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MotoGP, Qatar: Vinales back on top, Dovizioso and Iannone 2nd and 3rd

THE TIMES. Yamaha, Ducati and Suzuki monopolise the timesheets: Lorenzo is 5th, Rossi 7th while Marquez (10th) chases

MotoGP: Qatar: Vinales back on top, Dovizioso and Iannone 2nd and 3rd

They were hoping for answers at the Losail test but it seems that, rather than clarifying the situation, the sessions have only served to make things more complicated. Looking at day one's results, Yamaha seems to have risen again, Ducati has confirmed expectations and Honda seems to have taken a step backwards. But is this for real?

Historically, the Qatar track has always been a friend to Yamaha and Ducati and so it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to see three M1s and the same number of Ducatis in the top seven. Honda, meanwhile, has always struggled and so we see the RC213V bikes playing catch-up in a “Moto3 classification” that sees 16 riders in the space of a second.

The Iwata manufacturer, after the setbacks in Thailand, breathes a sigh of relief as Vinales sets the fastest time of the day, in 1’55”053, followed by Zarco in fourth (a 0”133) and Rossi seventh (a 0”379). The issues seen at Buriram have not arisen and the two factory riders were the only guys to attempt a long run today.

Twelve laps for Maverick, with fluctuating times but increasing pace. Valentino completed ten in a row, all inside 1’56”, a good result. Johann made shorter but equally convincing exits.

That's Yamaha and now for Ducati, with Dovizioso once again doing the better job, setting the second fastest time, just 0.051 from Vinales. Andrea tested the winged fairing before returning to the standard solution, he made brief exits but was consistently quick.

Lorenzo in Qatar has forgotten the problems of Buriram and closes fifth, focusing on work on the GP18, having made a brief return to the 2017 model in Thailand. Jorge didn't hold back and was one of the last to leave the track, continuously improving his rhythm. The same goes for Petrucci, who now has two 2018 bikes in the garage. He closes 8th , 0”475 from Maverick. Miller meanwhile proved less convincing than usual, 12th for the Australian, 0”635 from the front.

The surprise though lies in seeing Suzuki in third place with Iannone. The GSX-RR already showed signs of improvement in Thailand, but with Rins. In Qatar, Andrea seems to have got to grips with it and the fact he closes just 0.054 from Vinales proves this. The Italian was quick on the flying lap but it's hard to evaluate his pace which fluctuated, though he appeared more consistent during the final hour. Team-mate Alex Rins was lying further back until the final stages, when he moved up into sixth place, setting the same time as Valentino.

As we've said, Honda is playing catch-up with Crutchlow, Marquez and Pedrosa placing 9th to 11th. Marc has expected this: Losail is a tough track for the Tokyo bike. Aside from the positions, the gap is fairly contained, around half a second (0”483 for Cal, 0”492 for the world champ and 0”502 for Dani).

Looking beyond single lap times, Marquez proved to have a very consistent pace. A complicated day for Pedrosa though, with the Spaniard crashing at turn 12 and then turn 2. The second incident was more violent and caused Dani to lose a great deal of time, though he was fortunately unhurt.

Further down the timesheets, we note the good 14th time for Nakagami (8 tenths from the front) behind Bautista. The Japanese was the best rookie on a day complicated by a crash for Morbidelli. Franco was improving his time when a crash took him down at turn 14. he therefore had to settle for 21st place ahead of a convincing Syahrin who, on his fourth day riding a MotoGP, put both Luthi and Simeon behind him.

Back to the standings and, in the Aprilia camp, Redding is faster than Espargarò for the first time. The RS-GP, with the 2017 engine, didn't exactly shine though as Scott is only 15th (0”878) and Espargarò 17th (a 1”009), Rabat between them. KTM will also have expected more, Pol Espargarò (returning after his Sepang injury) is 19th ahead of Smith.

THE TIMES

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Translated by Heather Watson

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