MotoGP 2019 Tests
The Qatar Test
The 2019 MotoGP Season Has Started With The 2019 Qatar Test
The 2019 Qatar Test ended with a bang!
My overview of the three days of the third and final test at the Losail Circuit in Qatar
The MotoGP Qatar final test has finished with Viñales fastest
A round up and some reaction from some of the riders.
Monday 25 February The Third Day
Viñales fastest Quartararo second and Márquez Third, Rossi fourth Lorenzo fifth and Morbidelli sixth.
Qatar Test Days Report, Results And Test Evaluation.
The MotoGP testing is now over all three tests at Valencia, Jerez and Doha, Qatar have produced very different results. So it is hard to assess and know what will happen in the first race in Qatar.
Monster Yamaha's Viñales is fastest on the third and final day of the Qatar test.
2019 MotoGP Qatar testing ended with a Yamaha 1-2 as Maverick Viñales set the fastest time of the week ahead of fellow Yamaha rider and rookie, Fabio Quartararo of the new SIC Petronas satellite Yamaha Team was Second.
Maverick Viñales the first fastest on days 1 and 3.
Maverick Viñales was on scintillating form. He was the fastest on day one and day three, Viñales Says he feels good on his Monster Energy Yamaha.
Viñales, who was fastest on Saturday's opening day of the Qatar testing and second on the Sunday, went top of the timing screens on Monday with a little over two hours remaining of the six-hour session. No one could better his time despite them all trying.
His 1 minute 54.208 seconds was good enough to better Ecstar Suzuki man Álex Rins' Sunday time by more than three tenths of a second, with Viñales 0.233 of a second ahead of the rest of the field.
Impressive Rookie Fabio Quartararo ahead of Marc Márquez
Fabio Quartararo went second fastest continuing his good showing in the tests, going 0.172 of a second faster than Marc Márquez who ended up third even after sliding off his Repsol Honda in the last Monday session, without harming his shoulder.
Yamaha was the top manufacturer in Qatar, with all their four riders in the top six.
Quite A Few Fallers.
Márquez was one of several crashers on Monday, falling at Turn 6 in the penultimate hour.
Down went Marc Márquez fortunately without any further injury to his shoulder
New Repsol Honda Team-mate, Jorge Lorenzo also had a late spill at Turn 2. He ended the day only 0.040 of a second behind Márquez in fifth place, a big improvement from his opening two days of the test. Marc Márquez was third. The Repsol Honda Team had been concentrating on race set-up and race pace. Also managing the tyres full race distance. Márquez managed some good times until he threw his Honda down the track, he got away with a couple of bruises and a dented pride. He got back on his number two bike for the rest of the session.
Valentino Rossi finished fourth fastest. Rossi was sandwiched between the Repsol Honda pair in fourth, 0.445 of a second slower than his Monster Energy Yamaha team-mate. He'd been struggling a bit, until they reverted back to the settings he used in the Sepang test. Then he improved up to fourth.
A good start for Jorge Lorenzo who came fifth fastest. Lorenzo also had a late spill at Turn 2. He ended the day only 0.040 of a second behind Márquez in fifth place, a big improvement from his opening two days of the test.
Lorenzo is getting to grips with his new Repsol Honda
Lorenzo had been trying several parts to try to improve his feeling on the Honda. He's quite happy about the way it handles, but says he's still adapting to the difference in the corners. With the Ducati, he was able to run in deep and power through the turns whereas he says the Honda has to be squared off to get the maximum on exit. Lorenzo has always been a fast corner speed man.
Franco Morbidelli Sixth. Morbidelli on the second Petronas Yamaha team SRT finished sixth to give Yamaha four riders in the top six.
Next fastest was Pol Espargaró in Seventh, the best of all the KTM riders. Takaaki Nakagami Eighth. Nakagami the best of the two LCR Honda riders. Danilo Petrucci came ninth, he was the fastest Ducati rider. The new Factory Ducati man, Danilo Petrucci who came ninth. Jack Miller tenth, the Alma Pramac rider Jack Miller after a late surge, who completed the top 10.
Andrea Dovizioso Fifteenth - The other Factory Ducati rider, last year's Championship runner-up, Andrea Dovizioso surprisingly ended the test down in 15th place, some four tenths of a second slower than team-mate Petrucci and 1.025 seconds off the pace. Dovizioso said they were concentrating on race set-up and race runs and not doing time attacks.
Fastest On Day Two, Rins Is Happy With How His Test Went.
After three successful days of testing in Qatar, Álex Rins feels his Ecstar Suzuki Team has done everything possible to ensure a successful start to the 2019 MotoGP season.
Álex Rins has gone as far as suggesting the 2019 Suzuki GSX-RR has no 'negative points' after finishing the last MotoGP pre-season test with the third fastest time.
Suzuki continued what has largely been its strongest, most stable winter of testing since it returned to the premier class in 2015, and Rins has been front and centre, showing tremendous consistency at both Sepang and Qatar.
The Spaniard was in fine form in the desert, placing second on day one, first on day two, and showing pace that was on a par with countrymen Maverick Viñales and Marc Márquez.
Álex Rins, who was fastest on Sunday, after a good showing in the first two days both Ecstar Suzuki riders were outside the top 10, with Rins and Joan Mir 11th and 12th respectively.
After the test ended Rins said
"I am satisfied with how we worked here. I am pleased I am strong from the start. The bike is improved from last year, the engine is better.
"I feel good with the bike. Today we work on race pace. I know I can be fast, but we must get ready for the race. We tried a few things for race pace and we feel we are in a good place now."
He continued to say
"We are prepared, very prepared for the MotoGP season."
A crash half way through Monday's action halted any plans to complete a race simulation.
Rins remained unfazed after the test ended he said
"I think we are prepared. We are very prepared, we did a very good job with these tests. We tested everything which Suzuki brought for us. There were a lot of parts, a lot of very good parts. Not a lot of negative parts, so this is very good.
"We had planned a race run, but with the crash in the second corner, the mechanics spent like an hour and a half to repair the bike. The important thing is that after the crash, when I came back, I did a 1 minute 54.9, so this is a good thing."
Having enjoyed ten days of testing since the final race of 2018, Rins has had the chance to evaluate a host of new parts from Suzuki, including engine, chassis, exhaust and aerodynamic updates.
All of which seemed positive. I asked him if there was anything still to improve before the season's first race
"At the moment, no. The pieces are now in place to win some races. From November we've found some tenths.
"We tried a lot of things, we created a good setup. For sure for the race day, it will be very different, because one week later, there will be more wind, more sand, less sand, we won't know until Friday."
And what of the positive and negative points of the 2019 GSX-RR?
"The positive points I think we have a lot of good base in all of the aspects, and we don't have negative points."
The 23-year old didn't even feel overly concerned about the level of the competition, either.
When asked to assess his competitors, he said
"I saw them strong, they did a good lap time. I don't know the race pace, but for sure in the Qatar race, everybody will be at the top.
"So I am ready for the race now. I think I can be strong, it depends on qualifying. I want to get on the first two rows to make sure I am in a good starting position so I can challenge for the race from the start. Now we wait and see."
New Repsol Honda Man Jorge Lorenzo
New Repsol Honda rider Lorenzo struggled the first two days, on day 3 he went much better to finished in fifth place. Having missed the previous Sepang test due to a training accident, Lorenzo ended up down at the bottom of the timing screens.
He was 2.039 seconds behind Viñales riding his first Repsol Honda test of this year and he was nine tenths slower than his team-mate Márquez. Lorenzo 'Pleased and very satisfied' with the 'huge' progress. Jorge Lorenzo described the incremental steps made over three days of MotoGP testing in Qatar as "Huge."
Lorenzo came away from his first outing with Repsol Honda in 2019 "very satisfied" after the Spaniard made considerable set-up improvements that allowed him to ride the RC213V with greater confidence.
The five time world champion was quick. Lorenzo posted the fifth fastest lap time on day three, the sixth quickest on the combined standings, with his personal best of 1 minute 54.653 seconds just 0.04 of a second slower than his team-mate Márquez.
On Monday, in spite of a late fall at turn two, caused by what he claimed to be falling temperatures and a sudden lack of front end feel.
"Our potential is huge."
Lorenzo was slightly concerned about his overall pace. The speed was there. His improvement from Saturday to Monday was by 2.4 seconds. In terms of pace, he only managed eight laps below 1 minute 56 seconds. Maverick Viñales, by contrast, did 37.
As his broken scaphoid bone in his left wrist is healing, 31 year old Lorenzo appeared happy with his three days of testing. He thinks the first races in Repsol Honda colours will be tough, but he is getting more comfortable on his new RC213V Repsol Honda.
"As I said on the first day, we didn't start to work on the setting, and when we start working on the settings we clearly improved the bike, plus I rode better in general.
"So we improved a lot and today we could be competitive already and be very close to the fastest. So I'm very satisfied. It shows that we have potential and if we keep working we can go very high."
What has contributed to the improvements? I asked him
"A lot of things"
"Just my third day as a Repsol Honda rider. Valencia and Jerez I wasn't fit and also a very long time ago so we didn't have enough time to be very ready for the first race.
"But in the last days here we made a very big step forward so that means when I am fit and can ride a little bit better we can improve even more small details and be even stronger. So I leave this track very satisfied and looking forward to the race."
How did the test go for you? And what about your target for the 2019 season?
"Obviously I could be much better physically, without this injury, and with more bike pace but also it could happen much worse and I could have been injured today.
"So let's take the positives and the positives are that the progression over these three days has been huge. The first day was very complicated because my pace on the bike and also the bike was very far from a good setting, a good fit."
He carried on to say
"But now we are much closer. We have a big potential and I'm sure if we keep working like that, with all the Honda potential, and I will understand more the bike and obviously get fitter, our potential is huge. So I am very happy.
"I will try my best with the conditions I will have. Strategy is to give the maximum with the things you have in that moment. It has been always like that in my career
"So it's like that now."
Andrea Dovizioso, last year's Championship runner-up, finished the test down in 15th place, some four tenths of a second slower than team-mate Petrucci and 1.025 seconds off the pace. He said they were concentrating on race set-up and race runs and not doing time attacks.
Dovizioso said after the end of testing
"Next is the race here so we want to be fully prepared. Today we made final adjustments to the bike, so we arrive in a good way for the race weekend.
"I am satisfied with the progress we have made and I feel good with the bike. I'm not sure if we can repeat last year's result, but I will try everything I can to do so."
After another impressive year, finishing second again, I asked him, What are you hoping for this year?
"This year the whole grid is very strong, stronger than last year I think. So it is going to be hard.
"Of course I hope this year to win the title but with so many good riders and some new ones are fast already it is going to be difficult. Also more manufacturers are competitive already too, but I am optimistic and will do the best I can.
"So, we will have to go hard from the start. Here it is important to get a good start position, so we must be able to go from day 1. I think we are now in a position to do so.
"I am really looking forward to the first race and I think it will be a hard but a good race. We just hope for a good result after all our hard work in all the test so far."
Pol Espargaró - The fastest on the KTM and the top KTM rider in ninth. Espargaró's team-mate Johann Zarco did improve from the Jerez test. Zarco was seven places behind him in 16th.
Zarco is improving on the KTM. Zarco has not had the easiest of starts to the new season. He seems to have struggled on the Factory KTM so far. He was down in 22nd place, nearly two seconds off Viñales time and ahead of his former team-mate, Hafizh Syahrin Tech 3 KTM. KTM are working hard and have promised some more new parts.
Zarco told me this after the final day
"We are making progress, we had a lot of thing to try, some are good and others not so. I am pleased with KTM, they are giving me a lot of support and help. In this test we didn't find the right way. Many different problems occurred but I feel confident we will find the solution."
"We seemed to have been on the back foot for this test but that is only because we had a lot of new parts to try.
"We will be analysing all the data, see what is working good, then I hope we put together the best bike for the race week.
"I want to start the first race in a good way and try to be competitive from the start. I believe there is much potential in this bike and with more time we shall get it working better so I can be challenging for top ten places. For now that is my target, I know it is not going to be easy but we shall do all we can to be up there."
The Factory Aprilia Team
The Aprilia pair of Aleix Espargaró and Andrea Iannone both hit the deck (track), sliding off their bikes, without injury. They finished 12th and 13th respectively.
The New Petronas Yamaha SRT Team
Franco Morbidelli Sixth going well on the new Petronas Yamaha.
The Satellite Petronas Yamaha SRT rider, Morbidelli was another to fall off his Yamaha finishing in sixth on the timing screens, but he went well with a good solid start on his new bike.
Fabio Quartararo, the other Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team rider, astonished everyone with going Second fastest on the closing day, with a time of 1 minute 54.441. Viñales said he was surprised by rookie Fabio Quartararo of the new satellite Petronas Yamaha SRT team.
An exuberant Quartararo said this
"It has been a very positive day for us. This morning the day wasn't looking so good because it was cold and there was sand on the track, but in the end the wind dropped and once again every time I went out on track I felt better.
"So far this year I have only had six days on the bike and to be honest I feel very comfortable with it.
"I have managed to do a couple of really fast laps and that is what we were lacking at Sepang. Here we have not struggled to do the lap times, we were on the pace quickly and they have been fast.
"It was also good to get a race simulation in. Compared with the one I did at Sepang, this one was better in terms of my pace but it was also difficult because I was riding alone virtually the whole time. I think we are making gradual, non-stop progress."
Franco Morbidelli, Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team, he got sixth with a time of 1 minute 54.660 on the second of the satellite Petronas Yamahas.
He told me this
"I am really happy with this three day test in Qatar, we have tried a lot of different configurations. I have struggled a little to get completely comfortable with certain aspects but today we managed to get to the bottom of a few little problems.
"Now we just have to put it all together for the Grand Prix. Finally we have been able to make a good time attack.
"In general we have done a good job, now we just need to refine a few details to make sure we are competitive over race distance and also over one lap.
"With the data we have been able to gather here I am confident we can find the perfect package for the race and I am really happy with the job done by the whole team."
The other Factory Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team man, now forty years old, Valentino Rossi finished a credible Fourth.
Rossi, secured fourth with a time of 1 minute 54.651 he was fourth fasted, 0.443 of a second behind Viñales and ahead of Franco Morbidelli who was sixth, 0.452 of a second slower than him.
When I managed to get hold of Rossi he told me this
"Today was a good day, we worked in a good way and I was quite strong. Also, with the race tyres my pace is quite good, and in the time-attack I was also OK.
"I finished in P5 at the end of the three days, which is not so bad. For me, also the race pace is quite good, although I think we will need something more to be able to try to fight. But today we already closed the gap by a lot, as we put it all together, with all the staff. I think that, for this night, we're done, and we'll see in two weeks if it's enough."
Maverick Viñales was the fastest. The 2019 MotoGP Qatar testing ended with a Yamaha 1-2 as Maverick Viñales set the fastest time of the week ahead of fellow Yamaha rider and rookie, Fabio Quartararo of the new SIC Petronas satellite Yamaha Team.
Viñales, who was fastest on Saturday's opening day of the Qatar testing and second on the Sunday, went top of the timing screens on Monday with a little over two hours remaining of the six-hour session. No one could better his time despite them all trying. His time of 1 minute 54.208 seconds was good enough to better Ecstar Suzuki man Álex Rins' Sunday time by more than three tenths of a second, with Viñales 0.233 of a second ahead of the rest of the field.
Maverick Viñales, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team was the fastest with a time of 1 minute 54.651. I caught up with a happy Maverick and he had this to say to me after testing finished
"Honestly, I have been riding really good on the track, I felt like I was going very fast with the amount of grip that the track provided today.
"I felt really good on the bike. But still, if we want to battle for victory, we need a little bit more grip.
"The bike is great, the Yamaha chassis, as you know, has always been good. But now it's time to work on the electronics a little bit, the power delivery. It's a shame that we don't have more tests.
"I tried a ten-lap run at the end. It was very cold for the medium tyres but anyway I rode quite well. A good rhythm and I could maybe push a little more.
"Anyway still there remains the acceleration, we have no grip on the edge and I think it's very important that we improve for the race."
Yamaha was the top manufacturer in Qatar, with all four riders in the top six.
Viñales said he was surprised by the speed of rookie Fabio Quartararo of the new satellite Petronas Yamaha SRT team. His Yamaha factory team-mate Valentino Rossi was fourth fasted 0.443 of a second behind and Franco Morbidelli sixth 0.452 of a second slower.
"I think we've improved quite a lot the deceleration side, so I can make the lap time. Even in sector one if we lose 10km/h top speed I can be fast, because I can close the corner and make a lot of speed through the corner."
"So in that area we improved quite a lot compared to last year, but on the acceleration side still we are a little bit back from our competitors.
"So we need to concentrate and go into FP1 with clear ideas to get more grip on the bike."
Viñales also said that he is having more input into bike development
"It will take time to understand the acceleration side but it's good that we are on the right way to improve. Now I think I take a little bit of weight in terms of the development of the bike and that's very important."
He said the turning point came at last year's Thai Grand Prix, where a radical shift of weight to the rear helped transform the fortunes of the Yamaha riders and seems to have boosted his technical influence.
Viñales continued to explain to me
"After Thailand we take a little bit our responsibility in the team."
Viñales broke Yamaha's longest record losing streak with the M1's only victory of last season at Phillip Island
A great battle at the Australian MotoGP race 2018 with Viñales taking Yamaha's only win of the season
Viñales went on to say
"We work together. We try to understand the way to go faster. And I think we are on the good way.
"But we have to be patient. It's very difficult to find grip in just one day. So we need to keep going and keep trying."
With the top 13 riders separated by only .0866 of a second Viñales predicts an extremely competitive season in which a place in the final part of qualifying can't be taken for granted.
"It's going to be strong this year. I mean some days it's going to be difficult to go straight into Qualifying 2 because there are so many factory bikes now. I think sometimes we're going to struggle, but anyway we are in a good position I think.
"It's too early to think about the title. I think finally, yes, we've been very constant in the tests, at the front. But it's just tests so we need to see now in the race. I think if we find that grip that we need we are going to be very strong."
Viñales had been interested in working with a sport psychologist over the winter, he has so far been able to improve his mental outlook without the assistance of professionals.
He went on to tell me
"Finally I arrived to one point that I switched quite a lot my mind, trying to stay relaxed, getting away a little bit of the stress, So at the moment no sport psychologist.
"Maybe after three or four races I will go because maybe the pressure or I'm leading the championship or not. At the moment, I'm keeping it simple. I try to go on the bike, enjoy, give my best and give the best comments to try to develop the bike in the best way."
Márquez and Viñales on track at Qatar
Viñales has done reasonably well in the MotoGP races at Qatar. He was sixth in last year's MotoGP race and won the event in his Yamaha debut in 2017.
He continued to say
"My race pace is not bad, I tried ten laps just to understand how the bike is doing, but it was very cold for the medium tyres. Anyway, I rode quite well, with quite a good rhythm. Maybe I could have pushed a little more.
"However, we need to improve for the race. I think we are going to be ready. The race will be very important for us. Our bike has really positive points, but also a few negatives, so we now need to come to a conclusion and see where we can improve.
"Yes, We do still need to improve. I don't have really good grip on the edge, so we need to keep working, especially in that area. On the acceleration side we improved quite a lot since Sepang, and at the moment I'm quite satisfied with what we have in the braking area."
Lin Jarvis the Factory Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
Lin Jarvis has made a lot of changes at Yamaha. So the Yamaha 2019 machines seem to be an improvement on the bikes that struggled all last season.
Jarvis has made several changes within the Yamaha MotoGP structure. With a new way of working in Japan and Italy. Plus the addition of some test riders, including Jonas Folger, who was second in the 2017 MotoGP race at the Sachsenring in Germany. It looks like they could be in with a chance for this year.
After the final test Jarvis did say
"I've made a lot of changes within the MotoGP team. Both here in Italy and also in Japan. We've made changes in personnel, brought in some new test riders, we have a good satellite team in place, who are doing quite well already.
"We are determined to be more competitive this year after last year's embarrassments. We should be up the sharp end every race. Also I expect our two factory riders to win more races this year and be in with a chance of the Championship."
"The feed back from both Valentino and Maverick has been positive although there is still work to be done. They feel in a much better place than last year.
"I am pleased with how all three tests have gone. It shows we are going in the right direction. Now we have the ultimate test, the Qatar race.
"I feel sure we will be up there and fighting for the win."
Viñales Saved The Best Until The End
Now the pre-season testing has concluded and the next track action will be the opening practice sessions of the 2019 season in Qatar starting on March 8 and the race on Sunday March 10.
The first 2019 MotoGP race is almost here. The season is going to be even more exciting than last year.
Who will win the first race? I cannot try to guess! There are so many riders at the top now, after the three tests, it could be anyone!
Maverick Viñales has shown he is strong; Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso, Álex Rins and Valentino Rossi all cannot be discounted.
Then there is Francesco Bagnaia, Cal Crutchlow, Jack Miller, Joan Mir, Franco Morbidelli, Danilo Petrucci, Fabio Quartararo and Tito Rabat, all have shown signs of being front runners.
Let the battles commence
All the MotoGP riders will be hoping for a taste of the Champagne. That's 14 riders all capable of winning. With seven top riders who will be fighting for the win every race.
It is going to be close
It is going to be exciting
It is going to be good
So don't miss it.
You can watch all the races, including all the qualifying and practice sessions on BT Sports and the race on Chanel 5 a day or so after the race.
Not long to wait now!
Free practice started Friday 8th March and the race is on the Sunday.
Last years Qatar finish, Dovizioso just beats Márquez. Look how close it was! More of the same!
MotoGP 2019 Season Here We Come!
As per the usual, every session will be reported on with all the results and photos in my full report, that will all be on this website and on www.motogp-world.net soon after the flag waves for the winner of the first race of 2019 and the champagne is sprayed from the podium. It’s the start of another MotoGP season.
Coming soon to a TV or computer near you! Or if you’re lucky enough to be at the circuit! (If you are send me your report and photos!)
- Roland Potter