Vinales Tops Day One of 2018 Qatar MotoGP Test—Maverick got his mojo back on the first of three days of tests at Qatar. Vinales and the Movistar Yamaha topped the MotoGP timesheets, at the track where he won the opening round last year, and Yamaha has won five of the last six GPs.
But the return to form was greeted cautiously in the paddock. Vinales and teammate Rossi have been struggling somewhat at the earlier tests this year; while once again times were close and margins small, with the top 16 within one second. At the same time, Vinales’s lap at 1:55.053 was more than a second outside the track’s best lap, and with the track rubbering up times over the next two days are expected to be more significant.
The stronger start was still encouraging for Yamaha. “We had no confidence to push in Thailand. Today it looks like we improved in that area,” said Vinales. It had taken time to get settled, but “I started to feel better on every exit… at the end focusing on my riding style. The bike is very consistent.”
Rossi, placed seventh, echoed his remarks. “From the first moment, I felt better compared with Thailand. It looks like things can change quite a lot from one track to another… it depends a lot on how you can make the tires work.”
Vinales ousted earlier leader Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati), with a mixed back of names in the top 10.
Ecstar Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone was third; independent Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider Johann Zarco fourth; then Sepang test leader Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati); Alex Rins on the second Suzuki, with Rossi seventh on an equal time, less than four-tenths down on Vinales.
Three factory Hondas in a row
Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Ducati) was eighth, and then three factory Hondas, Cal Crutchlow marginally ahead of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, who missed the latter part of the proceedings after a heavy crash (his second) on the tricky Turn Two.
Marquez’s 10th place was indicative of strength compared with the last two years when he was struggling to make sense of the latest Honda. This year’s RC213V is more settled, and he is able to take a measured approach to testing.
All the factory Honda riders have chosen the more aggressive of the two latest engine versions, and Marquez said: “It was a bit aggressive at first, but in the end, we found a way to improve the setting and be smoother.”
Jack Miller continued his strong Pramac Ducati debut, placed 12th ahead of Alvaro Bautista’s Aspar Ducati. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) impressed again in 14th, easily top rookie; Aprilia new boy Scott Redding was 15th, two slots ahead of team-mate Aleix Espargaro.
The Red Bull KTMs were 19th and 20th, Pol Espargaro ahead of Bradley Smith; but the Spaniard withdrew from today’s test. A heavy crash at the first tests at Sepang meant he missed the Thailand tests for surgery and is not fully recovered.