Anticipation is continuing to build ahead of the 2020 MotoGP™ season opener in Qatar after an intriguing three-day testing period in the same nation.
Riders followed up three days of testing in Sepang earlier this month with more track time at the Losail International Circuit and the action has set the scene nicely for the new season.
The early signs at Honda are not fantastic as six-time world champion Marc Marquez prepares to defend his title, one of many key takeaways from the action in Qatar.
Competitive season on the cards
Less than one second split Maverick Vinales – the fastest man on day three in Qatar – and LCR Honda Castrol’s Cal Crutchlow in 18th.
That has raised hopes of fans ahead of the new season and seven-time MotoGP™ world champion Valentino Rossi said the competitiveness of the field was “incredible”.
“This is very good for the championship and for the fans that will follow the races because there looks to be a lot of balance between different riders and different bikes,” he said.
Honda asking questions
Yamaha and Suzuki appear ahead of their rivals after the action in Qatar, leaving Honda off the pace.
Crutchlow pulled no punches in his assessment of his bike, saying: “The way you have to ride the bike to stay on the bike is quite amateur. You have to ride really slow.”
Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez, still on the comeback trail after shoulder surgery, added that “in this racetrack, we are worried” as the Honda’s did not match the pace of their rivals.
That Honda gave Marc Marquez one of LCR Honda Castrol rider Takaaki Nakagami’s year-old bikes to ride on day three in Qatar said it all.
The reigning world champion battled throughout testing and even crashed, while his younger brother, Alex, had multiple incidents and was 21st, 19th and 21st through the three days.
Vinales and Quartararo to be most confident
Petronas Yamaha SRT rider Fabio Quartararo headed to Qatar full of optimism after topping the timesheets on all three days at Sepang.
He managed it one more time in Qatar, too, regularly fighting with Maverick Vinales at the top of the leaderboard in the Middle East.
Vinales took out the honours on day three, ahead of fellow Yamaha rider Franco Morbidelli, as Quartararo dropped back to fourth.
Vinales and Quartararo will be extremely pleased with their testing efforts, though, and should start the first race in a particularly good frame of mind.
Miller finishes on a high
After going round 13th quickest on Saturday and 15th on Sunday, Aussie Jack Miller finished strongly and was fifth quickest on day three.
It was a positive way to finish in Qatar for Miller, who rode 69 laps on Sunday and was the best performed Ducati rider.
“It was good to have the opportunity to put in some fast laps today and finish the test up the pointy end,” he said on Twitter.
“I’m feeling quietly confident coming into the season opener … our race pace was pretty consistent today!”
Rins looking good
Suzuki rider Alex Rins broke through for two wins in 2019, the highlights of an impressive season in which he finished fourth in the world championship.
Rins showed excellent signs in Qatar, too, going fastest on day one in a one-two with Team Suzuki Ecstar teammate Joan Mir.
Rins was then second quickest on Sunday, before finishing third fastest on the final day.