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MOTOGP PRESEASON CONCLUDES IN QATAR
DRIVE M7 Aspar Team complete winter testing inside the top 10 and improve lap times for third consecutive day
Nine intense days of pre-season testing concluded today at the Losail International circuit in Qatar and ready or not the MotoGP riders and teams will be back to kick off the 2014 season here in two weeks' time. The final night of three here in Doha presented the best track conditions of the whole test and the top two riders (the Espargaro brothers) lapped inside the circuit record (1.55.153 - Casey Stoner). Despite the good conditions the eagerness of some riders to end the session with a fast time led to a host of crashes, with Pol Espargaro suffering a broken collarbone.
The DRIVE M7 Aspar Team followed a similar program to the previous two days here, getting work underway at 6pm and continuing without rest until 11. Nicky Hayden completed 44 laps during that time whilst his teammate Hiroshi Aoyama managed 56. For the third consecutive evening the American finished in ninth position, clocking his best time over the three days on lap 37, a 1.56.273 representing an improvement of six tenths on yesterday. One position below him on the timesheets, Hiroshi Aoyama also set his best lap late this evening.
9th Nicky Hayden 1.56.273 (44 laps): "Today we found some more improvements and I was able to set more laps in the 1'56s. We have worked more with the tyres and made some setting changes thinking ahead to the race and also qualifying. We tried changing bikes in pitlane and I also did some practice starts. In the end I set my fastest time of the test, which is positive even though the gap to the top is still very big, especially when you consider that the top riders are not here. We have worked hard and found some good things but we still need to take a big step forward in terms of the power. It's not right that we should be losing half a second on the straights. We know what HRC is capable of so I am confident that we will soon have some more improvements. As far as we're concerned we will continue working to get all of the potential out of this motorcycle."
10th Hiroshi Aoyama 1.57.006 (56 laps): This brings to an end nine days of testing between Qatar and Malaysia. Little by little we have improved during this period and I have also tried to adapt to the team and to my new bike. This weekend's test has been very important because in two weeks we have the first race of the season here. Tonight we have tried to improve the setting for the race and we have also been able to improve the feeling in corner exit, which has been a problem here for the last couple of days. We have a lot of information and a plan now in place for the race. In general am happy with the way we are moving, we just need to get the bike turning a little bit better so that I feel more confidence in the corners. Stability is good but we must continue to improve."
Tech3's Espargaro and Smith wrap up pre-season in top 3 at Qatar
Monster Yamaha Tech3 riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith concluded their pre-season testing today at the final session in Qatar. Both riders optimised the track time to finish the test, feeling optimistic ahead of the opening MotoGP race on the 23rd March.
Reigning Moto2 World Champion Pol Espargaro finished his pre-season impressively having completed the session in 2nd place. The young Spanish rider confidently set about completing quick laps, running a race simulation and continuing his learning process by trying different setup modifications of his Yamaha YZR-M1. However, the premier class rookie made a very small error whilst changing gears going into turn 6 at the end of the session, and ran on at the corner, before falling in the gravel. Even though it was a small crash, he broke his left collarbone and will now fly back home tomorrow for examination and possible surgery. Despite this, the Spaniard's hard work over the testing period with his new Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team, was evident as his final time was less than two tenths of a second off Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo's pole position qualifying time set last year. Espargaro completed this week's test session with a best time of 1:54.907, after completing 45 laps.
Young British rider Bradley Smith completed a successful pre-season today at the Losail circuit having worked relentlessly in preparation for the first race. Smith explored different options on his Monster Yamaha Tech3, Yamaha YZR-M1 across the testing period, and leaves the track feeling confident and with his intentions firmly set for 2014. He continued today with finalising some small changes to the geometry of his MotoGP bike as well as running race simulations. Despite having a small fall at the beginning of his long run in the latter stages of the session, the young British rider was uninjured and completed 55 laps in total. Smith finished in 3rd place, with a best time of 1:55.027.
The opening race of the MotoGP 2014 season begins under the floodlights on the 23rd March at the Losail Circuit, Qatar.
Pol Espargaro - 1:54.907 - 2nd:
"We can be happy with the job we did today as we made some very good steps forward. At the early stages of the session we found a better setting which allowed me to improve my time with the new tyres, and I could lower me lap time quite a lot. Also, the rhythm I had during the race simulation was much better than yesterday. Of course, the crash at the end of the session was a bit unlucky. I made a mistake whilst changing down the gears going into the corner, which meant I had to go straight ahead and then crashed in the gravel. I am still very confident and positive about the test and I will be back here in two weeks ready to race".
Bradley Smith - 1:55.027 - 3rd:
"Overall, I am really pleased with how the winter went for us. Today at Qatar, we decided to do a race simulation at 10:00pm which we thought was the best time to compare to the race weekend. We made some alterations midway through and I was able to go out again with the same tyres in the final fifteen minutes. I am feeling happy with what was achieved here and this means that we are definitely hitting the ground running. The next step is just some slight fine tuning. The desert is always a bit unpredictable but we are prepared. We have done a lot of very good laps, and I am really excited for round one".
Herve Poncharal - Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team Owner:
"This test has once again proved that we are at the start of a very exciting Championship with many riders fighting for the top positions, and I'm glad to say that we are among them. Pol and Bradley both did a very good job during the pre-season, with each of them having different aims. Pol needed to adapt as quickly as possible to the bike, and he still has a long way to go, but I'm sure he will give us great pleasure doing the season and surprise us at some races. Of course he has been unlucky to crash in such an unfortunate way and hurt himself, but with the determination he has shown so far there is no doubt that he will be back here for the race and ready to give his all. Bradley on the other hand, used the various test sessions to improve different aspects of the bike which he was struggling with during the last season. When we look at his race pace at the moment, we are confident in saying that he did a great job. So, I'm really pleased and satisfied with the work of the whole team and we are all looking forward to the moment when the starting lights turn green on this track, in two weeks".
BRADL 4th QUICKEST AT THE END OF 3-DAY QATAR PRE SEASON TEST
Doha, 9 March: the three day of pre-season test held at the floodlit 5.380 km Losail circuit in Qatar came to a close at 23:00 local time tonight with Aleix Espargaro recording the best lap time of the whole session (1'54.874). The 17 MotoGP riders continued their busy schedules to try and ensure their prototypes are prepared in time for the first race at the circuit in just over two weeks. LCR Honda MotoGP racer Stefan Bradl had to deal with two crashes but the race simulation confirmed his good pace on used tyres. He ended the last pre season test with the 4th fastest lap time (1'55.187) still looking for some added grip to drop a further few tenths on new rubber.
Stefan: "Today was very tough for me and the Team. Unfortunately I crashed twice (once during the race simulation) but overall we are not far from the top so I can leave Qatar with a good base for the first race. On used tyres we are strong and consistent but the issue with the new rear tyre is still there. We could not solve the problem completely but this seems to be a common problem for Honda riders. When we arrived here our target was not the fastest lap but the adjustment of the bike and I think we did a good job so far".
Scott ends preseason testing with first MotoGP race simulation
Scott Redding ended the final preseason test of 2014 in Qatar with his first race simulation aboard the Honda RCV1000R he'll campaign in Team Go & Fun Honda Gresini colours this season.
The 21-year-old Briton completed 20 consecutive laps of the 5.4km Losail International Circuit that, in just two weeks time, will play host to the opening round of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship.
Scott's lap times were consistent over the first part of his 20-lap run, increasing only slightly as tyre performance dropped off towards the end of his race simulation.
The MotoGP rookie improved his lap time once again on the final day, posting a time of 1'57.009 to end the three-day test 11th on the timesheet.
Scott Redding // 1'57.009 // 50 Laps
"Today we didn't make any changes to the bike, focussing instead on our race simulation. It was good to get my first long run on the MotoGP bike done and I'm pretty satisfied with the performance. I was able to maintain a consistent pace and my lap times weren't bad at all compared to the times of Nicky Hayden, who remains our reference. Tyre performance dropped off towards the end of the race simulation, which we need to work to improve, but I remain confident ahead of the first race."
WINTER TESTING ENDS FOR TEAM GO&FUN HONDA GRESINI WITH VALUABLE RACE SIMULATIONS
The official MotoGP Winter Tests came to an end today at the Losail circuit: both riders of Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini, Alvaro Bautista and Scott Redding, spent the final day of testing trying an important race simulation.
Despite a small crash as he lost the front at Turn 4 halfway through the session, Bautista was able to complete his long run of 22 consecutive laps: unfortunately, Alvaro couldn't keep the pace he desired, due to the persistence of some grip issues that the team will try to overcome during the race weekend. Alvaro finished the day with the fifth best time, 1'55"232.
Scott Redding today had the opportunity to complete his first race simulation aboard a MotoGP bike, a very useful experience ahead his top class debut: the Briton completed 20 consecutive laps, keeping a good pace in the first part of the long run, while in the latter part his times have risen slightly. Today Scott finished the test with a best time of 1'57"009.
ALVARO BAUTISTA (1'55"232 - 50 LAPS)
"In today's race simulation we have collected some very important data to work on during the first Grand Prix weekend, although we still encountered some problems, like in the first two days of testing here at Losail. We are still struggling because of the lack of grip at the rear, and moreover halfway through the full race distance, the tyre performance starts to drop. Our pace is better compared to last year's Grand Prix, and this is positive, but in two weeks we absolutely want to improve. Before the long run I crashed as I lost the front, but fortunately it was nothing serious, so that later I managed to complete the simulation".
SCOTT REDDING (1'57"009 - 50 LAPS)
"I'm pleased that I got my first ever MotoGP race simulation under my belt today, and I'm also satisfied with my performance. I was able to maintain a steady pace and my lap times - compared with that of Nicky Hayden, who is still our reference - they were not bad at all. We are therefore confident ahead of the first race, although we noticed a drop of the tyre performance in the second half of the long run, so we need work to improve this. In this last day I didn't make any change to the bike, because we focused on the race simulation: it was important for us to complete a first long run, and we did it well".
"Today we were able to complete all the planned working program, making a race simulation with both riders. Unfortunately, Bautista had a small crash before his long run, so this episode certainly has influenced him a bit. However, with Alvaro we couldn't keep the pace that we wanted: we need to work hard on the bike looking for more grip if we want to be more competitive. As for Scott, I am very happy with how he behaved during his first long run: he proved its ability to maintain a good pace, setting his best time during the simulation. Unfortunately, at this time his bike pays an important gap in terms of performance from other 'Open' machines, and this must be taken into consideration".