MotoGP: Aleix Espargaro on top as pre-season concludes, whilst brother Pol breaks collarbone

Over the last few months, during the preparations for the new MotoGP World Championship campaign, the elder Espargaro sibling has been the standout performer of the testing period

Losail, Qatar, March 9th, Day3 – The final premier class test of the 2014 preseason concluded on Sunday night at the floodlit desert circuit of Qatar, with Aleix Espargaro the fastest rider in attendance – just ahead of his younger brother Pol who suffered a collarbone break in a late evening crash.

Just under two weeks before the season opening Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar commences this test saw 17 premier class riders making their final preparations for the forthcoming campaign, in the absence of the Ducati Team, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP and Repsol Honda outfits. Those Factory teams have already finalised their preseason at Phillip Island this week.

Over the last few months, during the preparations for the new MotoGP™ World Championship campaign, the elder Espargaro sibling has been the standout performer of the testing period – showing the potential of his ‘Open’ entry Yamaha for the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team.

He set the best time of the three day Qatar test with a 1’54.874 circulation on the 19th of 47 Sunday laps. That time was less than 0.2s off Jorge Lorenzo’s 2013 pole lap at the Losail Circuit and Espargaro also looked strong in a race simulation which he carried out late on the final day.

His brother Pol Espargaro, the Moto2™ World Champion and a rookie this season, was just 0.033s behind him in second place, but the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 youngster’s good preseason ended with an untimely collarbone fracture. He crashed at turn 6 and was taken straight to medical centre, with the extent of his injury still under examination – he faces surgery in Barcelona on Monday.

On the other side of the Tech 3 garage, Englishman Bradley Smith has a year of MotoGP racing under his belt and having finished third at the test (+0.153s) one of his objectives will be to beat the Espargaro brothers in the opening Grands Prix of 2014. Smith escaped unhurt from a mid evening spill from his Yamaha YZR-M1.

After the three Yamahas at the top of the timesheet, Honda riders Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista were fourth and fifth respectively with similar lap times, the pair of them avoiding injury despite both crashing twice on Sunday. LCR Honda man Bradl notched a 1’55.187 best time, putting him 0.045s ahead of his GO&FUN Honda Gresini rival.

Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone was the faster of the two Ducati riders on track again, finishing 0.644s off the pace, whilst Energy T.I. Pramac Racing’s Yonny Hernandez (+1.182) was eighth on the 2013 Ducati bike.

In seventh place meanwhile, Colin Edwards again chipped a few tenths off his previous day’s best and ends preseason lapping around a second slower than his Forward Racing colleague Espargaro. The experienced Texan puts the time difference down to riding style and aims to adapt to a Yamaha machine different to that which he has previously ridden.

The top ten was rounded out by Drive M7 Aspar colleagues Nicky Hayden (+1.399s) and Hiroshi Aoyama (2.132s) on their ‘Open’ Honda RCV1000R machines. Hayden made a 0.65s improvement in outright pace on the final day and was generally pleased with his rhythm over race distance, but wants more competitiveness for Grand Prix competition.

Scott Redding (GO&FUN Honda Gresini), Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing), Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing), Mike Di Meglio (Avintia Racing), Danilo Petrucci (IodaRacing Project) and Paul Bird Motorsport teammates Michael Laverty and Broc Parkes featured in positions 11 to 17 respectively.

There is a Moto2™ and Moto3™ test this week at Jerez, completing the World Championship’s 2014 preseason – ahead of round one’s Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar (20th-23rd March).

Losail MotoGP™ Group Test – combined lap times
Pos Rider Team Fastest lap Gap Total laps
1
Aleix ESPARGARO NGM Mobile Forward Racing 1’54.874
122
2
Pol ESPARGARO Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’54.907
0.033
173
3
Bradley SMITH Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’55.027
0.153
170
4
Stefan BRADL LCR Honda MotoGP 1’55.187
0.313
140
5
Alvaro BAUTISTA GO&FUN Honda Gresini 1’55.194
0.320
157
6
Andrea IANNONE Pramac Racing 1’55.518
0.644
173
7
Colin EDWARDS NGM Mobile Forward Racing 1’55.978
1.104
97
8
Yonny HERNANDEZ Energy T.I. Pramac Racing 1’56.056
1.182
146
9
Nicky HAYDEN Drive M7 Aspar 1’56.273
1.399
155
10
Hiroshi AOYAMA Drive M7 Aspar 1’57.006
2.132
166
11
Scott REDDING GO&FUN Honda Gresini 1’57.009
2.135
135
12
Hector BARBERA Avintia Racing 1’57.142
2.268
115
13
Karel ABRAHAM Cardion AB Motoracing 1’57.342
2.468
120
14
Mike DI MEGLIO Avintia Racing 1’57.669
2.795
128
15
Broc PARKES Paul Bird Motorsport 1’57.730
2.856
74
16
Michael LAVERTY Paul Bird Motorsport 1’57.860
2.986
93
17
Danilo PETRUCCI IodaRacing Project 1’58.086
3.212
146

The Spanish rider, who was also on the pace last week in Sepang testing, worked with his team to overcome the front end problems he experienced at the desert circuit in 2013

Day 2-Saturday 8th-Bautista shows his pace in Saturday Qatar testing

GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista led day two of the MotoGP™ Qatar test, his best time of 1’55.194 putting him 0.314s ahead of his closest rival

The Spanish rider, who was also on the pace last week in Sepang testing, worked with his team to overcome the front end problems he experienced at the desert circuit in 2013. He completed 55 laps on his Honda RC213V on Saturday and will aim to stay ahead of the pack on Sunday.

Although the Ducati Team, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP and Repsol Honda riders are not present at this test, topping the timesheet is nonetheless a good sign for the Gresini representative.

Just behind Bautista on the timesheet Stefan Bradl was second quickest. The German LCR Honda rider is not testing new parts in Qatar, but is focusing on perfecting his set-up for round one of the World Championship and looking for some added grip to drop a further few tenths.

Friday’s fastest rider Aleix Espargaro was again the quickest Yamaha representative, though this time in third place. He was unable to match his best time from day one, though of course the important point for the NGM Mobile Forward Racing youngster is to confirm his race pace, so Sunday is likely to bring a race simulation for him – as for many of those present in Qatar.

Completing the top five were Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro, respectively 0.433s and 0.682s off P1 with similar lap times to their Friday best efforts. Briton Smith wants to stay ahead of his new teammate whilst for the younger Espargaro brother the aim this weekend is to get comfortable with a MotoGP bike at this circuit.

Colin Edwards (+1.095s) was seventh for NGM Mobile Forward Racing, sandwiched between Ducati pair Andrea Iannone (+0.832s) in sixth for Pramac Racing and Iannone’s colleague Yonny Hernandez on the 2013 Ducati Energy T.I. Pramac Racing bike.

Hernandez had an eventful day, pulling up with a technical issue at one point and later crashing after losing the front end, though his spill was without serious consequence and he finished the day 1.3s off Bautista.

The top ten was completed by Drive M7 Aspar’s former World Champion Nicky Hayden (+1.729s) and rookie Scott Redding (+1.960s). For GO&FUN Honda Gresini newcomer Redding his stated aim is to match Hayden’s pace on the ‘Open’ Honda and he is getting closer to achieving that goal as testing progresses.

Before the track time commenced on Saturday evening the riders present showed their support for International Women’s Day, posing for a group photo on the start-finish straight to support greater awareness of women’s equality.

The NGM Mobile Forward Racing man was over two tenths ahead of his nearest rival on the Open entry Yamaha, with a time less than a second off Jorge Lorenzo’s 2013 Qatar pole lap

Day 1 – Aleix Espargaro leads as Qatar test gets underway

The first day of MotoGP™ testing at Qatar saw Aleix Espargaro leading the way with an 1’55.386s best time towards the end of the evening at the desert circuit

The NGM Mobile Forward Racing man was over two tenths ahead of his nearest rival on the Open entry Yamaha, with a time less than a second off Jorge Lorenzo’s 2013 Qatar pole lap – on a track which should produce even faster times over the next two days.

With the racing line cleared of any sand and with further rubber laid down on the track the pace is likely to increase as this test progresses.

A slower start was made on Friday with Danilo Petrucci the IodaRacing Project rider the only man to circulate in the first hour in hot temperatures and in the daylight, before 5pm.

The faster times came in the last two hours of the outing as the temperature dropped and the floodlights came into full effect.

Behind the older Espargaro brother were Monster Yamaha Tech 3 pair Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro, Aleix’s younger sibling – the YZR-M1 equipped duo lapping within 0.253s and 0.686s of P1 respectively.

Completing the top five were GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista and LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl with identical 1’56.081 best laps. Both riders ran with ‘Sepang 2’ test settings on Friday and will look to adapt their machines to optimal Qatar configuration over the coming 48 hours.

Andrea Iannone was sixth best and it will be interesting to see what his best time is before the end of this test on the ‘Open’ Ducati with an Extra-Soft tyre.

Rounding out the top ten were NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards (+1.575s), Energy T.I. Pramac Racing’s Yonny Hernandez (+1.932s), Drive M7 Aspar’s Nicky Hayden (+2.188s) and GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Scott Redding (+2.536s).

 

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