Team SUZUKI ECSTAR took to the track for the first day of testing at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar today, the final official MotoGP test before the season-opening round here at the end of the month with a positive result.
Both Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales spent their time finding the best way to learn the circuit with their machines, making step-by-step improvements that kept them in the high-end of the day’s classification, although the main objective of the team’s testing today was to find an optimal performance at a race-pace.
The more-experienced Espargaro focused on finalising the traction control configuration to find the best grip on the rear, trying both his fastest lap with soft tyres and his longer runs with a hard-compound tyre. At the end of the day he set the fourth-fastest time with a best-lap of 1:55.698 in his 33rd of 44-laps and just 0.433-seconds away from leader Andrea Iannone.
Rookie Viñales also had a positive day getting more-familiar with his GSX-RR, although he suffered two minor crashes that prevented him scoring a better single-lap performance, but he managed to improve his pace and collect valuable information and data for evaluation by his team. The young Spaniard ran a total of 42 laps, scoring a best-time of 1:56.151 at the very end of his session, which placed him 11th overall and only 0.018s from the top 10.
Davide Brivio – Team Manager:
“It has been a positive first day of testing here in Qatar. The track is new for the riders with our machines and they both followed the development-plan we decided. Aleix is more experienced and worked hard mainly to prepare for the race, while Maverick took some bigger steps forward getting familiar with the track and bike’s feedback. He had a couple of crashes but of course he is a rookie and needs to get familiar with this circuit; which is very particular for general conditions and temperatures. So far the evolution process is fulfilling our expectations so we keep on with the plan we had, mainly focusing on getting prepared to the race.”
“Today we focused on adapting the set-up to the track, which is new for us, and to get well-prepared for the race. Lap times are not so bad but there is still room for improvements. We tested both soft and hard tyres: the first one is very competitive, but it is not suitable for this kind of track as it deteriorates pretty quickly. I feel more-confident with the hard tyre, the pace is not that much slower but the grip drops after 10/ 11 laps, so we need to work on electronics and settings to counterbalance this.
“So far we tested the same configuration we ran in Sepang 2, making improvements step-by-step, in particular the traction control which will probably be the key to find consistency with the hard tyre for longer runs. We have some upgrades to test in the next two days but our priority is to find more traction over the distance and to find a comfortable set-up for the race.”
“I am happy for this first day because I finally had the chance of trying my GSX-RR on a new track. We did a lot of work mainly on my adaptation to the circuit and the finalisation of the set-up and electronics. Losail is a very peculiar environment, I need time to get used to the conditions and to adapt to the bike, but we managed to test some improvements in electronics, in particular the traction control.
“I made a couple of mistakes in braking that led to two crashes, but I’m not worried because I know they were my responsibility and my machine is following the improving process we had planned. We still have many improvements to do, mainly to finalise the new electronics and to get ready for the race, both in fast laps and in pace, but for the moment the feedback is very encouraging.”
Track conditions: air temperature 21°C, ground temperature 22°C.
Qatar test session, Day 1 classification:
1 Andrea IANNONE, (Ducati Team) 1:55.265
2 Andrea DOVIZIOSO, (Ducati Team) 1:55.363
3 Marc MARQUEZ, (Repsol Honda Team) 1:55.554
4 Aleix ESPARGARO, (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR) 1:55.698
5 Dani PEDROSA, (Repsol Honda Team) 1:55.813
6 Jorge LORENZO, (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) 1:55.828
7 Cal CRUTCHLOW, (CWM LCR Honda) 1:55.837
8 Valentino ROSSI, (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) 1:55.938
9 Bradley SMITH, (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) 1:55.954
10 Scott REDDING, (Estrella Galicia 0.0 Marc VDS) 1:56.112
11 Maverick VIÑALES, (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR) 1:56.130