The 2021 pre-season tests have concluded with Jack Miller leading the pack with a new lap record.
After 5 days of testing at Qatar, the 2021 pre-season for the MotoGP class is done and dusted with Jack Miller crowned the 2021 testing champion and the man to beat going into the back-to-back season openers at the Losail International Circuit later this month. Millers time of 1’53.183 is now the new official best lap time ever recorded around the Doha circuit with four riders breaking the original record of 1’53.380 set by Marc Marquez, these riders were namely Jack Miller, Maverick Vinales, Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli.
In the overall standings for the pre-season tests it sees Ducati and Yamaha on top with Miller and Bagnaia acting as the bread in a Yamaha sandwich with Vinales, Quartararo and Morbidelli as the filling. These Yamaha’s were able to lap within 0.140 of Miller’s record-setting time proving Yamaha have incredible pace in the pre-season with Vinales feeling confident saying, “After this test my feelings are very positive. We are calm. We understand the situation, we know which direction we need to follow, and we have been working very hard on being as fast as we can, especially at the beginning of the race. The behaviour of the bike is nice, it’s handling well. This is important with a full fuel tank. Right now, we are on a good level. We got done what I wanted to accomplish during this test. I feel ready for the start of the season.”
Sadly we did not see much action on track in the final day of testing with just 5 riders on track after heavy wind meant that dust and dirt scattered onto the circuit. These additives meant that the track was incredibly dangerous to ride on and only 5 riders dared to set times as some ventured onto the track to do some practice starts.
Ducati are feeling incredibly positive about their new aero technology which features in the bottom part of the fairing, this aero technology helps to increase downforce mid-corner by taking in air and pushing it downwards towards the ground, it has been incredibly popular amongst the Ducati riders with Miller confirming that the bike feels more stable with this new addition. Miller and Bagnaia have both confirmed that they are happy with the new GP21 variation of the Desmosedici with Jack saying, “I’m delighted with these two test sessions in Qatar. The team has done an outstanding job during these five days, and now I feel ready to face the first two Grands Prix of the year at this track.”
Miller spent day 4 doing a near full race simulation on brand new tyres to see how the Ducati fared across an entire race, he pushed quite hard from the beginning of his ‘race’ and cooked his rear tyre in the process, experiencing a performance drop in the tyre by the end of his race, however, claims he is not worried as that will not be his race strategy.
Francesco Bagnaia and Jack Miller are looking strong going into 2021.
The KTM, Ducati, Aprilia, Suzuki and Honda now are all running front and rear holeshot devices, these devices aid to lower the centre of gravity on the motorcycle to help it gain more speed off the line. This effectively is turning the MotoGP bikes into dragsters as they squat down before firing off like a missile, having holeshot devices on the front and rear means a lower centre of gravity which makes the bike less prone to wheelies.
Aprilia have seriously impressed in the test, namely with Aleix Espargaro as his teammate Lorenzo Savadori continues his testing duties for the brand, Espargaro was within the top 6 every single day of the test as he works to improve the reliability of their machine which was majorly tuned down over last season as the parts of the bike would not work as effectively as they expected, they have rocked up in 2021 with a completely new chassis, engine, aero, exhaust, carbon swingarm and even a customary ‘salad box’ which is said to have weights inside it to help change the centre of gravity of the RS-GP. Espargaro’s best time was within 0.500 of Miller’s new lap record and placed him in P6.
Next up we have Mir and Rins, the World Champions have been jumping the gun a little with the riders testing the new 2022 engine during the test. Mir and Rins also tested a new chassis and swingarm and have admitted they are not worried going into 2021, despite missing out on a days testing.
Johann Zarco was the ninth fastest rider overall in the test, the Frenchman also testing Ducati’s new fairing as well as a rear-wheel scoop. This deadly combination allowed him to set a new unofficial top speed record of a staggering 357.6km/h (222.20 mph) down the straight at Qatar! He confirmed he had been working on race pace but knows he has more left in him to be able to fight for the victory in the season opener.
Honda’s new recruit Pol Espargaro didn’t waste any time getting to grips with his new baby posting the 10th fastest time of the test and has confirmed he feels incredibly confident, adapting to the bike very quickly saying, “I feel quite prepared for the first race and to do this in such a short time against riders who have been on their bikes a long time, it’s a release. I have adapted to the Honda well; I want to thank all the Repsol Honda Team for their work over these days. The team has been great, and we have made the most of the testing time we are given. Now we see what the season will bring.”
Pol Espargaro is incredibly comfortable on the Honda RC213V.
Honda brought three different chassis to Qatar, their 2020 chassis, a carbon hybrid chassis and a new chassis which were tested by Bradl with the results being quite inconclusive. Takaaki Nakagami and Bradl also tried out a new fairing and again have not confirmed any further than this, they finished in P12 and P13 respectively.
Squeezed in between the Honda riders sat in P11 was Valentino Rossi, the Petronas rider set his fastest ever lap time around Qatar which was 0.810 away from Millers lap record. The Italian enjoying his time with Petronas, describing the bike as still being his but “with a new dress”. He aimed to do a race simulation on the fifth day but the conditions did not allow him to do so, he feels strong on the bike and can be competitive riding for the Petronas team which he has said has a “really good atmosphere”.
KTM had a tough old time at Qatar, their bike not working the way they have expected it to do so during the tests. They have tried out a new thinner aero with a more jagged edge to it. Unfortunately, the KTM boys placed in P16 (Oliveira), P17 (Binder), P19 (Petrucci) and P23 (Lecuona) but are not too worried about the timesheets currently. The manufacturer are struggling to get the most out of their bike, it has been said that the bikes natural traction is that good that Qatar’s extra grip is actually working against the factory and the riders, but Oliveira has confirmed it’s not as bad as the timesheets show.
Oliveira focuses on long runs on his RC16 to measure his bikes speed over long distances which is why they are not reflected too heavily in the timesheets.
Miguel Oliveira expects to add to his win tally in 2021.
MotoGP’s 2021 rookies of Jorge Martin (P14), Enea Bastianini (P15), Luca Marini (P21) and Lorenzo Savadori (P26) all made steady progress with Savadori being used mainly as a test mule given his previous role as a test rider for the team. The Moto2 graduates have been working on the feel of the bike with Martin adapting incredibly quickly to the bike, the Pramac team commenting on his mentality saying it is a great addition to the team. Enea Bastiaini also had adapted to the bike very quickly and Davide Tardozzi has said that Enea’s natural talent is clearly shining through.
Luca Marini is struggling a little, the Moto2 runner up had a torrid time during his opening 2 days on the bike struggling with his set up of the bike and the ergonomics. Thankfully his issues have been fixed for the most part and he is now working on adapting to the MotoGP bike, using Francesco Bagnaia’s data for reference as the duo have incredibly similar riding styles, describing Millers style to GPOne as “really weird”, which can be understood given Miller’s different style with his spectacular Scandinavian flick into every corner.
Well that’s all folks! The MotoGP season begins in a matter of weeks now and it’s a doubleheader at Qatar, but don’t go anywhere because now it’s time for Moto2 and Moto3 to test at Qatar!
Featured images – Ducati Media (Miller + Bagnaia)
KTM Media / Polarity Photo (Oliveira)