MotoGP: Iannone lights up the desert on Day 2 test in Qatar
Italian ends the second day of the #QatarTest on top, ahead of last year’s two key title rivals Marquez and Dovizioso
Iannone, who was also a key presence on Day 1 as he moved up the ranks from some more difficult tests at Sepang and Buriram, has been within the top five much of the time – and the Austria 2016 GP winner made a late attack to set a 1:54.586 and pull just 0.041 clear of Dovizioso, largely now confirming data and then working on race setup. Teammate Alex Rins, who has impressed so far in preseason, also made it two Hamamatsu factory machines in the top five on Day 2 – taking P5 and 0.288 off his teammate.
“This is the first year we’re a title contender from the beginning…”
Dovizioso, meanwhile, ended his test slightly early after completing a program of 41 laps and having led for much of the latter part of the day. 0.041 off the top, the 2017 runner up was overwhelmingly positive about his bike and his bike at Losail – having also completed a longer run on the newer chassis, but there tempering the reaction with positives but some negatives. Teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who was in the top echelons on Day 1, was P14 on Day 2 – putting in 53 laps and less than a second off Iannone.
Marquez, who was just 0.167 off Iannone, did make some headlines with a new aero update that was spotted on his Repsol Honda Team machine – as well as a crash. But the reigning Champion was quotable as ever: “Even the crash was good – because we tried the other bike with a different setup.” He put in a long run – as did many – and despite a more difficult day, was fastest Honda. LCR Honda Castrol and HRC test rider Cal Crutchlow was the second quickest Honda in P6, a tenth and a half off Marquez and locked out of the top five by just 0.025. Marquez’ teammate Dani Pedrosa, meanwhile, took it a little easier on Friday after a big crash on Day 1 – some pain in his hand meaning he didn’t push; tenth after 35 laps.
The fastest Yamaha was once again Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) after Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) had taken back the honour on Day 2. Zarco said it was a great day on track and was fourth overall, making a big improvement on new tyres. “Found what we were missing” was the Frenchman’s most telling soundbite, and after 49 laps that was evident on the timesheets.
Viñales, on the other hand, ended Friday in P7. Continuing to look for solutions to some issues plaguing the Iwata marque, the Spaniard did 52 laps and went fastest on his penultimate effort. Teammate Valentino Rossi was P11 and only 0.034 off the top ten and Pedrosa in P10, and the ‘Doctor’ explained he was having some problems with the front tyre that put paid to a time attack. But the rider from Tavullia said his pace “wasn’t bad”, with that front tyre – especially over race distance – a key focus for his side of the garage.
Alma Pramac Racing were the third Independent Team represented in the top ten and their pairing of Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller took P8 and P9 to end the day just behind Viñales. The two men were split by less than a tenth and it made for another impressive test performance for Queenslander Miller as he settles into life on Ducati machinery – as well as podium challenger ‘Petrux’. Both men did also crash, however, with tumbles into T1 happening almost in unison, but riders ok.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was the top Aprilia man on Friday and is “confident and curious” to compare his race simulation planned for the final day of testing, with the Spaniard just under nine tenths off the top in P12. His teammate Scott Redding was fifteenth, after having headed the charge for the Noale factory on Day 1.
The final man in the fastest fifteen was early pacesetter in the battle for Rookie of the Year Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), who slotted into thirteenth despite a small crash. A 1:55.539 put the Japanese rider within a second of the top after 61 laps, around half a second quicker than fellow rookie and reigning Moto2™ World Champion Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS). Hafizh Syahrin, jumping in at the deep end with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 after getting signed up for the season after Buriram, was less than two tenths off Morbidelli, and just ahead of both Tom Lüthi (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) and Xavier Simeon (Reale Avintia Racing), who also debut this year.
The final day of preseason is now just around the corner, with Saturday set to bring down the curtain ahead of the first race weekend of the year. Is everybody ready? Only time will tell…