Just under two weeks before the season opening Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar commences this test sees 17 premier class riders making their final preparations for the forthcoming campaign, in the absence of the Ducati Team, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP and Repsol Honda outfits.
Those Factory teams have already finalized their preseason at Phillip Island this week and Friday’s opening test session saw Espargaro prove yet again the threat he will pose this season, if his winter speed is anything to go by.
The NGM Mobile Forward Racing man was over two tenths ahead of his nearest rival on the Open entry Yamaha, with a time less than a second off Jorge Lorenzo’s 2013 Qatar pole lap – on a track which should produce even faster times over the next two days.
With the racing line cleared of any sand and with further rubber laid down on the track the pace is likely to increase as this test progresses.
A slower start was made on Friday with Danilo Petrucci the IodaRacing Project rider the only man to circulate in the first hour in hot temperatures and in the daylight, before 5pm.
The faster times came in the last two hours of the outing as the temperature dropped and the floodlights came into full effect.
Behind the older Espargaro brother were Monster Yamaha Tech 3 pair Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro, Aleix’s younger sibling – the YZR-M1 equipped duo lapping within 0.253s and 0.686s of P1 respectively.
Completing the top five were GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista and LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl with identical 1:56.081 best laps. Both riders ran with ‘Sepang 2’ test settings on Friday and will look to adapt their machines to optimal Qatar configuration over the coming 48 hours.
Andrea Iannone was sixth best and it will be interesting to see what his best time is before the end of this test on the ‘Open’ Ducati with an extra-soft tyre.
Rounding out the top ten were NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards (+1.575s), Energy T.I. Pramac Racing’s Yonny Hernandez (+1.932s), Drive M7 Aspar’s Nicky Hayden (+2.188s) and GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Scott Redding (+2.536s).
Testing continues on Saturday and Sunday. For full Friday times click here.Aleix Espargaro, Alvaro Bautista, Bradley Smith, MotoGP, Pol Espargaro, Qatar, Stefan Bradl