Felice Monteleone – FMPhotoSport News
Moto2/Moto3 Official Test Qatar Preview Thursday, 10 March 2016
Three days of testing greet lightweight classes in Qatar
One final test awaits in Qatar for the Moto2™ and Moto3™ World Championships, riders look to consolidate their performance.
Testing in Jerez gave fans and riders their first chance to directly compare the competition in the 2016 Moto2™ and Moto3™ World Championships. Three days of fine weather in Jerez allowed for all the teams and riders to get started with their extensive programmes, for some it was their first time on track in 2016.
In the middleweight class, Axel Pons (AGR Team) topped the test with a blistering 1’41.730 lap, well under the circuit record. The time was also 0.345s ahead of Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) who concluded the test in second, the Brit still confident of his race pace compared to many in the field. It was not a perfect test for Pons though; a heavy fall after his fastest lap saw the Spanish rider sit out all of Friday’s testing. He looks set to be fully fit for the test in Qatar however.
Third during the Moto2™ test was Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team), the Italian continuing his pace from private testing and ending ahead of Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40), who many are predicating as the title favourite in 2016. Rins had done limited private testing but was already on the pace during the Jerez Test, the Spaniard hoping to use the time in Qatar to refine his bike setting before preparing for the race. Reigning Moto2™ World Champion, Johann Zarco had a difficult test, the Ajo Motorsport rider ending the three days down in 14th. With the top 23 riders covered by under two seconds, even the smallest of mistakes could see riders struggle in the cut and thrust Moto2™ class.
Kalex riders dominated the three days; Speed Up and Tech 3 are aiming to reduce the gap during the Qatar Test. Meanwhile, Efren Vazquez is the lone Suter in 2016, the Basque rider struggling across the three days and eager to get more time aboard the Swiss built frame.
It was a very Italian affair in the Moto3™ World Championship test with five Italians inside the top ten. Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46) led the three day test with a solid 1’46.445, 0.060s ahead of Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0). Fenati is now one of the most experienced riders in the lightweight class and has his sights set on the title, his aim in Qatar to improve his consistency before battle commences on the 20th.
Two of the stand out performers of the test were rookies Nicolo Bulega (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Joan Mir (Leopard Racing), third and seventh respectively. The pair fought for the CEV Moto3™ Junior World Championship in 2015 and were able to use their ample experience at the Spanish circuit to raise eyebrows, but Qatar will present a brand new challenge for them and their fellow rookies. New tracks present one of the biggest challenges for a rider during their debut season, but three days of testing at the Losail International Circuit should ease their transition into the first race.
Jerez also saw the debut of winglets in the Moto3™ class, Mahindra and Peugeot riders testing them at various stages across the three days. Jorge Martin (Aspar Team Moto3) was the top Mahindra in ninth and will be looking to re-create teammate Francesco Bagnaia’s 2015 podium challenge during the first race.
The three day test commences on the 11th of March and will take place from 15:00 to 22:30 Local Time on all three days. Moto2™ and Moto3™ will each have three hour and twenty minute sessions on track a day. Expect close times as teams and rider undergo their final preparations for the 2016 season. Racing returns on the 20th of March at the Losail International Circuit.