The penultimate day of Losail testing – 2 weeks before the 1st GP
Two weeks from now there will be the first press conference before a Grand Prix race in the desert state of Qatar. If you dream of the participation of the Repsol Honda driver with the number 93, please do not be disappointed if it is not there. As long as Marquez has taken a close look at the tests, and we assume so, regardless of the judgment of his doctors, realists do not believe in a return before the start of the European season. But even without him there is a lot of tension, and at the latest since March 10th there is also a lot of hope for the Repsol Honda Team. With Pol Espargró, HRC boss Alberto Puig should have made the right move to strengthen the team. Unless he falls, he has been a podium candidate for the first GP of the season since Wednesday.
What will happen to KTM?
At the moment, their results are proof of the skeptics who had announced a relapse into the third class. Without their test advantage, the KTM last year thanks to their concession status, the new Michelin tires and their early and sometimes exclusive tests like in Brno and Spielberg last year, their magic has apparently evaporated. If their drivers do not manage to create attractive times by Friday, there is a risk of embarrassment. The loss of Pol Espargró could turn into a disaster for the oranges. By March 28th after the first race at the latest, it will become clear whether KTM will have to eke out a shadowy existence as a backbench team again.
The first reference times at 3:30 p.m.
As always before, the test drivers were on the track first. Then Aleix Espargaró and Maverick Viñales joined them. Later Marini and Lecuona and gradually the rest of the pilots came to their first laps. What has stood out so far is a cautious Stefan Bradl, who did not do 10 laps on Thursday until 3:30 p.m. after his crash yesterday. On the other hand, many Yamaha riders shine with regular and good times. Only world champion Joan Mir has not yet been on the track. The fastest laps so far were around 1.5 seconds above the new absolute best time of Ducati Hope Jack Miller on March 10th. In the middle of the afternoon it looks like long runs for most of the drivers and not the hunt for a record lap. That’s why Valentino Rossi’s fourth-best time should give the fans courage.
At 3:45 p.m. – with Luca Marini, the first rookie in the top ten
While the best times are slowly approaching the 1:54 limit, Luca Marini gave a premiere. For the first time, a rookie made it into the top ten at 3:45 p.m. After all, his half-brother Valentino Rossi was still a tad faster than the Ducati newcomer. But apparently equipped with tips from their mother, Luca seems inspired to go to work on the fourth day. Joan Mir was the last driver on the track, but immediately set the seventh best time. By the evening the best times should drop significantly and possibly even the 1:53 will be cracked on March 11th.
The result was 4:30 p.m. – the asparagus brothers in front
As on the day before, it is again Aleix and Pol with the asparagus in their name, who top the table with the best times at 4:30 p.m. With Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama Ducati), with the sixth fastest time at this point, a rookie is now even further ahead than Luca Marini. To Honda’s relief, Alex Marquez finally made it to the top ten. After a fall in the first week of testing, the brother of the multiple world champion clearly seems to be on the up. There should still be room for improvement, even if Aleix Espargaró was the first to set a 1:53 time.
The intermediate result shortly after 5:00 p.m. – the rookie attack
After Luca Marini and Enea Bastianini, Pramac Ducati newcomer Jorge Martin also made it into the top ten shortly before 5 p.m. With a time a tiny 22 thousandths faster than “La Bestia”, the Spaniard was the fastest rookie since the start of the test in Losail. Aprilia ace Aleix Espargaró was replaced as the fastest driver on the track by Francesco Bagnaia shortly after 5:00 p.m. With 1:53.444 the Italian set the provisional best time of the day on the factory Ducati. The record lap of his team-mate Jack Miller remained untouched. With Joan Mir and Alex Rins, both Suzuki drivers were in the top five at this point.
Final score at 7:00 p.m. – Viñales best time and Marquez Crash
It was reassuring for the Rossi fans from about an hour before the end of the session. The old master drove consistently fast laps with the fourth-best time of all drivers up to 6:20 p.m. At that point the Petronas Yamaha SRT rider was the best Yamaha rider. Twenty minutes before the end of the fourth of 5 days of testing, this was his predecessor, Fabio Quartararo, on the Yamaha customer team. The young Frenchman set a provisional best time of the day, which was topped by one and a half tenths eight minutes before the end of teammate Viñales with 1: 53.244. Thursday ended with a crash for Alex Marquez, anything but as desired. When he came out of the medical center, we saw his right lower leg and foot in a cast. It doesn’t look like the Catalans will be back on his Honda on Friday.
The KTM dilemma continued
The KTM riders behaved very discreetly again. Only occasionally represented in the top ten with Oliveira, the fastest was usually around a second or more. In the end, Brad Binder was only sixteenth as the best of the oranges, 1.447 seconds behind the fastest time of Monster Energy Yamaha rider Viñales. In positions 18 and 19 were Oliveira and Petrucci. At the moment there is little to suggest that KTM will catch up before the two-week break before the first Grand Prix follows.