2018 Qatar MotoGP Test Combined Times: Zarco Fastest, Rookies Show Major Progress

Johann Zarco was the fastest rider over all three days at Qatar, his time on Saturday a quarter of a second faster than the man in second, Valentino Rossi, while Andrea Dovizioso was third fastest. As everyone except Andrea Iannone (who didn't ride due to illness) and Taka Nakagami set their fastest times on Saturday, the combined standings are very close to the times at the end of Saturday. Iannone's quick time from Saturday put him in fifth overall, just ahead of Marc Marquez.

In terms of improvement over three days, it was the rookies who starred, as you might expect. Xavier Simeon improved his best time by 1.770 seconds over the three days, while Franco Morbidelli and Hafizh Syahrin both improved by just under 1.5 seconds. Bradley Smith was the most improved of the veterans, the KTM rider taking 1.242 seconds off his time to end the test in 14th overall. But Johann Zarco, Valentino Rossi, and Cal Crutchlow all got better by over a second over the three days.

The full list of combined times with improvements appears below:

Combined times plus improvement over three days:

No Rider Bike Thursday Friday Saturday Best Improve
5 Johann Zarco Yamaha M1 1:55.186 1:54.874 1:54.029 1:54.029 1.157
46 Valentino Rossi Yamaha M1 1:55.432 1:55.316 1:54.276 1:54.276 1.156
4 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati GP18 1:55.104 1:54.627 1:54.331 1:54.331 0.773
35 Cal Crutchlow Honda RC213V 1:55.536 1:54.992 1:54.457 1:54.457 1.079
25 Maverick Viñales Yamaha M1 1:55.053 1:55.051 1:54.471 1:54.471 0.582
29 Andrea Iannone Suzuki GSX-RR 1:55.107 1:54.586   1:54.586 0.521
93 Marc Marquez Honda RC213V 1:55.545 1:54.753 1:54.591 1:54.591 0.954
42 Alex Rins Suzuki GSX-RR 1:55.432 1:54.967 1:54.650 1:54.650 0.782
9 Danilo Petrucci Ducati GP18 1:55.528 1:55.188 1:54.659 1:54.659 0.869
99 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati GP18 1:55.423 1:55.562 1:54.692 1:54.692 0.870
43 Jack Miller Ducati GP17 1:55.688 1:55.236 1:54.749 1:54.749 0.939
26 Dani Pedrosa Honda RC213V 1:55.555 1:55.282 1:54.774 1:54.774 0.781
21 Franco Morbidelli Honda RC213V 1:56.608 1:56.074 1:55.132 1:55.132 1.476
38 Bradley Smith KTM RC16 1:56.421 1:55.798 1:55.179 1:55.179 1.242
41 Aleix Espargaro Aprilia RS-GP 1:56.062 1:55.460 1:55.232 1:55.232 0.830
55 Hafizh Syahrin Yamaha M1 1:56.731 1:56.263 1:55.273 1:55.273 1.458
17 Karel Abraham Ducati GP16 1:56.268 1:55.876 1:55.300 1:55.300 0.968
19 Alvaro Bautista Ducati GP17 1:55.848 1:56.104 1:55.347 1:55.347 0.757
53 Tito Rabat Ducati GP17 1:56.029 1:55.875 1:55.465 1:55.465 0.564
44 Pol Espargaro KTM RC16 1:56.275   1:55.489 1:55.489 0.786
30 Takaaki Nakagami Honda RC213V 1:55.853 1:55.539 1:55.763 1:55.539 0.314
45 Scott Redding Aprilia RS-GP 1:55.931 1:55.708 1:55.595 1:55.595 0.336
10 Xavier Simeon Ducati GP16 1:57.713 1:56.795 1:55.943 1:55.943 1.770
12 Tom Luthi Honda RC213V 1:57.292 1:56.295 1:56.122 1:56.122 1.170
36 Mika Kallio KTM RC16   1:57.218   1:57.218  
2017 Pole time: 2017 Maverick Viñales 1:54.316
Fastest lap in the 2017 race: 2017 Johann Zarco 1:55.990
Circuit Race Record Lap: 2016 Jorge Lorenzo 1:54.927
Best ever lap at the circuit: 2008 Jorge Lorenzo 1:53.927
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Anybody know what happened to Iannone on this last day?  I don't see his name in the results.  Did he crash and wipe out the bike? Or ??????

He was sidelined with a stomach bug. That`s what they said in the highlights video.

And with that, preseason is a wrap. Looking forward to analysis of the numbers. We will get to hear about the wet-lights test. Is it true that when they were sorting out who would be in what group that no one wanted Iannone in theirs? I understand, especially poor Dani hoping for one healthy collar bone season. Is it stomach troubles for AI29? Mitsubishi food thermometers again, or foul play to keep him from wet test groups? Ducati, was that you? ;)

Ok, but seriously. Let's start in on preseason. Yamaha has found one-lap speed in regular conditions. Both Factory riders, using different iterations of the bike. This is is a good start. But with Zarco and the 2016 chassis with an updated more powerful motor at the top of the charts and with fearsome race pace it looks less convincing. The boys in Blue have had a very inconsistent and troubling preseason. Honda and Ducati have not. More on that below. Suzuki looks to have made a big step forward. So have both of their riders. Hindsight says that Iannone did not just suffer a shortage of motivation last year. But Suzuki DID suffer a shortage of progress with Rins out so much and just one rider that is known for shiny big balls rather than development. Rins? Looking great. Suzuki motor? Great! And now to see about electronics in mixed conditions. KTM is looking pretty good, but we only had a healthy P.Espargaro for a short time. He was charging hard, and putting the bike far forward of the other two Orange pilots. This so threw him for a scary fast tumble flirting with walls. But he and this KTM looked good. What looks REALLY good for Orange is 2019 Zarco and Herve. Herve confirmed it today "3 seasons w full factory bikes" with a manu that "has projects in Moto2 and Moto3." Confirmed. And the next handful of Astronaut kids coming has two in Orange. Can you say that Yamaha?

Aprilia, waiting for more motor. Enough said.

One more thing has caught my eye. A shift. A far from seamless one. But there to see, regarding the manner in which several riders and projects are progressing. Bear with me for a moment.

We are all enjoying what Marquez is doing things with his front end and getting to the apex. Mirroring what Casey did getting out of the apex on that line with the rear end. SO beautiful and compelling. Zarco is doing something with his right hand that Vinales isn't, and the electronics highlight his gift. I see both Zarco and Marquez bringing the fierce battle and next-level racecraft much like Rossi has. Gorgeous.

Here is where something gets interesting. Does someone need to push over the limit like Marquez to beat him? On Fridays and Saturdays? Loose? Charging at the apex? Fairing bashing? In the past we had the juxtaposition of Lorenzo and the Yamaha with Marquez and the Honda. Rails, consistency, clean as a whistle. Worked fine, there was a contrasting formula.

Here is what has caught my eye. What if we are already seeing a next iteration of such a contrast? Not Yamaha this time, but Dovisioso and Ducati. They have an answer to Marquez/Honda. Dovi hardly crashes at all. He and his bike are a lesson in stability under duress. They are at the limit while MM93/Honda are over it, and can respond well. More power has been reaching the ground driving out and in the drag race. Dovi has a knack for keeping cool and measured, and the Ducati can offer him a bit more in just the right way and the right time.

Now contrast also the shortcomings of each lately. Marquez and his Honda have not finished as many races as AD04 in red. But Dovi/Ducati have a solid handful of tracks at which the bike just isn't able to get working well. Like off the podium plus off the front group plus off the pace altogether kind of not working well. Which of these shortcomings looks more easily corrected? Marquez's. He can temper his zeal, and spent 2016 doing lots of that. Importantly, Honda has given their 2016 and onwards bike riders a better machine that needn't be overriden as much to be at the front. Ducati developing a more adjustable and adaptive bike to make for fewer bogey tracks looks tougher. Just look at what Lorenzo has been doing at Qatar. After after arriving instantly on the pace he set out to extensive testing duties trying to get better feel and corner speed via diverse solutions. Dovi too looks to have focused work at hand. And they must, Honda has revolutionized their project in response to the new electronics and tires. Gigi did the same for Ducati in an entirely different way. Can preseason offer specifics re how well Ducati is doing with their bike to lessen bogey track boondoggles? We may just have to wait and see. Without a doubt their bike is developing. It gets around the apex better now via more ease at corner entry.

Off track there is a contrasting engineering battle not unlike that of the riders on track. Dovisioso is becoming more than he was while fighting with Marquez on track. They look like compliments to one another, contrasting partners in a dance. So do the manufacturers. Particularly when seen relative to Yamaha.

Poor Yamaha, how smart does Jorge look with his timing leaving? And Herve? How uninsightful does the Factory Yamaha project look now losing Zarco? Leaving their Jr team as a mere customer all these years? Not having a rider pipeline or projects in lower classes? Perhaps, like their bike, the project is focused on one line...on a rail they adhere to. Lorenzo looks to be changing and adapting away from the 250 style, more than I anticipated. Yamaha? Not so much? Not just on the track, but in their project. Yamaha could learn from Honda now. Honda responded boldly to new electronics and tires, by radically changing the formula of their bike. 2015 and early 2016 were horrible, but they managed to revolutionize.

Or perhaps Yamaha can learn even MORE from the Gigi-Ducati revolution. One of overall organizational structure and strategy. Starting with doing what we all know is best for a MotoGP Factory that aims to win. Full Factory collaboration with the Jr Team. Factory contract for the top 3rd rider. A pipeline for riders, and collaboration in smaller classes or another series that churns Alien babies. You can't just use Japanese Superbike and Endurance guys for your testing and development! Ducati have Pirro. And Stoner. AND Petrucci! Can't you fooking see that Zarco working on your Factory Bike development would have been essential?! SKY46 Jr Team needs to happen ASAP. Take it a step further than Pramac. Your bike is eating tires. Your bike can't hook up getting out of corners. Jorge is gone. Rossi is wrapping up his time with you. Zarco was neglected and may beat you this year, then take his right hand that could have developed your electronics over to KTM. Will Suzuki set up a Jr Team with you know who before you can get SKY46 to buy their grid  spots? 

2018 begins with much to appreciate. Marquez and Dovi haven't missed a beat. Neither have Honda or Ducati. Or Suzuki and both riders. Or the KTM project. 

this Dovi quote (from 2018 Qatar MotoGP Test Saturday Round Up): "...we didn't fix the limit we had on the bike last year..." It sounds ominous. So is it better, or enough better, or will Ducati have another bridesmaid season?

This is promising "...The biggest hurdle to overcome will be Andrea Dovizioso, who looks faster and better than he did last year..." Because we all know what MM93 can do, and it sounds like Honda has done a better job with the 2018 bike.

Hey Motoshrink: your contributions are excellent. If you keep this up David is going to have to increase the price of the subscription. I think you are right in suggesting that the Dovi v Marquez contrast might define this era. But the preponderance of the coverage is that the Honda looks better at this stage than it has for a long time. That's a tad disturbing for everyone else. And if you had to pick someone to win a race for your life savings...well all I can say is: 'Marquez, would you please take my phone call...'

I don't know what to make of Yamaha. On the one hand they have been running a very stable and settled program and they have then been unsettled by the tyres and maybe the electronics. On the other hand I wonder if their lock in of Rossi and perhaps the development curve of Vinales has seen them just a fraction off the pace, not in ouright speed but in having their development potential split between two such different voices, with an ocean of divergent experience between them. They really should have adapted in a more convincing way, by now. If you have three essentially different set ups across your three top riders, well, that's definitively a bad outcome

And I do agree, that Yamaha losing Zarco would be plain bonkers, for all of the reasons that you have nominated.

Most of all, your comment just made me look forward to the first GP that little bit more.

             the tech3 rookie seems to be progressing very well, almost under the radar. The LCR rookie seems to have had the brakes applied compared to  Thailand. Morbidelli going very well this time out, the others about as expected. David any info regarding who`s been falling??      Thank`s Beamer12