2021 Qatar MotoGP Results and News (Updated)

Cycle News Staff | March 28, 2021

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results Sunday News

Crutchlow’s hiring paying off

This was quite the turnaround from Viñales, who finally made good of free practice pace. Several factors have contributed to his performance. His life away from the track is settled more than ever. He spent much of preseason working on riding in low grip conditions. Yamaha’s riders are no longer constrained by the engine restrictions, as they were in 2020. And they also have a test rider whose riding style isn’t so different from Viñales’.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results and News Crutchlow
Maverick Vinales is happy with the work Cal Crutchlow (pictured) has been doing on the Yamaha.

The 26-year old pointed to Cal Crutchlow’s hiring as a key to this success. “We ride very similar, honestly. I was quite surprised because in the last day of testing I tried his bike and it was fantastic for me. So it’s the kind of thing that helped me a lot to just stay concentrated on racing and not stay concentrated on testing things. This is a totally different mentality from last year. Sometimes we needed to test many things. I wanted everything to work, but normally nothing works when you try something during the race weekend. This looks like it gives us a lot of calm because we know when Cal will say this is good, it’s really good.”

Such is his recent history, you are never fully sure if Viñales has turned a corner. But his combative display, plus Yamaha’s plans for Crutchlow and its European test team, certainly bodes well for 2021.

Ducati’s edge blunted

It all pointed to a Ducati whitewash. The red bikes were poised to back up their preseason speed when new factory runner Francesco Bagnaia shattered the outright circuit record to seal a maiden MotoGP pole. Crucially, they showed top speed from another planet. Johann Zarco was clocked at a pupil-dilating 225.18mph just before qualifying. With the Losail International Circuit’s front straight stretching to 0.6 miles, it was hard to envision anyone living with them.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results and News Ducati
Ducati’s weapon was not present for the Qatar race and it has people scratching their heads.

Yet their straight-line advantage wasn’t as pronounced on race day. On average Zarco’s machine was 6.7mph slower compared to practice, while Bagnaia was 3.8mph down on average. Viñales and Joan Mir, by contrast were only 2.8mph and 2.7mph respectively slower on race day.

So why were the Ducatis blunted? Yamaha’s traction in the lower gears was one thing: “Maverick had this strong advantage in second, third,” said Zarco. “Almost a bit in four, but second and third, all the meters he was gaining.” Bagnaia put it down to the severe headwind. “So I think the biggest thing was for the wind.”

As this track is critical on fuel consumption, could it also have been the Ducatis had to conserve fuel for most of the race?

KTM underperforming – fingers pointed at Michelin

Testing times here were indicative of what was to come for KTM. The Austrian manufacturer faced a reality check with factory riders Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder finishing race one 13th and 14th – a far cry from where they finished 2020.

Oliveira went one step further, criticizing Michelin’s front tire allocation, and how the options didn’t suit their machine. The soft front – used by everyone in the race – was too soft for KTM’s riders. But the medium, in Oliveira’s eyes “is just wrong”. A lack of response from the French firm after he pointed this out in preseason testing was “disappointing.”

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results and News Michelin
It’s not happy times between KTM and Michelin right now.

“To be honest it is really disappointing because the allocation here is chosen by elimination and not be choice,” said the Portuguese rider. “It is not our free choice to use a soft tire, we use it because we cannot use another one. The combination between the carcass and the rubber from the medium is just wrong, and we communicated that from day one of testing here, and in fact nobody used it. So we use the hard when it’s hot and when we do that we’re competitive.

“We cannot spend time during six months developing a bike to a certain kind of tire and then just have this tire removed from the allocation. We feel that the result today is not any kind of reflection of a bike issue.”

Sunday

We wanted fireworks, and we got them. The first race of the 2021 FIM MotoGP™ World Championship was a cracker at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar as Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales unleashed a stunning race to claim victory. The number 12 climbed his way through the pack to eventually beat second place Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) by just over a second, with the Frenchman and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) then pipping reigning World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) on the run to the line to complete the podium on the opening night.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results and News Vinales
Maverick Vinales’ win was one of the finest of his career.

The start of the race was something to behold for Ducati. Bagnaia, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team), Zarco and Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) – the latter from 14th on the grid – all propelled themselves to the front as Ducati once again proved themselves holeshot heroes, with Martin’s launch especially making some serious headlines as the rookie joined his fellow GP21 riders inside the top four. Fabio Quartararo and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP teammate Viñales got a little swamped off the line, forced to tuck in behind the Borgo Panigale invasion at the front.

Bagnaia had held on in the lead ahead of Miller, Zarco and Martin, before Zarco then slipstreamed Miller down the home straight and grabbed P2 off the Australian. After sluggish starts, the two factory Yamahas were regrouping though and soon found their way past high-flying rookie Martin on Lap 3. Just behind, Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was scrapping away with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and World Champion Mir, the GSX-RR duo getting past The Doctor and starting to hound Martin.

Up top, the leading five were line astern. Quartararo and Viñales were attached to the back of Miller, good news for two Yamahas, as Pecco kept it steady in the lead. Quartararo wasn’t messing around, however, and El Diablo dived up the inside of Miller at Turn 15. The Ducati blasted by on the straight again but sensational work on the brakes allowed the Yamaha man to take and hold P3.

A couple of laps later, Viñales decided to pounce on Miller too. Turn 10 was the Spaniard’s chosen point and Miller then found himself down in P5 – was he struggling, or playing the long game? Meanwhile, In free air, Rins was reeling in the leaders and was soon right up behind Miller as well. Viñales was the man starting to look impatient though, right up behind Quartararo…

The lead group, covered by 1.4 seconds, was over two seconds up the road from seventh place Mir and by 12 laps to go, Viñales was up into P3 and immediately bridged the few tenths gap to Zarco. And with 11 to go, Viñales dived up the inside of the Pramac Racing rider for P2 and showed a wheel to race leader Bagnaia, most definitely meaning business. Just behind, Rins had also got the better of Quartararo and as the race entered the halfway stage, Mir and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) were now tagged onto the back of the number 20 Yamaha too.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results and News Bagnaia
Bagnaia led for the first half of the race but couldn’t stop the charging Vinales.

Viñales and Yamaha’s strengths in the middle of the corners were clear to see, and Turn 10 was once more was the chosen passing place for Top Gun. For the first time, the race leader wasn’t Pecco as Viñales struck on Lap 15, but the top eight riders were still covered by just 2.3 seconds. With Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) in P9 just 3.5 seconds from the lead as well, could the number 12 Yamaha pull away from the group?

It was a half second lead with six to go, as behind Zarco drafted Bagnaia for P2 into Turn 1 and Mir passed Miller to grab fifth. With five laps to go though, Viñales and Zarco were starting to break clear and Top Gun had eked out the lead to a 0.7 second advantage as Zarco, in turn, held a second over Bagnaia. Behind the latter, Mir was now ahead of teammate Rins for P4 as well. But Viñales was checking out and the gap seemed to shoot out to 1.6 seconds not long after, leaving the podium fight in the dust. Battle mode: engaged.

The podium scrap, meanwhile, was in full flow. Mir, at Turn 6, stuck his Suzuki up the inside of Bagnaia’s Ducati and suddenly, it seemed second place Zarco was under threat as well. As the last lap dawned, Mir was desperately trying to find a way past the number 5 but the Suzuki rider had to be patient. The move came though as the reigning Champion struck at the penultimate corner, leaving just one more apex and a run to the line standing between Mir and a phenomenal podium. The two Ducatis were about to prove just how quick they were in a straight line though, and as the Suzuki went ever so slightly wide at the final corner, Zarco and Bagnaia unleashed their grunt towards the flag – and just, just pipped Mir to the rostrum.

Viñales had already crossed the line well ahead of the squabble to start 2021 in style, however, winning at Losail for the second time and in a different manner to his 2017 victory. Zarco took second as top Independent and top Ducati, with Bagnaia debuting in full factory red on the podium in third and Mir just missing out.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results and News Mir
Mir’s (36) march through the pack was remarkable, but he lost out on the drag to the line for a podium.

Quartararo crossed the line three seconds behind his teammate in P5 as the Frenchman got the better of Rins by just three tenths, and two and a half seconds further down the road, Aleix Espargaro put Aprilia right in the battle with a fantastic P7. Aleix also beat younger brother Pol by just 0.056s as the latter put in an impressive debut with the Repsol Honda Team.

Miller, meanwhile, was forced to settle for ninth. The number 43 slid backwards in the latter stages and crossed the line back from where he would have wanted, looking to bounce back next weekend. Top rookie honours went the way of reigning Moto2™ World Champion Enea Bastianini (Esponsorama Racing) in tenth as just nine seconds split the Italian from the race win and he debuted in the top ten.

Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) did another top job standing in for Marc Marquez, the German finished P11 and leading 12th place Rossi across the line. Not the race The Doctor will have been looking for from P4 on the grid as he and teammate Franco Morbidelli suffered a very difficult evening – the latter finishing outside the points in P18 after an issue throughout. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the leading KTM rider in P13, with teammate Brad Binder and fast-starting Martin picking up the remaining points on offer in P14 and P15.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results

1 Maverick Vinales Yam    
2 Johann Zarco Duc +1.092s  
3 F. Bagnaia Duc +1.123s  
4 Joan Mir Suz +1.222s  
5 F. Quartararo Yam +3.030s  

Moto2

Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) became the first British rider to win an opening-round Grand Prix since the great Barry Sheene in 1979 after producing a faultless ride at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar. The polesitter kept a hard-charging Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) at bay as the Australian takes P2 from Round 1, with Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) coming out on top in a last lap duel with Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) to hand Gresini Racing an emotional podium.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results and News Lowes
Lowes made good on his qualifying speed to take the win.

Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing) came home in sixth while Cameron Beaubier’s Moto2 debut saw the current MotoAmerica Superbike Champion net an excellent 11th place.

 2021 Qatar Moto2 Results

1 Sam Lowes Kal  
2 Remy Gardner Kal +2.260s
3 F. Di Gianantonio Kal +5.228s
4 Marco Bezzecchi Kal +5.241s
5 Raul Fernandez Kal +6.145s

Moto3

Moto3 opened the season in style at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar as Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) fought off rookie sensation teammate Pedro Acosta and Petronas Sprinta Racing’s Darryn Binder for victory in the first race of the year, with less than a tenth covering the three over the line after a classic Moto3 melee.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results and News Moto3
Pedro Acosta and Jaume Masia duke it out at the front. The win would go to Masia (5).

2021 Qatar Moto3 Results

1 Jaume Masia KTM  
2 Pedro Acosta KTM +0.042s
3 Darryn Binder Hon +0.094s
4 Sergio Garcia GasGas +0.435s
5 Gabriel Rodrigo Hon +0.880s

2021 Qatar MotoGP Saturday News

Bagnaia Brilliance

Francesco Bagnaia’s debut pole position in the premier class followed an impressive, measured preseason of testing. The 2018 Moto2 World Champion was blindingly fast on occasion in 2020. But inconsistencies wrecked an otherwise promising campaign.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Bagnaia news
Francesco Bagnaia may have just unlocked the secret to the desmo’s speed, and it’s in the tires.

Bagnaia identified his weakness over the winter months: generating heat in the front tire. He struggled mainly in tracks with low temperatures and took too long to generate heat in Michelin’s fickle front.

But having studied the technique of team-mate Jack Miller—a master at quickly getting his front tire temperature up to speed—Bagnaia appears to have cured this previous weakness and has showed immediate speed in qualifying settings.

“I’m feeling good,” he said of the change. “We worked a lot this winter to improve where last year I was losing too much. With my trainer and training of academy, I did a big step in front.”

Suzuki qualifying issues remain

Reigning World Champions Suzuki still appears to be in strong shape as the factory begins its first title defense in 20 years. But the clear weakness of the GSX-RR in 2020 – its ability over a single flying lap—still remains, much to the frustration of reigning champion Joan Mir.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Mir news
Mir’s qualifying woes from 2020 are continuing.

“I was on the limit with the front,” rued the Majorcan after qualifying a lowly 10th. “First we have to fix that. And then if you look at the lap times of everybody, I think I was not really consistent on my lap times, because was making 1 sector good, 1 not, I was over-trying, I was too aggressive probably. That made everything much worse.” Team-mate Alex Rins qualified just one place ahead, in ninth.

Covid dramas impacting paddock life

Mass testing to detect Covid-19 is still the norm in the MotoGP paddock. But that hasn’t stopped Covid-19 disrupting the start of the season for certain teams. Maverick Vinales’ crew chief Esteban Garcia and Christophe Bourguignon, Alex Marquez’s crew chief, were missing from the track on Friday due to ‘reactive’ test results.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Vinales news
Vinales, along with Alex Marquez, was without his crew chief in the pits due to Covid measures.

Both were forced to quarantine in their hotel rooms upon arrival in Qatar and directed Friday’s sessions via Zoom calls. “He was always in contact and on the computer,” said the younger Marquez brother of the absence in his garage. “He wasn’t on track but it was like he was here.”

But the two technicians received the all-clear to return to the track on Saturday after testing negative tice. “It means everyone is not doing an extra job and everything under control and this is good,” said Marquez.

Saturday

Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) has taken his maiden MotoGP pole position in style at the 2021 Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar, the Italian slamming in a 1:52.772—the fastest-ever two-wheel lap of Losail International Circuit—to take the honor.

Bagnaia beats second place Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) by 0.266s, with Quartararo’s fellow Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Maverick Vinales. Fourth? Top Independent Team rider Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) as the Doctor made it a Yamaha armada just behind Bagnaia.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results Bagnaia
Bagnaia unloaded a missile on the field at Qatar, taking a sensational pole position.

Nakagami and Mir joined Q2 after graduating through Q1. And in said session, it took Bagnaia just one lap to break the all-time lap record, a 1:53.273 coming in from the Italian to set us up for a phenomenal first pole shootout of 2021. Still, despite the P1 time being an all-time lap record, the timing screens were lit up with red sector times.

Bagnaia didn’t improve on his next lap, but teammate Jack Miller did and the Aussie took over at the top. Next was Quartararo and the Frenchman was an astonishing four tenths under at Sector 3, losing a little in the final sector but still talking over at the top, homing in on the 52s with a 1:53.038—another all-time lap record.

After the first couple of flying laps, it was a Yamaha and Ducati fest at the top, with Aleix Espargaro placing his Aprilia Racing Team Gresini machine next up in P6 ahead of Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing). Ahead of those two sat Quartararo, Miller, Vinales, Bagnaia and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) as the grid rumbled back into pitlane and prepared for a final push.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results Vinales
Vinales put the Yamaha in P3.

This was it. Vinales was the leader on the road and the first to show us what he had left in his locker, the Spaniard making it a factory Yamaha 1-2. Attention then turned back to Bagnaia though, and he had Valentino Rossi in tow to boot. Pecco unleashed a mind-blowing lap to return to P1 by 0.266s, impervious and seemingly unbeatable, and Rossi’s effort put him P3 for the time being as The Doctor demoted former teammate Vinales off the front row. Top Gun then returned the favor though, taking third back and pushing Rossi down to fourth.

The front row would go unchallenged for the remaining seconds. Bagnaia said on Friday, “we will beat the record in Q2”, and he stuck to his word as the Italian to claimed his first premier class pole position in style with the fastest-ever two-wheel lap of Losail International Circuit. Quartararo and Vinales lock out the front row as The Doctor joins two of his three Yamaha counterparts inside the top four; a 1:53.114 by far the fastest Rossi has lapped Losail.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results Rossi
Rossi was a very happy boy after qualifying.

Joining the veteran Italian on the second row are Miller and Zarco. The two Bologna bullets will have been hoping for more in Q2 but the second row is a solid place from which to unleash Ducati’s holeshot device. Zarco is also the new MotoGP™ top speed record holder at 362.4km/h after FP4, and his last flying lap in Q2 was his best to knock Morbidelli onto the third row.

2020 runner up Morbidelli spearheads Row 3 and he’s joined by Aleix Espargaro in eighth place, an impressive feat given the top eight were all under Marc Marquez’s old lap record. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) is the final member on Row 3 in P9, with Mir being forced to settle for P10 – 0.910s back from pole position. Work to do on a Sunday for both Suzukis again, but if there’s one thing we learned in 2020, it’s to never discount the GSX-RR duo in race trim. Nakagami is the leading Honda ahead of the opening race of 2021 just behind them, he and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) will fire off the line in P11 and P12.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results—Q2

1 Francesco Bagnaia Duc 1:52.772
2 Fabio Quartararo Duc +0.266s
3 Maverick Vinales Yam +0.316s
4 Valentino Rossi Yam +0.342s
5 Jack Miller Duc +0.443

Moto2

Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) was once again in superior form at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar as the British rider set a 1:58.726 to take the first honors of the season. The Brit beat rookie sensation Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) to pole position by 0.140s, with Bo Bendsneyder’s (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) awesome early season form seeing the Dutchman claim just his third Grand Prix front row start in P3, 0.233s from Lowes’.

Joe Roberts will start from fifth while Cameron Beaubier’s debut Moto2 GP will see the MotoAmerica champion start from 22nd.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results Lowes
Lowes just keeps banking the laps in Moto2.

2021 Qatar Moto2 Results—Q2

1 Sam Lowes Kal 1:58.726s
2 Raul Fernandez Kal +0.140s
3 Bo Bendsneyder Kal +0.233s
4 Marco Bezzecchi Kal +0.326s
5 Joe Roberts Kal +0.442s

Moto3

From Q1 to pole, 2021 is off to a good start for Darryn Binder. The Petronas Sprinta Racing rider topped the first qualifying session to make it through to the pole position shootout at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar, then setting a 2:04.075—a new lap record—to take the first pole of the year, despite also dicing it out with a few rivals on the way round. Reigning FIM Moto3™ Junior World Champion Izan Guevara (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar) claimed a wonderful debut Grand Prix front row, and also progressed from Q1, with the rookie set to line up in second. Veteran campaigner and former Qatar podium finisher John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) completes the front row.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results Binder
Binder made his debut with Petronas a good one with the Moto3 pole.

2021 Qatar Moto3 Results—Q2

1 Darryn Binder Hon 2:04.075
2 Izan Guevara GasGas +0.203s
3 John McPhee Hon +0.283s
4 Jeremy Alcoba Hon +0.362s
5 Jaume Masia KTM +0.423s

Friday

Jack Miller (Ducati Team) made a perfect start to his life as a Ducati factory rider by setting the fastest time during Friday practice for the 2021 Qatar MotoGP.

The Australian’s 1:53.387 was just 0.007s away from the all-time lap record held by the absent Marc Marquez, and teammate Francesco Bagnaia made it a Borgo Panigale factory 1-2, his time just 0.035s off Miller. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) completed the top three after ending the day 0.188 off Miller.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Miller FP2
Miller blasted to the fastest time on the opening day of the 2021 Qatar MotoGP. He was within a whisker of the lap record.

Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati) finished Friday in P4, with Suzuki’s Alex Rins going well on the soft tires—something that bodes well for Suzuki to shrug off their sometimes Achilles’ heel of one-lap pace—to claim P5.

Quartararo’s teammate Maverick Vinales and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Sprinta Yamaha) were close in sixth and seventh, respectively, finishing within three-tenths of Miller as Aleix Espargaro (Gresini Aprilia Racing) slipped to P8 at the end of play. Valentino Rossi (Petronas Sprinta Yamaha) finished inside the top 10 for the second session in a row, the nine-time World Champion taking ninth, and Pol Espargaro grabbed a vital P10 despite a late tumble.

Reigning World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) missed out on the top 10 and an automatic spot in Q2 by just 0.013s in 11th.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Results—Friday

1 Jack Miller Duc 1:53.387
2 Francesco Bagnaia Duc +0.035s
3 F. Quartararo Yam +0.188s
4 Johann Zarco Duc +0.199s
5 Alex Rins Suz +0.236s

Moto2

Two familiar names ended the opening Moto2 Free Practice Friday at the top of the timesheets: Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) and Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46). Thanks to a 1:58.959, Lowes takes charge of proceedings at the Barwa Grand Prix of Qatar, his FP2 best beating 2020 title rival Bezzecchi to the honor by 0.104s. New Italtrans Racing Team recruit Joe Roberts claims P3 at the end of Day 1, the American 0.313s shy of Lowes’ time.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Lowes FP2
Lowes turned is pace from testing to the race weekend, going P1 on Friday in FP2.

Class debutant Cameron Beaubier (American racing Team) finished his sessions in 24th, 1.229s off Lowes.

2021 Qatar Moto2 Results—Friday

1 Sam Lowes Kal 1:58.959
2 Marco Bezzecchi Kal +0.104s
3 Joe Roberts Kal +0.313s
4 Xavi Vierge Kal +0.337s
5 Remy Gardner Kal +0.361s

Moto3

Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) headed the timesheets after an impressive day’s work from the 2019 Qatar GP winner. It was close at the top, however, with Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) 0.042 back, followed by Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) 0.068 off, Sergio Garcia (GASGAS Gaviota Aspar Team) within 0.096 and Jason Dupasquier (CarXpert PrüstelGP) impressing to end the day just 0.099 off the top. Even the man in sixth, Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse), was only three thousandths further back.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Toba FP2
Toba’s new colors helped him go P1 in Moto3 on Friday.

2021 Qatar Moto3 Results—Friday

1 Kaito Toba KTM 2:04.839
2 Jaume Masia KTM +0.042s
3 Gabriel Rodrigo Hon +0.068s
4 Sergio Garcia GasGas +0.096s
5 Jason Dupasquier KTM +0.099s

2021 Qatar MotoGP Friday News

Dovizioso poised for a racing return?

Upon announcing Andrea Dovizioso would try Aprilia’s RS-GP at a private test at Jerez from 12th to 14th April, paddock speculation went into overdrive at the Qatar GP regarding a potential future relationship between the Italian rider and factory.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Dovizioso Aprilia
Will we see Dovi donning the Aprilia black this year?

Should the 35-year old be impressed by the potential of the much-improved RS-GP in Andalusia, it is believed Aprilia would be keen to make him the second rider in its race team in place of Lorenzo Savadori, who has so far failed to impress.

“For Aprilia it’s amazing to sign a rider like Dovi to test the bike,” said Aleix Espargaro. “But let’s give him some space. I’m interested to see his reaction to the bike.” Pressed on whether he’d like to see Dovizioso as his team-mate, the Catalan made his feelings clear: “Which team in this paddock don’t want Andrea Dovizioso as a 2nd rider? Maybe as a first rider if I am not fast enough! But let’s wait and see how he enjoys the bike.”

Ducati soaring

There can be no doubting Ducati’s top speed superiority in 2021. The Losail International Circuit’s 0.6-mile front straight has always been a chance for the Desmosedici machines to use their full potential. The results on Friday were spectacular: Pramac’s Jorge Martin posted a new top speed record for this track of 219mph in FP1, with Johann Zarco matching that in FP2.

2021 Qatar MotoGP Martin Ducati
The Italian bikes are straight-up missiles this year.

Pol Espargaro’s Repsol Honda (217mph) and Iker Lecuona’s Tech 3 KTM (217mph) were the only bikes able to stay close, meaning even new factory Ducati rider Pecco Bagnaia admitted, “we have the favorite bike (to win on Sunday).” Yamaha (214mph), Suzuki (214mph) and Aprilia (212mph) were all notably down on the straight when compared to Ducati.

KTM flailing

The tests didn’t lie. KTM was some way below the levels it set itself at the Losail International Circuit, with all four of its riders languishing outside the top 15 places on Friday. Brad Binder wasn’t one for sounding the alarm, but noted his lack of confidence with the front of the RC16. “On a track where you are not using a lot of front brake and trying to keep the bike flowing we are not quite getting the front to the point where we need to without putting a lot of pressure.”

2021 Qatar MotoGP Binder KTM
Brad Binder has been left scratching his head with his KTM’s performance.

New teammate Miguel Oliveira added, “Once we try to force the bike to do something faster then we create instability, either on the brakes turning or on the throttle it is becoming quite difficult to be balanced so, yeah, we need to understand which area to fix first without losing what we already have.”

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