Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) led the Honda charge at the final 2018 preseason tests, with the Briton putting the finishing touches to his bike set-up and posting an impressive lap that suggests he can do great things this year.
Crutchlow ended the three-day outing, which was held partly at night under the Losail floodlights, with the fourth fastest time, just 0.428 seconds behind the best lap.
But more important than one-off fastest laps is the feedback of Honda’s top riders, which confirms the early impressions of the 2018 RC213V engine and gives real confidence ahead of the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix on March 18.
These three days in Qatar were also largely positive for reigning World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V), who was seventh fastest, and team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V), who was 12th, just 0.745 seconds off the fastest time.
The Spanish Repsol duo didn’t post eye-catching lap times today, but both men showed good race pace, with the Losail International Circuit’s long front straight demonstrating the impressive power of the 2018 Honda engine.
HRC’s three experienced riders can confidently consider themselves as potential race winners, with Marquez aiming to take a fifth MotoGP crown and Crutchlow and Pedrosa also in the mix, aiming for race wins and title success.
The schedule for MotoGP’s only night-time event has been adjusted for 2018, with the MotoGP race brought forward two hours to a start time of 7pm. This test provided riders with the chance to experiment with set-ups and tire combinations relevant to the slightly higher race temperatures they will encounter on March 18.
Crutchlow has been in superb form at all three preseason tests, at Sepang, Chang and Losail. After disciplining himself to go through a strict diet while covering around an incredible 7,000km on his pushbike during the winter months, the former World Supersport champion is trimmer than he’s ever been.
The 32-year-old has really taken to the latest RC213V engine, enjoying the benefits of its increased peak power and more measured acceleration. At Losail he has shown impressive race-pace consistency, making him a podium contender for the first race.
Marquez grows in maturity and confidence, so the 25-year-old hasn’t been fixated on posting the quickest lap time at the end of each day. Instead his focus was consistency and fine-tuning his set-up for the first race. Although he admits that Losail is one of his more difficult tracks he has shown the consistency that’s key to a good result.
Always spectacular and pushing to the bike’s limits, Marquez pulled off several miraculous saves during the tests here. On one occasion his data showed that he was carrying 66 degrees of lean angle; two more than his famous save during last year’s Valencia Grand Prix, when he used both knee and elbow to save a crash.
Marquez also assessed Honda’s new aerodynamic package on the second day of the three-day outing, with some positive results. HRC’s engineers must now decide on a definitive design that will be homologated by MotoGP’s Technical Director before the first race.
Pedrosa’s test was somewhat affected by two crashes on the opening day. The double 250cc World Champion slipped off at the final turn and then the second corner, suffering a minor hand injury. The veteran – who’s the only rider to have won at least one Grand Prix victory over 16 consecutive seasons – hopes that his on-track and off-track preparations will propel him toward a championship challenge.
Reigning Moto2 World Champion Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS RC213V) ended the final test as quickest rookie, with a fantastic showing that saw him place 12th overall. The Italian looked jubilant as he made considerable progress in extracting the maximum from a soft rear tire, an issue with which he had struggled in the previous two tests.
That feat, coupled with his pace on used tires, leaves Morbidelli in a confident frame of mind as he approaches his first race as a MotoGP rider. The 23-year old is certain he can fight for a point-scoring finish from the first race.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) was the rookie sensation of the previous tests at Chang, Thailand, but had a slightly more difficult three days at Losail. Continuing his adaption to a MotoGP bike, the two-times Moto2 race winner fell twice and knows he needs to make further adjustments to his riding technique.
Morbidelli’s team-mate Thomas Luthi (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS RC213V) has been playing catch-up after suffering a problematic injury towards the end of 2017. The Swiss rider had to sit out tests in Valencia and Jerez, while his body healed and his rivals commenced with preparations.
Luthi is aware that he must be patient as a MotoGP rookie, so his plan is to make small, incremental steps, while not attempting too much, too soon.
Riders and teams now have just under two weeks to complete their preparations for the first round of the 2018 season. For the 12th consecutive year the Losail International Circuit hosts MotoGP’s curtain raiser, the first of 19 races, which will visit 15 countries and five continents.
|1||Johann ZARCO (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)|
|2||Valentino ROSSI (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)|
|3||Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)|
|4||Cal CRUTCHLOW (LCR Honda CASTROL)|
|5||Maverick VIÑALES (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)|
|6||Andrea IANNONE (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR)|
|7||Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)|
|8||Alex RINS (Team SUZUKI ECSTAR)|
|9||Danilo PETRUCCI (Alma Pramac Racing)|
|10||Jorge LORENZO (Ducati Team)|
|11||Jack MILLER (Alma Pramac Racing)|
|12||Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)|
|13||Franco MORBIDELLI (EG 0,0 Marc VDS)|
|14||Bradley SMITH (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)|
|15||Aleix ESPARGARO (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)|
|16||Hafizh SYAHRIN (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)|
|17||Karel ABRAHAM (Angel Nieto Team)|
|18||Alvaro BAUTISTA (Angel Nieto Team)|
|19||Tito RABAT (Reale Avintia Racing)|
|20||Pol ESPARGARO (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)|
|21||Takaaki NAKAGAMI (LCR Honda IDEMITSU)|
|22||Scott REDDING (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)|
|23||Xavier SIMEON (Reale Avintia Racing)|
|24||Tom LUTHI (EG 0,0 Marc VDS)|
|25||Mika KALLIO (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)|