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MotoGP Qatar test: Gossip, rumour and intrigue

Valentino Rossi has, but not in so many words, told Maverick Vinales to stop being such a whiny-ass and be vaguely happy with the laptimes he has been setting during testing in Qatar, and not expect to be a second ahead.

The Doctor joked with media at Losail, saying that his young team-mate’s expectations were a bit too high. “Maverick looks very down but at the end he is fourth or fifth. Because he wants to stay in first position with one second over the rest, and still he’s not happy! So, it’s a different approach. I think he is young and he wants to try to always stay in front.

Rossi himself is pretty OK with how testing has gone so far even though he doesn’t think so much progress has been made. “What we discover during these winter tests is that like last year the situation changes very much from one track to another. We suffer a lot in Thailand but we are competitive here so this will be tricky, for everybody I hope.


“It will be very important try to not suffer too much in the difficult tracks. We are all very close and the limit, the line between being strong and not enough is very tight.”

Former team-mate Jorge Lorenzo has been up and down faster than a faulty rollercoaster in testing and says the new GP18 doesn’t feel natural to him.

“We just had three tests so it is very little to make a great evolution during the pre-season so that is why still we have a big margin for improvement in the future,” he said.

“I still don’t feel this bike natural for me. I still don’t feel that is really my bike. It is a matter of understanding what is the best setting, the best combination for my riding and when it happens I will be fighting for the top, fighting for victories and good results.”

Johann Zarco ended the desert test in P1 but his Monster Yamaha team had hoped for more factory input this season, in the way Cal Crutchlow gets from HRC, but team boss Herve Poncharal wasn’t complaining. Much.

“Everybody was expecting maybe something a bit special coming from Yamaha to support Johann like HRC doing with Cal or Ducati doing with Danilo Petrucci,” said Poncharal.

“It didn’t come, although we proved it tonight in Doha that the support and the bike we have from Yamaha is an incredible support and good enough anyway to be on top of the timesheets.

“But anyway there were many things that as a satellite operation you always want a bit more, you always want to be a bit closer to the factory guys,” the Frenchman concluded, before nipping off for a cheeky Pernod.

Reigning champion Marc Marquez believes he is almost three-quarters of a second slower than Andrea Dovizioso at Losail on what is admittedly Honda’s worst track of the season. But still, that is a country mile and Marquez may even struggle to see the podium given the pace of Zarco, Crutchlow, Iannone and you can never count out Rossi in Qatar. However, Marquez still thinks Dovi is the only man to give him a hard time. “Valentino was strong at the end of the evening today. But overall, I believe that Dovi is the most dangerous opponent again.”

Crutchlow said he struggled to find a front tyre option that worked for him over a race distance. The LCR Honda man said the tyre that turned wouldn’t last and the tyre that lasted wouldn’t turn, but was good in braking areas. He also said most of the test was spent taming the new engine. But he ended up fourth and only four-tenths off Zarco.

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