The 'phoney' war is over for another year, with the final MotoGP pre-season test held at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar from March 2-4 ahead of the season opener back at the floodlit desert circuit on in two weeks' time (March 18-20).
For the second time in three official pre-season tests so far this year — the others held at Sepang and Phillip Island — Movistar Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo was the fastest rider at Losail, his best lap of 1:54.810 over half a second faster than Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati).
Ominously, Lorenzo also completed a sizzling 22-lap race simulation on day three, with the majority of laps in the low 1:56s and several in the 1:55s — even towards the end.
Behind Redding, Ecstar's Suzuki Maverick Vinales completed the Losail shakedown in third position, followed by Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda), Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha), Andrea Iannone (Ducati), Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati), Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing Ducati) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda).
Australia's Jack Miller was 19th overall on his Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda, while Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati) was the only absentee from the test as he continues to recover from the wrist he injured at Phillip Island.
“Qatar has certainly been a test for us, trying to get to grips with everything and also having to contend with all the right hand corners, which were hard on my injured foot," said Miller." The injury is okay, still improving, but it definitely gave me a bit more grief here than at Phillip Island.
"It was also a difficult test in terms of the set up with the bike; I haven’t built up any confidence in the front tyre just yet and had a few moments just trying to stay on two wheels. We did find a few little things, but it’s still not where we want it to be and there is still some work to do. Hopefully we can find something between now and the first race so that we can come back here to Qatar a little bit stronger.”
On the final day in Qatar, a number of riders fell as they pushed for fast laps, including Rossi, Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda) multiple times, Aleix Espargaro (Ecstar Suzuki), Loris Baz (Avintia Racing Ducati), Barbera and Crutchlow, the latter heading to the Clinica Mobile for checks after his bike landed on him; he eventually got the all clear.
With the preliminaries now complete, here's the pre-season scorecard for all the riders:
- Jorge Lorenzo: 9/10. Fastest at Sepang and Losail and fourth at Phillip Island, he's now red-hot to begin his title defence.
- Valentino Rossi: 7/10: Didn't set the world on fire but the MotoGP icon was thereabouts on the timesheets, and you just now he'll flick the switch in round one.
- Marc Marquez: 8/10: Had his ups and downs, and the high point was being the pacesetter at Phillip Island — but eventually finding a strong setting at Losail also produced a broad smile.
- Dani Pedrosa: 6.5/10: Just etched his name into the top 10 once across the three tests, but the gap between himself and the front runners hasn't been huge.
- Andrea Iannone: 7/10: A big year ahead for the Italian as he looks to match consistent wits with the top brass, and he's set himself up with a solid pre-season.
- Andrea Dovizioso: 6/10: Took a while to bring all the pieces together, but started to show real improvement at Losail as a last-minute confidence booster.
- Maverick Vinales: 8.5/10: The Spaniard has matured markedly in just a few short months and, armed with a clearly more potent Suzuki, a new top gun may have arrived.
- Aleix Espargaro: 5.5/10: It's been a grind, but the pieces started to fall together at Losail as he got some real bite out of the chassis.
- Alvaro Bautista: 3/10: Low score also a part function of the Aprilia team sitting out one group test (Phillip Island) as it took a private route, but the late-arriving RS-16 machine has shown some early promise.
- Stefan Bradl: 3/10: Same deal for the German, who will have to scramble hard to get some competitive results on the board in the first half of the year.
- Jack Miller: 4.5/10. With the extreme level of competition in MotoGP, missing a pre-season (Sepang) is not ideal, and it showed. Was impressive at Phillip Island though, but will have to find confidence in the Honda's front end.
- Tito Rabat: 5/10: The only new rider in the 2016 MotoGP field went on a pre-season crash fest — and has been left with more questions than answers.
- Cal Crutchlow: 7/10. In the band of fast men throughout as he adapted well to the new spec electronics and Michelin tyres. Big last day crash in Losail wasn't fun, but he's okay.
- Scott Redding: 7/10: His decision to switch camps and bikes has already given him new lease of enthusiasm, and he heads into round one with plenty to look forward to.
- Danilo Petrucci: 5.5/10: Missed a test with injury so that dropped his score, but Sepang proved the GP15 Ducati will more than hold its own in 2016.
- Hector Barbera: 7.5/10: The veteran has really surprised with his pace, particularly at Sepang and Phillip Island. Primed for his best season in the MotoGP ranks yet.
- Loris Baz: 6/10: A 290km/h crash at Sepang didn't tickle — and wasn't his own fault — but the Frenchman's confidence wasn't dented and he bounced back well.
- Pol Espargaro: 6.5/10: Solid throughout without bringing the house down, but it all began to click for him in Qatar.
- Bradley Smith: 6/10: The Briton has been on a slow burn, but after a stellar 2015 he will be ready to give his all at the opener.
- Yonny Hernandez: 5.5/10: Outside the top the whole pre-season, but certainly not that far off the pace.
- Eugene Laverty: 4/10. Coming back from a broken wrist was challenging enough, so a big crash at Sepang testing wasn't the ideal back to work arrangement.
Images courtesy of MotoGP.com