Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) starts 2021 where he’ll want to go on: at the top. The Australian put in a 1:59.074 to go fastest on Friday at the Official Moto2™ and Moto3™ Qatar test, pipping Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team) to the post as he took over late on.
They say it’s hot in the city but it was also hot just outside it on Friday, with the conditions in Doha a marked improvement on those that greeted the final day of MotoGP™ testing a week ago. By the end of the day that was more than apparent, with the laptimes dropping from 2:02s to Gardner’s 1:59 dead. Roberts’ pole lap last year was a 1:58.136, so it’s far from a slouchy beginning to proceedings.
Gardner moves to the Red Bull KTM Ajo team this season, one of the biggest names in the class, and the landmark year has certainly started well. So too has it for Canet, as the 2020 standout rookie came screeching out the blocks. Roberts was another who moved up later in the day, and another who’ll be wanting to take a key step forward this season; glad of the good start.
In fourth, Elf Marc VDS Racing Team’s Sam Lowes was up at the sharp end and only a tiny 0.020 off Roberts despite a crash for the Brit in the afternoon, rider ok – as was Hafizh Syahrin (NTS RW Racing GP) as the Malaysian also took a tumble. Fifth went the way of Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) by an even smaller 0.009, with Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) taking sixth and only another 0.051 in arrears. In short, it was extremely close in the mid top ten…
Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) took P7 a couple of tenths back, with Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) hot on his heels to the tune of 0.045. Just two thousandths back came Jake Dixon in ninth, the Petronas Sprinta Racing rider coming back from injury and off to a good start.
Tenth was an impressive rookie showing from Raul Fernandez. The winner of the final Moto3™ race of 2020 blasted out the blocks in Moto2™ to put in a 1:59.990 on his new, bigger Red Bull KTM Ajo machine, within less than a tenth of Dixon ahead of him and beating Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) to it by just 0.008. ‘Diggia’ changes chassis this year and was off to a solid start.
Veteran Tom Lüthi (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) was P12 on Friday, ahead of Simone Corsi (MV Agusta Forward Racing). Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) was 14th but set the same best lap as Corsi, with that contest decided by their second best efforts. Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team), another who changes teams and, in his case, chassis, started the year in 15th and edged out Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) by half a tenth.
With so many rookies in Moto2™ this season – most making the leap from the Moto3™ class – Raul Fernandez shone, but many did themselves proud. Tony Arbolino (Liqui Moly Intact GP) was P17 only 0.010 off Bezzecchi – a race-winning benchmark – and Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) only another 0.069 back. Reigning Moto3™ World Champion Albert Arenas (Inde Aspar Team) headed up another gaggle of rookies in P23, ahead of Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Cameron Beaubier (American Racing).
Day 2 Moto 2 Test
The leader of the Moto2™ pack was Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing), and the rivals within 0.089 Aron Canet (Inde Aspar Team), Jorge Navarro (MB Conveyors Speed Up), Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46)… whetting appetites for the race weekend ahead quite considerably.
It was windier on Day 2 and once again the morning session was a quiet one – lonely, even, for Stefano Manzi (Flexbox HP 40) as the Italian was the sole rider to set a time. By Session 2 though, the ante was upping and the pack heading out, with the final session of the day then seeing all but one improve to set the combined timesheets. At the top was Vierge’s late charge with that five-rider gaggle on his tail, with Canet forced to settle for second for the second day in a row but looking threateningly fast, Navarro making waves up the timesheets, Gardner present once more, Dixon improving as he comes back from serious injury, and Bezzecchi leaping into the higher echelons after a more muted Day 1…
The gaps didn’t exactly get huge from there on out. Two and a half tenths off the super six, Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) slots into P7 as he settles in at his new team and on his new chassis, looking ever more impressive as track time goes on. Likewise the man in eighth: Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo). The Spanish rookie impressed on Day 1, so a grander word is needed for Day 2 as he ended Saturday just 0.019 off Bendsneyder. Fernandez’ 1:59.204 is only just over a second off the 2020 pole lap…
Two veterans came next, with Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) in ninth by just 0.007 and Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team), setter of the aforementioned pole, completing the top ten by 0.034. Both have shown good pace on both days so far too, and will likely be pushing for a statement time attack on Sunday.
Tony Arbolino (Liqui Moly Intact GP) continued his impressive adaptation and was the second fastest rookie on Saturday, taking 11th and within 0.115 of Roberts. Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) slots into 12th ahead of another impressive rookie in the form of Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), the Japanese rider only another tenth in arrears.
The aforementioned Manzi ends the day in 14th as he adjusts to life at Flexbox HP 40 and on a Kalex, with Tom Lüthi (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team) rounding out the top 15 after Day 2. Rookie American Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) leapfrogged a few of his rivals from Day 1 to take 19th and get the better of reigning Moto3™ World Champion Albert Arenas (Inde Aspar Team) by just 0.021, with the timesheets necessitating the use of hundredths or thousandths to measure the gap through almost the entire field.
Day 3 Moto 2 Test
Sunday at the Official Moto2™ and Moto3™ Qatar Test saw Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) snatch P1 in the intermediate class, but the top three was covered by just 0.048 as Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) took second and Remy Gardner (Red Bull KTM Ajo) third. All three will likely be starting the year expecting to challenge for wins, and their tests only underlined their speed.
The conditions were fair on Sunday once again, and Lowes’ best is the quickest lap of the test as preparations continued for the coming race weekend(s). The gaps one again show we have a stunner in store, across the top three and throughout the timesheets. Lowes, Bezzecchi and Gardner will leave the test happy, and so too will Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) as the Brit rounded out Sunday in fourth. After a wrist injury that could have been a career-threatener, getting straight back into the top five is no mean feat. That top five on Day 3 of the test was completed by Dixon’s teammate Xavi Vierge.
Sixth place goes to Bo Bendsneyder on Day 3 as the Dutchman continues to impress upon his move to Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team and Kalex. He was only 0.033 off Vierge as he made a late leap up the timesheets, and is another who has been consistently improving. Nicolo Bulega (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) ends Sunday in seventh, another late to move up the timesheets but doing so in style.
Style is also a good word to describe the start of Raul Fernandez’ (Red Bull KTM Ajo) Moto2™ career. Fastest rookie throughout, the Spaniard is on course for an incredibly impressive debut race weekend. So too, now, is Albert Arenas (Inde Aspar Team) though as the reigning Moto3™ World Champion shot up into the top ten on Sunday, only 0.052 off fellow rookie Fernandez. Arenas’ teammate Aron Canet completes the top ten, sliding down from second on Day 1 and Day 2 but another with some key consistency.
Stefano Manzi (Flexbox HP40) takes P11 by just 0.003 ahead of another impressive rookie in the form of Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), with yet another right behind him: Cameron Beaubier (American Racing). The American was only 0.016 off Ogura too… and pipped compatriot Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team) by 0.011. Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) completed the fastest fifteen, just edging out teammate Tony Arbolino.
Moto3 Testing Day 1
Day 1 of the Official Moto2™ and Moto3™ Qatar Test at Losail International Circuit saw Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing) go fastest in the lightweight category, putting in a best of 2:05.750 on the combined timesheets. It was incredibly close though, with the South African hitting back late on against teammate John McPhee as the Scot was forced to settle for second but only 0.026 back. Filip Salač (Rivacold Snipers Team) completes a top three on the Day 1 timesheets split by an infinitesimal 0.040.
It was a warm but fairly calm day to begin proceedings in the desert, although many didn’t head out to turn laps in anger until the second session of the day. The first Moto3™ session also saw a Red Flag at the end due to an oil spill from Yuki Kunii (Honda Team Asia), but the clean-up was a quick one. Each class had three stints each on Friday, and the laptimes – somewhat predictably – only got quicker. From 2:09s in session 1 to Binder’s best of 2:05.750, it was a good day’s work for most as they got back down to the business of testing and, for a good few on the grid, settling into their new teams.
Binder certainly seems to have managed that early enough. The South African’s switch to Honda machinery is off to an impressive start, and at the end of the day he and teammate McPhee ruled the roost, as well as doing a few laps together. Salač continues the Honda domination in third, another late to hit the higher echelons of the timesheets, with Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) slotting into fourth just 0.002 off Salač. Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) completed an all-Honda top five, the Argentinean 0.112 off Binder’s best lap.
Jaume Masia is another veteran switching machinery in 2021 and he slotted into sixth overall as he settles in at Red Bull KTM Ajo, and the Spaniard was still only 0.114 off the top as the timesheets tightened considerably late on. Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) was next up after a day bothering the top of the timesheets fairly consistently, with compatriot Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing) putting Husqvarna into P8 overall.
Ninth place goes the way of GasGas Gaviota Aspar’s Izan Guevara as he and GasGas make their 2021 debut in the top ten. The rookie impressed immensely on Day 1 and early signs show his stratospheric rise is likely far from over as he takes on Moto3™ fresh from winning the European Talent Cup in 2019 and then the FIM Moto3™ Junior World Championship in 2020. Guevera was just 0.376 from the top and bookended a second group on the timesheets, with tenth placed Niccolo Antonelli next up but ending his first day with Avintia Esponsorama Moto3 0.245 in further arrears.
2020 Rookie of the Year Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) ends day one of his sophomore year in P11 but only half a tenth off Antonelli, with another rookie on his tail: Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo). The 2020 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup winner put his KTM in P12 to impress, having been the fastest rookie on track for a while on Day 1, until Guevara’s late strike for glory. Sergio Garcia (GasGas Gaviota Aspar), Riccardo Rossi (BOE Owlride) and Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) complete the fastest fifteen.
Moto 3 Testing Day 2
Day 2 saw John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) rise to the top of the timesheets, the British rider leaving it late but able to pull out a gap of three tenths to impress once again, having also been second quickest on Friday. That honour went the way of Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing), the Italian 0.306 down, with Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) taking third.
Saturday at Losail International Circuit saw windier conditions greet the grid, and once again there was a little less action in the first session as only 18 riders headed out. McPhee wasn’t one of them, but the Brit was back up to speed backing up his Friday pace in the afternoon, with no one able to provide an answer for his 2:05.286 and the gap from first to second proving the biggest of the day. He did suffer a small crash late on, but rider ok. Foggia was another fast on both days, Migno likewise – but Saturday saw a different rookie take over as the fastest debutant.
2020 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup winner Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had an impressive Friday as the second quickest rookie, but the Spaniard moved even further up the timesheets on Day 2 to take fourth and get into the 2:05s. Also quick in the morning and second only to teammate Jaume Masia, there are some impressive performances coming in from the 2021 rookies already. Izan Guevara (GasGas Gaviota Aspar Team) was also quickest in the second session of the day.
Filip Salač (Rivacold Snipers Team) was fifth quickest and just 0.070 off Acosta, with a close group forming behind the Czech rider. Carlos Tatay (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3) was sixth by 0.093 despite a crash – rider ok, as was fellow tumbler Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power). Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) was seventh by 0.014, and he in turn got the better of Masia by just 0.017. Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) kept Husqvarna in the top ten in P9 and was a further 0.078 off, with Saturday’s second fastest rookie, Izan Guevara, completing that top ten by another tiny margin of 0.005.
Guevara’s teammate Sergio Garcia slots into 11th, again by a tiny 0.068, with Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) a further tenth back in P12 as the Japanese rider made a huge leap up the timesheets after ending Friday outside the top 20. Friday’s fastest man, Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing), was next up by only 0.003 as the South African got the better of Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3). Xavier Artigas (Leopard Racing) completed the fastest fifteen, getting up to speed as he begins his first full season in Moto3™ as, curiously, both a rookie and a podium finisher thanks to his incredible wildcard at Valencia in 2019 on his first Grand Prix appearance.
Moto 3 Testing Day 3
Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) went quickest on Day 3 of testing, topping the combined timesheets by three tenths and with a lap quite a chunk faster than the previous record, although it will remain unofficial as it was set in testing. His rookie teammate Pedro Acosta, as both the 2020 Red Bull Rookies Cup winner and 2020 FIM Moto3™ Junior World Champion Izan Guevara (GasGas Gaviota Aspar Team) continued their incredible rookie form, with Acosta second and Guevara taking fourth.
The conditions were good once again on Day 3, with Masia’s best lap taking a second off the fastest effort on Saturday. That best lap came late in the day but it was a cracker, a 2:04.263 as he pipped teammate Acosta by three tenths and set that new, unofficial scorcher. The two Red Bull KTM Ajos have been consistently quick, as have Guevara and Foggia, with the mix of veterans and rookies at the top making for interesting reading.
Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) was fifth quickest, 0.072 off Guevara, who was in turn only 0.015 off Foggia. Sixth went to Day 2’s quickest man John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing), ahead of 2020 Rookie of the Year Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3). Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) kept his consistency to end the day eighth for Husqvarna, ahead of Filip Salač (Rivacold Snipers Team) in P9. Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing), quickest on Friday, rounds out the top ten.
11th was third rookie Xavier Artigas (Leopard Racing) as he settles into Moto3™ as a debuting full time rider with a podium already under his belt, with Jason Dupasquier (CarXpert Pruestel GP) putting in a solid 12th on Sunday. Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia Esponsorama Moto3), Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) and Sergio Garcia (GasGas Gaviota Aspar Team) completed the top 15, the latter despite a crash – rider ok.