Stoner Leads Final Test In Qatar

Henny Ray Abrams | March 14, 2011

Two thirds of the Repsol Honda team dominated the two-day test at the Losail Circuit in Qatar – the site of this weekend’s Grand Prix of Qatar – with Casey Stoner ending up edging his Spanish teammate Dani Pedrosa by .064 of a second in today’s final session.Stoner lapped at 1:55.681 on the 40th of his 46 laps and once things calmed down from the morning’s high winds and resulting sandstorm.”I’m really happy, I didn’t think we would get any laps in tonight judging from the weather earlier in the day, it was a little tough but the wind seemed to settle and the track conditions improved a lot and we got some good test time in tonight,” Stoner said in a team release. “By the look of the lap times everyone seems to have taken a big step forward, but we’re happy with what we’ve achieved again here and we can enter the race weekend with confidence, but at the same time everyone else will be improving their set-up so we can’t relax. We found a good rider position, which I’m really happy with, having moved my position more towards the rear in Sepang – to try and find more grip. Here we can run a more neutral set-up and everything seems to be working well. We did some more work on electronics tonight and also on the tires, but generally worked in preparation for the weekend.”Pedrosa’s best lap was a 1:55.745 and he also took a turn at the top of the time sheets.”The conditions seemed very difficult when we arrived at the circuit today as it was so windy and on the way here the road was full of sand, but we managed to finally complete a good test,” Pedrosa said. “It was very windy out on track and quite difficult to ride at maximum, but the grip was not so bad. It was cooler than yesterday and we improved our lap times, which is positive. Today we tried the new front fork; we have continued to work with electronics and have tried both hard and the softer tires. We kept the good feeling we had at Sepang. The test here in Qatar also went well in general and we go to the first race with a competitive bike, but for the Grand Prix we will have to keep working hard because nobody will give away anything”.To make Honda personnel even happier, Gresini Honda’s Marco Simoncelli and Repsol’s Andrea Dovizioso was fifth. Only the efforts of Yamaha’s Ben Spies kept the Hondas from a clean sweep at the front.Spies steadily worked his way up the ladder, slotting in as the second fastest rider just before the midway point of the session. But ended up third behind the two Repsol bikes after working on more geometry changes in an effort to find more grip. Despite his effort, Spies was still .613 of a second off Stoner’s best.”It’s been a good test, I’m happy with it,” Spies said. “We tried a few different things today and improved the bike some more. We’ve now got a couple of days to look over the data ready for the four-day weekend; there’ll be plenty more riding opportunities before Sunday. I was pretty confident coming here after Sepang. Hopefully, we can make the bike even better before the race. Last year we saw that the M1 worked well at every track – it’s Yamaha’s strong point and I think it’s the same this year.”The top Ducati today was the privateer Pramac bike ridden by Frenchman Randy DePuniet in sixth, just ahead of defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo. Texan Colin Edwards was behind the Spaniard in eighth.Marlboro Ducati’s Nicky Hayden ended up ninth with his teammate Valentino Rossi well down in 13th. Both Ducati riders crashed during the day.Another crasher was Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow, the MotoGP rookie suffering a hand injury that cut his day short.

Final Times

1.                  Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:55.681

2.                  Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:55.745

3.                  Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:56.294

4.                  Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:56.433

5.                  Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:56.439

6.                  Randy de Puniet (Ducati) 1:56.445

7.                  Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:56.707

8.                  Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:57.716

9.                  Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:56.726

10.                  Hiroshi Aoyoma (Honda) 1:56.740

11.                  Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:56.798

12.                  Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 1:56.931

13.                  Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:56.988

14.                  Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 1:57.345

15.                  Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:57.730

16.                  Karel Abraham (Ducati) 1:57.846

17.                  Toni Elias (Honda) 1:58.536


Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.