It’s time for the final pre-season test for the Moto2™ and Moto3™ classes, with action opening this Friday, 6 March, at Losail International Circuit.
The three-day event is the last chance for veterans and rookies alike to get ready for the season, with only a week to go before the lights go out… and there remains many a card on the table yet to be played.
In Moto2™, it was Tom Lüthi (Liqui Moly Intact GP) on top last time out in Jerez as the Swiss veteran bettered the lap record before we’ve even raced a lap. That bodes well for his campaign, with Lüthi only serving to confirm his status as a likely title contender this season. But he wasn’t the only headline stealer, as sophomore Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) was second overall after going fastest on Day 2 – and many of those who were rookies in 2019 impressed, including Bezzecchi and compatriot Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Speed Up Racing).
Experience also shone through with some pace on show from the likes of Jorge Navarro (Speed Up Racing), Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing), however. And the likes of Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) and Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) may not yet have shown their hands.
On the other end of the spectrum though, there was one man who raised some real eyebrows: Aron Canet (Aspar Team). The rookie was fifth overall in Jerez and seems to have hit the ground running this year, so can he continue that trend in the desert? Three days of track time remain before Rookie of the Year gets in gear.
In Moto3™, meanwhile, it was another of those coming into their own who topped the timesheets: Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia). The Japanese rider came on song mid-way through 2019 and appears to have kept the momentum rolling right through winter, breaking the lap record at Jerez. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) was only 0.050 off though, with Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) completing the top three ahead of Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse). Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was next up in fifth, creating another interesting stand off between experienced veterans and sophomore pacesetters in the Moto3™ class.
The leading rookie in the lightweight class at Jerez also impressed: Yuki Kunii. He made it two Honda Team Asia bikes in the top ten to make top reading for them, and was around seven tenths in arrears. Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) and Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) were in P10 and P13 respectively and will want to lay down more of a marker in the last track action before the battle for Rookie of the Year begins in earnest.
Much as we wait to see some of the more experienced runners in Moto2™ show their hands, so do we expect to see a little more from some key players in Moto3™ and the likes Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team), Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) and Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech 3). Plenty of eyes will also be back on the returning Husqvarna machines of Sterilgarda Max Racing Team’s Romano Fenati and Alonso Lopez as they finished with a bigger deficit to the top by the end of the test than that with which they began.
Jerez gave us an appetiser and Qatar may well prove the starter, with three days of track time remaining before the flag drops and the testing stops. Who will come out swinging in the desert?
Check motogp.com to stay up to date.