MotoGP – Vinales is top gun at Qatar

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Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales completed his royal flush of incredible preseason form by the end of the Qatar test, topping the time sheets once again on the final day of testing.

Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso was the closest challenger after also having gone quickest on Day 1, with Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa completing the top three on Day 3.

Viñales’ quickest was a 1:54.330 – the fastest lap on Day 3 and overall – leading ‘Desmo Dovi’ by just 0.071 on the final day. The gap back to Pedrosa was smaller again, 0.068, with P4 closer still and only 0.050 in arrears. The man in P4 was new Ducati factory pilot Jorge Lorenzo.

After the Borgo Panigale factory unveiled its radical new aero package on day two, which was first tested by Andrea Dovizioso, it was Lorenzo’s turn on the third and final day of testing; alongside the more traditional fairing design of the Desmosedici. The five-time World Champion did 53 laps in total on Day 3, and showed his real progress since first taking the GP16 out for a spin in Valencia – a 1:54.519 and a tenth off his teammate.

There was more good work by Ducati riders slightly further back. Alvaro Bautista had another impressive day of preseason as it came to a close, locking out the top five for Pull&Bear on his GP16, just ahead of Pramac’s Scott Redding in P6. Bautista also suffered a crash, alongside incidents for a number of other riders on the grid – including teammate Karel Abraham, Andrea Iannone on the Suzuki, Danilo Petrucci on the Pramac Ducati, Sam Lowes and Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilias and reigning world champion Marc Marquez on the Repsol Honda.

Indeed, it was a bruising day for Marquez, who completed the day in P10 on the timesheets after crashing three times before the close of action in the final session. However, the Spaniard managed to test a new and more radically different fairing design on his Honda – radical compared to the first adjustment to have broken cover earlier in the test. His best on Day 3 was a 1:54.990, completing 47 laps. But it was the other Repsol Honda which was the faster of the two on Day 3, with Dani Pedrosa flying the flag in P3. A 1:54.469 for the ‘Baby Samurai’ took back the honour of top Honda and moved the Spaniard up more than ten places on his position on Day 2. LCR Honda’s Crutchlow ended Day 3 in P8, with a best of 1:54.821.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rookies Jonas Folger and Johann Zarco continued to impress, with Folger again fastest rookie in P7 at the end of Day 3, with a 1:54.807. Zarco was P9 by the end of the day, less than a tenth off his German teammate.

Nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi ended the final day of testing in eleventh. The Italian had a Day 2 of two contrasting fortunes with a crash but a huge improvement and breakthrough in pace, before Day 3 saw a more muted presence on the timesheets. Rossi was, however, only two tenths off reigning Champion Marquez’ time.

Andrea Iannone took P12 despite his crash as Karel Abraham split the Suzukis in thirteenth just ahead of rookie Alex Rins. Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro ended the final day of preseason in fifteenth, after running much further up the timesheets earlier in the day.

Next up? Same venue, same faces, and a very different reality. Two weeks remain until race day, as Losail International Circuit hosts the first GP of the year from March 23-26.

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