This just in from Marc VDS:
Miller and Rabat chase speed ahead of Qatar qualifying
Low grip levels and a gusting wind meant Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS riders Jack Miller and Tito Rabat were unable to demonstrate their full potential on the second night of practice at the floodlit Losail International Circuit in Qatar.
Heavy rain and a surprise hailstorm in advance of tonight’s two 45-minute sessions left Miller and Rabat facing a slick and slippery surface when FP2 got underway at 6pm local time.
Despite the tricky and constantly changing track conditions, the two Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS riders both ended FP2 full of optimism after making big improvements in the second session. Australian Miller improved his pace from night one by an impressive 0.5s, which left him just under 0.4s outside of the top 10.
Confident he could mount a strong challenge for the top 10 to secure automatic passage into tomorrow evening’s Q2 session, Miller was unable to further improve his pace in the decisive FP3 session.
A strong wind blowing in from the surrounding desert landscape made it an incredibly complicated challenge to lap faster than the earlier session, with less than half of the 23-strong field able to improve their pace in FP3.
Rabat’s evening was a carbon copy of Miller’s experience, with a big improvement coming on a dirty and greasy track in FP2 before he was unable to find more crucial tenths in FP3. The Spaniard finished just 0.4s behind Miller on the combined rankings and he is optimistic he can beat his previous best premier class qualifying result of 18th in tomorrow night’s action.
Jack Miller: 16th – 1’55.958
“Grip has been the main issue throughout the whole weekend but I don’t think my lap time in FP3 reflects my feeling on the bike or where I think we should be. I feel we have got a lot more speed than I showed. In FP2 I felt really good and I could improve my pace by a substantial margin, even though track conditions were a lot worse than last night. I was confident I could improve again in FP3 but when I put in a new soft rear tyre I felt it lacked a little bit of grip. And it was hard to improve the time because the wind had drastically picked up. Managing the bike became a lot harder and it has not been ideal for lap times but I felt with last night’s crash I’d blown my chance of challenging for Q2 a little bit when the track was in its best condition. I’ll keep pushing and hopefully I can come through Q1.”
Tito Rabat: 19th – 1’56.368
“I feel quite strong on the bike but the issue is that in the second session you start to see some humidity on the visor. And then you see some crashes and it makes you be calmer. I feel we have made good progress throughout the weekend so far but we know we have to improve further. I understand in my head where we can improve and that was not the case for most of last season. Last year I had so many crashes and sometimes it is better to take a step back to try and be calmer and cleverer to be more competitive. If I can find more pace in turns 12, 13 and 14 then I know we can make a good race and be fighting in a strong group.”
Diego Gubellini: Chief Engineer – Tito Rabat
“Tito is aware that it is easy to crash in the very difficult conditions like we experienced in both sessions tonight, and that is the last thing he needs after the big crash at the first test in Sepang. He has done a great job in fully understanding the conditions before he felt comfortable to try and push for a lap time. His physical condition is still not back to 100%, so he can’t push at his normal level, particularly in the fast changes of direction here. In FP3 he couldn’t improve his lap time but there are still plenty of positives for us to take into qualifying tomorrow night. We are working hard to make him as comfortable as possible on the bike and to help find a good set-up for him after he missed some of the pre-season testing with injury. I am sure we can take another decent step forward tomorrow night.”