Qatar MotoGP: Yamaha: “Interesting to see where we are” | MotoGP

Fabio Quartararo and Yamaha head into the Qatar MotoGP season opener this weekend as reigning world champions and reigning Doha race winners.

Yamaha won both races at Lusail last season with a win from Quartararo and former teammate Maverick Vinales.

But despite repeated pleas from their star rider, pre-season testing showed that Yamaha was unable to find any significant top speed to help fight Ducati.

Quartararo finished the final pre-season test at Mandalika only 17th fastest thanks to the speed trap, 9.8km/h slower than compatriot Johann Zarco’s Pramac Ducati.

Average top speed figures (best of five) put Yamaha at a slightly lower deficit of 7.3 km/h.

“We haven’t taken any steps forward,” is how Quartararo described Yamaha’s top speed situation compared to last year.

Nonetheless, the smooth final corner in Qatar should help ease Yamaha’s pain along the 1km straight and last year’s two M1 wins – plus Quartararo’s win at Mugello – underlined that a “slow” motorcycling can always win on fast tracks.

“We have good memories of this place from the last time,” Quartararo said of the Lusail circuit. “I won my first GP with the factory team at Losail last year. The focus for this week is to get back on track. We have to get a good start on Friday and try to make a step forward. more than last year.”

The Frenchman posted a high average pace at the final pre-season test at Mandalika, where he also resolved his initial time attack issues with the 2022 bike to finish second overall behind Pol Espargaro’s Honda.

But the risk is that in a race situation, unless he breaks away at the start, Quartararo could struggle to overtake the bikes with better straight-line speed, a frustrating scenario already experienced in the last rounds of Last year.

And it could get worse. There are now eight Ducatis instead of six on the grid while Honda, Aprilia and Suzuki seem to have found some notable horsepower.

“I don’t know where we can improve,” admitted Quartararo, who is yet to sign for 2023, at the end of the trials. “When you start to feel the front move all over the place, the rear turns to the limit, you touch your elbow everywhere, it’s hard to find more [as a rider].

“But for me what is important is that the team, especially Yamaha, is working a lot to find more speed so I feel less on the limit. Because to be honest, to ride at this pace, at every time I go to the track I need to push so much. Of course every rider is at the limit, but it’s quite difficult for us.

The exact strength at which Quartararo must attack will only become clear when the red lights go out at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

“We’re all excited to ‘go back to school,'” said Monster Yamaha team manager Massimo Meregalli. “We finished our winter testing program on a positive note, and we feel ready to start the new season.

“The race in Qatar is generally a successful run for us. Our aim is to start the season strong to set the right tone. It will be interesting to see where we are at the end of this weekend.”

“Of course we will give everything to give the fans a spectacular start to the season.”

On the other side of the garage, Franco Morbidelli will make his Qatar debut for the factory team, having joined the team in place of Vinales for the final rounds of last year.

The Italian has missed most of 2021 due to knee surgery but believes he is close to full fitness. Like the RNF Yamaha satellite riders, Morbidelli spent much of pre-season firmly in Quartararo’s shadow, but snatched a fifth-place finish in morale late in the day at Mandalika.

“We are now in Qatar and ready to start the new season,” said Morbidelli. “This GP weekend will be important for me to see where we are in terms of fitness over a race weekend. But judging by the tests, I’m in pretty good shape.

“We made good steps in testing, especially in Indonesia, so I’m looking forward to getting to work here.”

For the first time in many years there was no testing in Qatar before the race weekend.

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