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Battle ready: Suzuki secure 1-2 on opening day in Qatar

Rins and Mir were split by just 0.002 as the Hamamatsu factory pick up where they left off at Sepang

Is a Team Suzuki Ecstar revolution coming in 2020? If preseason testing is anything to go by then the answer is yes as Alex Rins and Joan Mir end Day 1 at the Qatar Test at the summit. Rins left it late to set a 1:54.462 to pip Mir by 0.002, with Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) completing a top three split by 0.032.

Arguably the biggest talking point on Day 1 was Ducati’s ride height adjuster that was predominantly seen on Jack Miller’s Pramac Racing GP20. Ducati Team Manager Davide Tardozzi admitted they have something new on their bike that they are trying, hear what the Italian had to say on the device below:

Ducati explain there is "something new"... but what is it?

Otherwise at Ducati, the main goal was to work on Michelin’s new tyre, something that both Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and teammate Danilo Petrucci struggled with at the Sepang Test. Right at the end of the opening day, Petrucci leapfrogged to P4 to sit just 0.172 off top spot. Pramac Racing’s Francesco Bagnaia was P9 after getting another 56 laps under his belt on the GP20, with Dovizioso, Johann Zarco (Reale Avinita Racing) – another solid outing for the Frenchman – and Miller all within a second of the Suzukis. Both Dovizioso and Miller crashed unscathed, with the Italian sounding positive after Day 1, saying the feeling is better than in Malaysia. 

Qatar Test - Day 1: first laps on track

The Qatar Test for most teams is about fine-tuning what they learnt in the Valencia, Jerez and Sepang Tests and it seems Yamaha are one of those teams who aren’t trying many new things at the Losail International Circuit. Their 2020 engine seems to be set in stone and the factory riders of Viñales and Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) have the holeshot devices fitted, with the quartet of Yamaha riders confirming parts and electronics work on a different circuit. Sepang Test pacesetter Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) continued getting to grips with the 2020 YZR-M1, he finished P8 with a best time of 1:55.204, with teammate Franco Morbidelli – who is on the YZR-M1 2020 A-spec – finishing P5. The Yamahas are looking strong as all four finished inside the top eight, with Rossi slotting into P7.

Team Suzuki Ecstar Team Manager Davide Brivio confirmed that both Rins and Mir don’t have anything new to test in Qatar. After a successful Sepang Test – and a 1-2 on Day 1 in Qatar – their engine choice is also clear as they switch their main focus to back-to-back chassis testing - the new one tested in Sepang that was well-received, compared to the older version with a carbon cover. In addition, Rins has said a Suzuki holeshot will arrive in time for the Qatar GP, if not here, while Mir continues to work on his position on the GSX-RR. Can they keep setting the pace on Day 2?

Over in the Honda camp, fresh of the back of a new four-year HRC deal, Marc Marquez got a valuable 42 laps under his belt as he continued to recover from shoulder surgery, finishing P6 on the timesheets with a best of 1:54.823. Teammate Alex Marquez didn’t have the smoothest day as the reigning Moto2™ World Champion crashed – thankfully unhurt – twice at Turn 7 and Turn 10, but another 57 laps for the rookie was important after impressing at Sepang. We also saw the number 73 on track with a new front fairing.

Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) had another busy day of testing, the British rider completed 50 laps and finished P19, with teammate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) finishing P15. The Japanese rider is another Honda rider who is continuing rehabilitation from winter surgery, and Nakagami confirmed he's still struggling with endurance, as well as trying to find the limit and understand the 2019 RC213V. Expect Crutchlow to be further up the timesheets when he and Honda go for a qualifying type run.

Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s main target on Day 1 was to continue setting up the new RS-GP, and the Spaniard was joined on track by test rider Bradley Smith in the team’s 2020 colours. Espargaro – an early pacesetter in Qatar – ended Day 1 tenth with a best time of 1:55.268, with Smith putting 54 laps on the board for Aprilia. Espargaro admitted he didn't feel "super good" when the temperature dropped in the evening, with the number 41 saying he tried a few other things on Day 1. 

At KTM, chassis comparisons were ongoing in the factory camp as well as continuing to try the new swingarm that we saw appear at Sepang. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the leading orange machine on Day 1 in P14, 0.987 off Rins’ time, with teammate Brad Binder just a couple of tenths behind. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) said he had a bit of a tough day, the Portuguese rider suffering with rear traction, but he and his team have ideas to improve the feeling on Day 2. Moreover, Oliveira said he’s feeling better physically than he did at Sepang with regards to his shoulder.

So, Suzuki continue to look strong ahead of the 2020 campaign. Mir confirmed that he’d worked on both race pace and one-lap pace on Day 1, and the sophomore was strong on both. Can anyone get the better of the GSX-RRs on Day 2 in Qatar? Keep up with all the action with Live Timing thorough the day, and remember to tune into After the Flag LIVE at 17:30 CET on Sunday and Monday.

Reactions, highlights and interviews will be available on across all three days!

Top 10 Day 1:
1. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – 1:54.462
2. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.002
3. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.032
4. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) + 0.172
5. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.238
6. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.361
7. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.414
8. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.612
9. Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) + 0.742
10. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 0.806

Click here for the full results from Day 1!

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