The four British MotoGP™ riders face a crucial three day test around the 3.343 miles Losail International Circuit in Qatar starting on Friday. The desert track will stage the opening round of the 18 round MotoGP World Championship in just over two weeks’ time and these three days are the final test before the much anticipated season gets underway under the floodlights on Sunday March 26.
Isle of Man – based Midlander Cal Crutchlow was fifth fastest on the LCR Honda in the previous test at Phillip Island in Australia. The double grand prix winner has been working hard with the Repsol Honda factory team of World Champion Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to curb the aggressive power of the Honda. Progress is being made and the three days around the Losail circuit will be a good indication just how Honda and Crutchlow will be prepared when they line up for the 22 lap opener.
It’s a crucial three days for the other three Brits. Gloucestershire’s Scott Redding is struggling on the Octo GP16 Pramac Ducati with major grip issues. He made some progress on the final day at the previous test in Phillip Island and hopes that will continue. His great rival Bradley Smith is happy with the progress being made with the new factory Red Bull KTM team. The former 125 cc grand prix winner is working well with team-mate Pol Espargaro to develop the new bike and some engine modifications are expected in Qatar.
Moto2™ grand prix winner Sam Lowes prepares for his MotoGP debut in a couple of weeks on the Gresini Aprilia. The Lincolnshire rider is concentrating on adapting to the Michelin tyres and electronics of the MotoGP machine and three clear days of testing at Losail International circuit will be vital before his MotoGP debut.
VINALES CHASES FOUR IN A ROW
Twenty – two year old Maverick Vinales chases his fourth top of the charts performance at this final MotoGP test before the real action gets underway at the Losail International circuit in Qatar. The Spaniard, who has made a seamless switch from Ecstar Suzuki to Movistar Yamaha, led the way in the final Valencia test last year and at the Sepang and Phillip Island tests this year. While his team-mate, 38 years old nine-times World Champion Valentino Rossi, struggled in Phillip Island, Vinales led the way once again on the M1 Yamaha after a much anticipated battle with World Champion Marc Marquez, riding the Repsol Honda.
Marquez fought back in Australia after a difficult first test in Sepang and the three day test in Qatar should be a foretaste of the much anticipated battles that lie ahead between these two super talented Spanish riders. Together with team-mate Dani Pedrosa and satellite riders Cal Crutchlow and Jack Miller, the World Champion has been working hard to curb the aggressive power of the RC213V Honda and the Qatar test will give us an indication just how successful they have been.
Three times MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo is adjusting to the very different characteristics of the factory Ducati after his switch from Yamaha. His lap times improved in Australia and it’s a vital three days for the Spaniard as he starts the new stage of his new career at the Losail International circuit where he brought Yamaha success last year. Team-mate Andrea Dovizioso continues the development of the GP17 machine, which Danilo Petrucci also rides in the Octo Pramac colours.
Andrea Iannone is enjoying life at Ecstar Suzuki after being replaced by Lorenzo at Ducati while his new team-mate Moto2 grand prix winner Alex Rins finished in the top ten in Australia. Two other MotoGP rookies Moto2 World Champion Johann Zarco and German Jonas Folger who was fourth in Australia, have really impressed in the Monster Tech3 Yamaha team. Aleix Espargaro is making progress on the updated RS – GP Gresini Aprilia while Hector Barbara found some precious time at Phillip Island on the Reale Esponsorama GP16 Ducati as did Alvaro Bautista on a similar machine in the Pull&Bear Aspar colours.
KENT AND MCPHEE IN JEREZ
The first official Moto2™ and Moto3™ tests started at Jerez in Spain yesterday. Former Moto3 World Champion Danny Kent and Scotsman John McPhee fly the British flag in their respective classes and despite some private testing this is the first time all the teams and riders have come together before a final Qatar test and then the opening grand prix on March 26.
Wiltshire-based Kent struggled last season in the Moto2 class after winning the Moto3 world title the previous year. He returns with the same Kiefer team but with a Suter frame. Oban-based Scotsman McPhee has been given a great chance to push on from his maiden Moto3 grand prix win last year. He will ride a factory Honda in the new British Talent team. He has fully recovered from the injuries sustained in the Australian Grand Prix last year causing him to miss the last two races and stay in Australia for over a month.
THE ROAD TO MOTOGP BECOMES A REALITY FOR BRITISH YOUNGSTERS
The wait is over for the British Talent Team and the British Talent Cup to officially launch last week, with London proving the perfect backdrop for the presentation of the exciting new projects as Dorna pulled the covers off the latest phase of the Road to MotoGP™ program. In attendance were FIM Moto3™ World Championship rider for the British Talent Team John McPhee, British two-wheeled legend Jeremy McWilliams, who is to act as British Talent Scout for the project, and Cup Talent Promotion Director Alberto Puig.
The launch sets in motion both the new British Talent Team and the British Talent Cup; Dorna’s commitment to the future of motorcycle racing in the UK and British Isles.
The new British Talent Cup is designed as the perfect stepping-stone for riders from the British Isles to get onto the world stage, providing an opportunity like no other for young talent to grow and progress on the Road to MotoGP™. Races will take place at existing Dorna-run events – such as MotoGP™ and MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship weekends – and the riders will race on Honda Moto3™ machinery. The British Talent Team is the presence of this project on the world stage, in the FIM Moto3™ World Championship – the last stop on the Road to MotoGP™ that begins, for these riders, in the British Talent Cup.
Dorna has been deeply involved in young rider programs since before the turn of the millennium, beginning with the FIM CEV Repsol and the Movistar Junior Cup – then going on to include initiatives such as the Asia Talent Cup and the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. The Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup began in 2007, creating and continuing to create riders of incredible calibre like Johann Zarco, twice Moto2™ World Champion, and Brad Binder, reigning Moto3™ World Champion, who have joined FIM CEV Repsol graduates and subsequent World Champions such as Marc Marquez and Maverick Viñales on the list of young rider successes to have come from these initiatives. More recently, the Asia Talent Cup was born in 2014 and is now beginning to see Champions such as Ayumu Sasaki emerge onto the world stage – the 2015 ATC Champion and 2016 Red Bull Rookies Cup Champion debuts in the Moto3™ World Championship in 2017.
The British Talent Cup is the latest addition to this honour roll of young rider support and talent promotion, with selection set to take place in 2017 and the engines ready to fire up next year. Designed to develop British riders who would otherwise struggle to gain an opportunity to showcase their talent, the Cup will race at Dorna-run events including the UK Round of WorldSBK at Donington Park and the British GP at Silverstone. A range of circuits in the UK and Spain form a tentative base for the proposed calendar, and the bike will be a Honda NSF 250R Moto3 machine. Riders coming through the new Cup also have the incentive of seeing the British Talent Team in Moto3™, knowing there is a program designed around their journey to the FIM World Championship with Dorna supporting British talent on every rung of the ladder.
The first ever selection program for the Cup will preface the 2017 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, in the week leading up to the event. There, prospective riders will be put through their paces and the best offered the chance to race in the Cup’s inaugural 2018 season. Then riders are on the Road to MotoGP™ – with the ladder to the top waiting to be climbed. The application process runs from the 5th May to 18th June, and riders who will be invited to the selection process will be informed before the 21st July.
Onboard with the Team and Cup will be the experience of Jeremy McWilliams as British Talent Scout and Alberto Puig as Talent Promotion Director. British two-wheeled legend McWilliams adds his experience to the project in helping to find and develop these riders of the future, with Puig bringing his knowledge and experience from the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup – as well as a long career guiding talents such as Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner on their paths to World Championship glory.
With a long and distinguished history in motorsport, the British Isles are the perfect place for Dorna to take another step forward in their ongoing investment in the future: the British Talent Cup.
All the up to date lap times and breaking stories from Qatar first on motogp.com