MotoGP™ bikes are back on track and on screens as the paddock heads to Doha for the Official Qatar Test, with the premier class riders turning their wheels in anger for the first time since Portimão’s 2020 curtain closer.
The track action for the first official test took place on 5-7 March. The second official test will be taking place this week, on 10-12 March, with plenty of ways to stay updated. Full live TV coverage is not available, but motogp.com has a huge range of content – including a 90-minute LIVE episode of After the Flag at the end of each day for VideoPass subscribers.
Presenters Neil Morrison and Louis Suddaby will take the reins at the Barcelona HQ to talk through the action, with pitlane reporter and 500cc Grand Prix winner Simon Crafar offering his expert analyses on the ground. Live interviews will be coming in thick and fast as the riders debrief what they learned.
So what’s new?
A lot. One of the biggest headlines is Valentino Rossi’s move to Petronas Yamaha SRT alongside Franco Morbidelli, with Fabio Quartararo moving to Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team to partner Maverick Viñales. All remain on Yamahas but the shuffle is sure to prove an interesting one. Yamaha also brings new test rider Cal Crutchlow to Qatar for testing, as well as Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Kohta Nozane.
At the Ducati Lenovo Team, it’s all change as Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia move into the factory team and the other Borgo Panigale machines on the grid also greet new faces.
Johann Zarco moves to Pramac Racing and has rookie Jorge Martin alongside him, with Avintia also welcoming two rookies: reigning Moto2™ Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) and his former Moto2™ challenger Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia). Test rider Michele Pirro will also be present for Ducati at the test.
There are a fair few headlines at KTM too. Miguel Oliveira moves into Red Bull KTM Factory Racing alongside Brad Binder, with both now premier class Grand Prix winners and eager to get going. Danilo Petrucci arrives at Tech3 KTM Factory Racing alongside Iker Lecuona to lend another wealth of experience, and the test will also welcome back MotoGP™ Legend Dani Pedrosa as he continues his development work for the Austrian factory.
For Suzuki, meanwhile, the line-up remains the same. Reigning Champion Joan Mir and Team Suzuki Ecstar teammate Alex Rins hit reset as they try and gear up for another assault on the top, and at the test, they’ll have experienced test rider Sylvain Guintoli on duty, as well as Takuya Tsuda. After discovering such a winning formula in 2020, the Hamamatsu factory will likely be doubling down on that.
At Honda, we won’t be seeing Marc Marquez back on track for the Repsol Honda Team just yet, but new teammate Pol Espargaro will be a headline by himself as he settles in. Espargaro will be joined by Stefan Bradl for the test as the experienced German remains the Honda test rider. Alex Marquez, meanwhile, settles into LCR Honda Castrol for 2021, joining LCR Honda Idemitsu’s Takaaki Nakagami.
Aprilia, with a new bike last year and plenty on the testing programme, retains their line-up this season. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) will be eager to get going, and he’s joined in Qatar for the test by both Lorenzo Savadori and Bradley Smith as the Noale factory get down to work.
Qatar Test: Aleix Espargaro tops Day 1, every factory in Top 7
After the first day of action for the full grid at the Official MotoGP™ Qatar Test, it’s safe to say 2021 has started pretty well for Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini as they finish top of the timesheets. The Spaniard set a 1:54.687 to beat Stefan Bradl (Honda Test Team) by 0.256s, with reigning World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) completing the top three as the new MotoGP™ season officially got underway.
Quartararo and Miller split by just 0.077 on Day 2
Day 2 is done and dusted at the Official MotoGP™ Qatar Test and it is Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Fabio Quartararo back in a familiar position: the top. The Frenchman was the first and so far the only rider to dip into the 1:53s, but it was mighty close as Ducati Lenovo Team’s Jack Miller ended the day less than a tenth off. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was up at the sharp end on the brand-new RS-GP once again, this time in third but just 0.212s off Quartararo.
More updates and live-action details at motogp.com.
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