The final premier class test of the 2014 MotoGP preseason concluded on Sunday night at the floodlit desert circuit of Qatar, with Aleix Espargaro the fastest rider in attendance – just ahead of his younger brother Pol who suffered a collarbone break in a late evening crash.
Over the last few months, during the preparations for the new MotoGP World Championship campaign, the elder Espargaro sibling has been the standout performer of the testing period – showing the potential of his ‘Open’ entry Yamaha for the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team.
He set the best time of the three day Qatar test with a 1:54.874 circulation on the 19th of 47 Sunday laps. That time was less than 0.2s off Jorge Lorenzo’s 2013 pole lap at the Losail Circuit and Espargaro also looked strong in a race simulation which he carried out late on the final day.
His brother Pol Espargaro, the Moto2 World Champion and a rookie this season, was just 0.033s behind him in second place, but the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 youngster’s good preseason ended with an untimely collarbone fracture. He crashed at Turn 6 and was taken straight to medical center, with the extent of his injury still under examination – he faces surgery in Barcelona on Monday.
On the other side of the Tech 3 garage, Englishman Bradley Smith has a year of MotoGP racing under his belt and having finished third at the test (+0.153s), one of his objectives will be to beat the Espargaro brothers in the opening Grand Prix of 2014. Smith escaped unhurt from a mid-evening spill from his Yamaha YZR-M1.
After the three Yamahas at the top of the timesheet, Honda riders Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista were fourth and fifth respectively with similar lap times, the pair of them avoiding injury despite both crashing twice on Sunday. LCR Honda man Bradl notched a 1:55.187 best time, putting him 0.045s ahead of his GO&FUN Honda Gresini rival.
Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone was the faster of the two Ducati riders on track again, finishing 0.644s off the pace, whilst Energy T.I. Pramac Racing’s Yonny Hernandez (+1.182) was eighth on the 2013 Ducati bike.
In seventh place meanwhile, Colin Edwards again chipped a few tenths off his previous day’s best and ends preseason lapping around a second slower than his Forward Racing colleague Espargaro. The experienced Texan puts the time difference down to riding style and aims to adapt to a Yamaha machine different to that which he has previously ridden.
The top ten was rounded out by Drive M7 Aspar colleagues Nicky Hayden (+1.399s) and Hiroshi Aoyama (+2.132s) on their ‘Open’ Honda RCV1000R machines. Hayden made a 0.65s improvement in outright pace on the final day and was generally pleased with his rhythm over race distance, but wants more competitiveness for Grand Prix competition.
Scott Redding (GO&FUN Honda Gresini), Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing), Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing), Mike Di Meglio (Avintia Racing), Danilo Petrucci (IodaRacing Project) and Paul Bird Motorsport teammates Michael Laverty and Broc Parkes featured in positions 11 to 17 respectively.
There is a Moto2 and Moto3 test this week at Jerez, completing the World Championship’s 2014 preseason – ahead of round one’s Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar (March 20-23).Aleix Espargaro, MotoGP, Pol Espargaro, Qatar