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Miller turns the tables on Quartararo as testing resumes in Qatar

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The pace hots up in the desert as MotoGP™ gets back on track, with two familiar names beating the lap record at Losail International Circuit

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After two days off, Wednesday welcomed the grid back down to business in Doha as the third day of official MotoGP™ testing got underway... and it was an absolute scorcher. The all-time lap record at Losail International Circuit fell first courtesy of Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), but late on Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) hit back to go even quicker. The Australian stormed his way to a 1:53.183 to finish 0.080s ahead, making that a new – although unofficial, since it's testing – lap record. Maverick Viñales made it two Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP bikes inside the top three in P3, although a couple of tenths further back.

Thankfully for all the riders and teams, the second leg of the Qatar Test was greeted by the best weather conditions we’ve seen since the paddock landed in Doha. The wind wasn’t causing issues, the sun was shining before setting and the riders were raring to get going again after two days on the sidelines.

At Ducati, Miller stole the headlines once again but after seeing the factory riders testing the intriguing new Ducati aero, Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) was giving it a whirl on Wednesday. Judging by the timesheets – although not all his laps were with the new package – the Frenchman was feeling good as he slotted into fourth overall with exactly the same laptime as Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team). Zarco was “pretty happy” with the progress being made, and the Frenchman added that the GP21 has “huge potential” – promising signs for the Bologna factory.

Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) ended Day 3 in P9 as the third fastest Desmosedici rider on track, putting in 51 laps as he ended the day 1.053s off Miller’s time. Bagnaia was concentrating on his longer run pace and made a big step compared to the first two days of testing; pleased with his work on Wednesday.

A little further down the ranks, Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama Racing) was the fastest rookie in P14, finishing ahead of Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol), Stefan Bradl (Honda Test Team) and Danilo Petrucci (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) – impressive to say the least. The reigning Moto2™ World Champion was also just 0.120s behind nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and is settling into MotoGP™ life very well indeed.

The other two Ducati-riding rookies are looking great too. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) improved his previous best time by half a second and has been checking Miller and Zarco’s data, confirming that in “three or four corners” he could immediately go faster. Martin placed P19 with a 1:55.010, with Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia) only three tenths behind Martin in P22.

In the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP camp, a new mudguard and front fork covers were getting put through their paces. Both Quartararo and Viñales were also doing back-to-back runs on the new and old chassis to get some final confirmation on whether any improvements have been made. The factory duo finished P2 and P3, with Viñales completing the most laps of anyone on Day 3. The Spaniard did suffer a crash at Turn 1 but rider ok, and he was also doing plenty of practice starts at the end of pitlane so it was a busy day.

Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi both finished outside the top 10 as the Italians ended the day 1.1 and 1.4 seconds adrift of the best time, respectively, but the focus was not time attacks. Rossi’s main concern was the rear grip previously, and The Doctor said that the new chassis was much closer to the 2020 one, rather than the 2019 one. 

Meanwhile, Pol Espargaro’s adaptation to the Honda continues to be seamless. The Spaniard was leading the way at midday and eventually snuck into the 1:53s on just his third day on the RC213V. The number 44 is already only half a second shy of Marc Marquez’s official all-time lap record in Qatar. The new Repsol Honda kid on the block was also seen using Honda’s carbon bonded chassis and that could point towards that being chosen as the way forward. All in all, 53 laps were completed by Pol Espargaro on Day 3.

On the other side of the Repsol-liveried garage, Stefan Bradl’s day ended early after a crash at Turn 2 left the German with some pain in his neck. LCR Honda Idemitsu’s Takaaki Nakagami also crashed, as did LCR Honda Castrol’s Alex Marquez, making it seven crashes between them in the Qatar Test. Nakagami was the quicker of the two and snuck into the top 10 though, and on a day where he tested some new items. The Japanese rider reported that they were working very well in some areas but that more time is needed, in his opinion, to confirm which chassis is the one to go with. He has a "much better" feeling on the bike than on Saturday and Sunday. Teammate Alex Marquez finished P15 on the timesheets. 

Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini once again ended the day towards the summit. The all-new RS-GP in the hands of the Spaniard ended the day P6, although the number 41 completed the lowest number of laps of any full-time rider – 31. A couple of technical issues and a small crash on new tyres hampered his day, and he's hoping for fewer problems tomorrow to complete the programme and do a race simulation. MotoGP™ rookie Lorenzo Savadori completed 39 laps to finish the day 25th, another day of valuable track time for the Italian.

Down at World Champions Team Suzuki Ecstar, we saw an extra set of fairings on the side of their bikes, with Joan Mir and Alex Rins claiming P7 and P8 on the timesheets. Between them, 120 laps were put in by the 2021 GSX-RR as the Hamamatsu factory continue to rattle through their busy testing schedule in Qatar. The big focus so far has been a new chassis and we’re still no nearer to knowing whether Suzuki have fixed their main 2020 Achilles heel – one-lap pace. Will Thursday and Friday welcome some time-attacks?

Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), meanwhile, was the leading KTM rider once again in P12. The gap between the Portuguese rider and Miller’s time was 1.343s and it’s fair to say it’s been a quiet test for the Austrian factory so far at the Losail International Circuit, with no hand shown. Oliveira's teammate Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) also suffered another crash at Turn 2, although he said he had started to get back a better feeling and just "seemed to be washing the front". The South African was P20 but said the team have a good direction to work in. A new swingarm and mudguard – that test rider and MotoGP™ Legend Dani Pedrosa has been testing – has been spotted on Binder’s bike, with the KTM runners also using the new, skinnier fairing once again.

Tech3 KTM Factory Racing’s Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona were P17 and P21 on the timesheets respectively, with Lecuona suffering a small crash at Turn 2 early doors. Lecuona is expecting Thursday will be better and admits he need more time with the bike, but the Spaniard has tried many new parts during the test. And, whilst not a rookie, Lecuona's first season was the shorter-than-normal 2020, so he's still lacking the normal experience by this stage – as is Binder, despite taking KTM's first premier class win in 2020.

The penultimate day of pre-season testing returns on Thursday afternoon from Losail International Circuit, so make sure to follow every lap with Live Timing from 12:00 CET. After that, there's plenty of analysis, reaction and interviews on After the Flag LIVE at 18:30 CET, so tune in on motogp.com!

What's 0.080 between friends? A target for Quartararo to hit tomorrow
Pol Espargaro seems to be settling in well
... and Aleix's pace is far from fading
Rins was hard at work - and play - for Suzuki as the Hamamatsu machines ended the day close together
Binder hasn't had the easiest start to the season but says he's starting to get in the groove
 

Published : March 10, 2021