Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner...
Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner was all smiles at the conclusion of the Qatar test after ending up quickest overall.
Conditions were terrible during the afternoon at the Losail circuit in Doha, Qatar, with swirling winds spreading dust and sand all across the circuit. But as the sun went down, the winds subsided, and the circuit staff did a good job of cleaning the racing surface so that the MotoGP field could begin its final test session at 8:00 pm local time. With the 2011 MotoGP season officially kicking off on Thursday night (in order to hold the MotoGP race at an earlier time in response to rider requests to avoid the dewpoint hour that was blamed for several unexplained crashes last year, the event schedule now runs over four nights), the teams were hoping for good conditions to finish off their test schedules prior to the beginning of practice. And they got their wish for the most part, with the riders citing decent conditions for the duration of the three-hour session.
The duel for supremacy in the Repsol Honda camp appears to be heating up considerably, with team newcomer Casey Stoner and six-year team veteran Dani Pedrosa both looking to be the alpha dog that Honda engineers pay attention to when working out the kinks of the new RC212V. And Stoner once again can claim bragging rights, as the 2007 MotoGP World Champion turned the quickest lap of the test, with a 1:55.681 lap that was 0.064 seconds quicker than Pedrosa’s best.
“We feel comfortable with what we’re doing and the way the bike’s working. I’m really happy, so we can go in to start the race weekend with good confidence,” said Stoner, “but at the same time, there’s still time for everyone else to better their setups so we can't relax. 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. 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. 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.”
“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,” said Pedrosa, “but we managed to finally complete a good test. 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 the 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.”
Ben Spies was the only non-Honda...
Ben Spies was the only non-Honda rider in the top six on his factory Yamaha M1. Note the brake discs glowing!
The one rider to break up the Honda monopoly in the top five was American Ben Spies. While ending up third quickest would normally be considered a plus, Spies can’t ignore the fact that he was over half a second behind the Repsol Honda duo. “Well, it went better than Sepang, the gap to the front isn’t quite as big—but it’s still big,” admitted Spies. “We had a good test, ended up third, but we need to see what happens Sunday, that’s the most important thing. I don’t know, it’s hard to determine what’s going on with all the riders, we haven’t been on the track from lap one on fresh tires and seeing what happens to the bikes over 22 laps, so right now we’re not in a bad position. We definitely—me and Jorge—need to be closer to the front, but the guys up front, Dani and Casey, are really rollin’. We’re doing the best we can, and hopefully we can make the bike better; we still have four days of riding again until the race, so plenty of time, we’ll just keep working at it. But we’re definitely in a lot better position than last year, and more confident. Looking forward to it, we just need to get closer to the front. We’re obviously not in a bad position, but to think about winning the race for me is not out of the question, but we still have to make another step for sure. To reach those two, we do have quite a bit of a gap that we need to figure out; but we have plenty of time to do that.”
Jorge Lorenzo struggled on...
Jorge Lorenzo struggled on the second night at Qatar, ending up a frustrated seventh.
Not only did reigning MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo once again end up behind his new teammate Spies, but this time he was even farther back than before, ending up a frustrated seventh. “I was really hoping that things were going to be better than yesterday, but today we didn’t improve the lap time or the bike’s overall feel, which was much worse than yesterday,” lamented Lorenzo. “We are farther back than yesterday, and the feelings are not good. We made a race simulation with a soft tire on the rear, and from the middle of the test to the end I was going slower and slower, so we need to improve the bike setup. We’re going to try last year’s race setup in practice to see if that helps. Right now I don’t feel confident of being in the battle for the win, so it’s going to be difficult to fight for the podium, but we’re going to try.”
2011 MotoGP Qatar test Day 2 results:
1. Casey Stoner (AUS) Honda 1:55.681
2. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Honda 1:55.745
3. Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha 1:56.294
4. Marco Simoncelli (ITA) Honda 1:56.433
5. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Honda 1:56.439
6. Randy De Puniet (FRA) Ducati 1:56.445
7. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha 1:56.707
8. Colin Edwards (USA) Yamaha 1:56.716
9. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati 1:56.726
10. Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Honda 1:56.740
11. Hector Barbera (SPA) Ducati 1:56.798
12. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Suzuki 1:56.931
13. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Ducati 1:56.988
14. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Ducati 1:57.345
15. Cal Crutchlow (UK) Yamaha 1:57.730
16. Karel Abraham (CZE) Ducati 1:57.846
17. Toni Elias (SPA) Honda 1:58.536