final 11th place is a solid improvement and the information collected in the race gave his team some directions for the next races.
Ken Kawauchi – Technical Manager:
“Finally the result of this first race is positive but not as good as we expected, which has left us a bitter-sweet sensation. Maverick has had an extraordinary weekend, always lapping into the 1’55 bracket, but he couldn’t do the same in race. Maybe the conditions of the track changed, or maybe other reasons, so we now need to further investigate data and see what happened. Aleix had some difficulties, he struggled a lot over the weekend to find a proper feeling and the final result is not what he deserves, although his recovery from 15th to 11th place is remarkable. The winter tests and also the test days here in Qatar proved that we have made good steps forward, we know we can be closer to the top; and now I hope we can get better soon. Last year we were so happy for a sixth place, but now after the positives of the winter tests and how the whole weekend went, the sixth place is not enough for our expectations, so we definitely need to understand how to improve and get closer to the podium.”
“Finally a sixth place is not a bad result, but it is not enough at this point. The whole weekend I had a very good feeling and my race-pace was around 1’55, while in the race I couldn’t make the same. Honestly, I’m not sure why; in the race I couldn’t find a proper feeling and I felt the bike sliding a lot, so we definitely need to see the data and understand what changed and happened. The positive thing is that for the whole weekend we have been very close to the top, maybe in the race we were a little unlucky because the weekend overall was very positive. I can’t wait to go to Argentina and work again on my GSX-RR; we have a lot of potential. If we manage to find better grip and finalise the set-up of the full seamless, for sure we will fight for the top positions. I must thank the Factory and the Team, they are doing a huge job to support me and I am sure that if we keep working hard we will find the best solution.”
“This has been a very hard weekend and the race result reflects this. This afternoon in the warm-up I felt very uncomfortable, so with my Team and the Suzuki Engineers we decided to make a huge change in the bike, and I knew it was a gamble, but for some reason it gave me more confidence. It has been an extreme trial to make me more confident, for sure we will now analyse the data we collected here and test again in Argentina – but the good thing is that after the race we found some interesting hints on how to exploit a direction and this will help us a lot.”
COMMERCIAL BANK GP OF QATAR RACE RESULTS:
1 Jorge LORENZO - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP - 42'28.452
2 Andrea DOVIZIOSO - Ducati Team - 42'30.471 + 2.019
3 Marc MARQUEZ - Repsol Honda Team - 42'30.739 + 2.287
4 Valentino ROSSI - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP - 42'30.839 + 2.387
5 Dani PEDROSA - Repsol Honda Team - 42'42.535 + 14.083
6 Maverick VIÑALES - Team SUZUKI ECSTAR - 42'43.875 + 15.423
7 Pol ESPARGARO - Monster Yamaha Tech 3 - 42'47.081 + 18.629
8 Bradley SMITH - Monster Yamaha Tech 3 - 42'47.104 + 18.652
9 Hector BARBERA - Avintia Racing - 42'49.612 + 21.160
10 Scott REDDING - OCTO Pramac Yakhnich - 42'52.887 + 24.435
11 Aleix ESPARGARO - Team SUZUKI ECSTAR - 43'04.299 + 35.847