Aleix Espargaro continued his outstanding winter testing form in Qatar last night by finishing the final pre-season action of 2014 on top of the timesheets.
The Forward Yamaha rider was doubly happy after an impressive best lap of 1.54.874 put him just 0.033s clear of younger brother Pol Espargaro.
But it was a fast and consistent race simulation that boosted Espargaro’s confidence that in the first race back in Qatar on March 23 he will be a top five challenger.
Espargaro’s best lap was only marginally slower than Jorge Lorenzo’s 2013 pole position time and his 21-lap race simulation saw him reel off consistent laps in the high 1.55 and low 1.56 bracket.
The gloss was slightly taken off his eye-catching achievement when Tech 3 Yamaha rider Pol suffered a small fracture in his right collarbone after a late crash at turn 6.
But Espargaro was still all smiles when he spoke to MCN at the Losail International Circuit and he said: “I am really happy because on the second night I was struggling a little and it was the worst day of the winter season, even though I was third.
Tonight (Sunday) I was first again and just one tenth slower than the record lap of Lorenzo and the race simulation was unbelievable, better than I expected. I am really happy because on the 21 laps we were a little bit faster than Lorenzo last year when he won. We have to be really proud of this."
Espargaro did his race simulation on a hard tyre having admitted it was impossible to race the new extra soft that is exclusively available to Open class riders.
Many believe at tracks that Espargaro can make the extra soft Bridgestone last for the whole race distance that he could even be a dark horse for the podium.
But he said it was impossible to contemplate the extra soft in Qatar and he added: “It is impossible to do a race run with the softer tyre. I was able to do a maximum of three laps with this tyre. But with the hard I feel really good."