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01/02/03 March 2018

Crutchlow Leads Honda Charge at Final Preseason Test

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.

Cal Crutchlowzoom
Cal Crutchlow
Marc Marquezzoom
Marc Marquez

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.

Dani Pedrosazoom
Dani Pedrosa
Franco Morbidellizoom
Franco Morbidelli
Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda CASTROL: 4th, 1m 54.457s
“Today was the third day of testing here and the final day before the season-opener. We had quite a positive feeling with the bike in the dry. We definitely need to improve, but at least the team has the information to work with Honda over the next couple of weeks, to evaluate the situation and see where we need to improve. We need to improve the front feeling with the bike, because although I was able to be fast and consistently fast, the front tire allocation is a bit of an issue, because it doesn’t suit us, so we need to look at this, because it will be very crucial. I did a 12-lap run, which I was quite happy with, despite some vibration from the tires. Overall we are happy enough with today’s performance. In the wet-weather test I though the vision was okay but track was really tricky, so we will discuss that in the Safety Commission.”
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team: 7th, 1m 54.591s
“Honestly, it’s difficult to say who will be my big rivals this season, because when we go to different circuits and even different times of the day, one guy is stronger, then another gets stronger when the temperature changes, so it’s difficult to understand where we are. But it looks like it will be a very competitive season, especially with my team-mate, with Cal, [Johann] Zarco and the Ducati guys especially Dovizioso. The wet tests we did tonight were interesting – the vision in the corners isn’t like normal; it’s a little bit special – it’s difficult to see the kerbs, but it’s okay for safety, so if it rains on race day, it’s possible to ride.”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team: 12th, 1m 54.774s
“I feel quite positive about this preseason – I’m quite happy overall with the pace and the work. We’ve been consistent in almost all conditions, which is good, although at this track, after my crashes on the first day, I had a bit of pain in my hands, so the last two days were a bit more difficult. In general, it’s been good. We can see that we struggle at this track more than most. However, we improved our pace, which is positive. And we saw how the track can change from grippy to not so grippy, according to the temperature. Now we must focus on our team and I think we can make some more improvements for the first race.”
Franco Morbidelli, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS: 13th, 1m 55.132s
“We made a fairly big change to the bike for the last part of the test yesterday, but today was more about refining the set-up with just a few small changes. Now we’ve had three days on this track and we’ve done a lot of laps, which has allowed us to improve our pace and this is the important thing. The three days here in Qatar have gone pretty well, we kept improving and I feel more comfortable with the bike, so it’s been a good way to end preseason testing. Now testing is done and I’m looking forward to the first race of the season.”
Takaaki Nakagami, LCR Honda IDEMITSU: 21st, 1m 55.539s
“Unfortunately, I had a big crash at turn two. I’m really sorry for the team, because we lost one bike. After that we had to change the planning for everything and I wasn’t able to ride so many laps today, so everything was a little bit tricky. But I’m okay, with no injuries and no pain, so right now I’m just really looking forward to my first race weekend in MotoGP!”
Thomas Luthi, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS: 24th, 1m 56.122s
“We had some tires left, which meant I could put in some laps today and spend more time on the bike, which is exactly what I need right now. We started today where we left off yesterday and we saw some improvement, but I’m definitely still looking for more. At the moment it’s the same each time for us: working on the bike, trying to understand and, above all else, trying to learn with each exit. What is important is that we’ve made progress every day of the preseason tests, even on the final day here in Qatar. The feeling is coming better and better and that’s exactly what I need ahead of my first race in MotoGP.”
Takaaki Nakagamizoom
Takaaki Nakagami

Combined Standings Days 1-2-3

Rank Rider (Team)
1Johann ZARCO (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)
2Valentino ROSSI (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)
3Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)
5Maverick VIÑALES (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP)
7Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)
9Danilo PETRUCCI (Alma Pramac Racing)
10Jorge LORENZO (Ducati Team)
11Jack MILLER (Alma Pramac Racing)
12Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)
13Franco MORBIDELLI (EG 0,0 Marc VDS)
14Bradley SMITH (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
15Aleix ESPARGARO (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)
16Hafizh SYAHRIN (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)
17Karel ABRAHAM (Angel Nieto Team)
18Alvaro BAUTISTA (Angel Nieto Team)
19Tito RABAT (Reale Avintia Racing)
20Pol ESPARGARO (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)
22Scott REDDING (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini)
23Xavier SIMEON (Reale Avintia Racing)
24Tom LUTHI (EG 0,0 Marc VDS)
25Mika KALLIO (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)

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