Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco has signed off the final pre-season test of the 2018 MotoGP season in fine form, ending the three-day test at Qatar’s Losail circuit top of the time sheets – as well as embarrassing the factory Yamahas by just pipping Valentino Rossi to the top spot.
However, while the Frenchman might have ended the test just shy of the series’ longest-standing outright lap record, he was quick to downplay his chances for the opening race of the season at the track in only two weeks’ time, admitting that they still have work to do on race pace.
"That was a very good third day, I’m delighted to finish with the top lap time. I think it was even possible to ride inside the high 53s, but we have to accept that we have to understand step by step how to ride at this speed. We did some great work with the team and with everything we did during these three days, I felt more confidence and I could work well on this.
“When I did a very long run to test the race, it was not too fast. I did 17 laps in a row, but probably a bit tired after this intense days here. Anyway, we are constant and I can relax a lot on the bike. I’m really happy about that and I need to keep this feeling in mind to start the race weekend well in a fortnight."
2017 championship runner-up Andrea Dovizioso was third, looking comfortable enough on the factory Ducati to admit that he’s ready to go racing already, while Brit Cal Crutchlow was fourth, fast on both outright single lap speed and on race pace, despite worrying about tyre conservation thanks to the track’s hard-braking corners.
Maverick Viñales was fifth, but the second of the Yamaha riders still seems somewhat lost after being unable to put together consistent laps for the race. Suzuki rider Andrea Iannone, who topped the second day, finished sixth overall after missing the final day thanks to illness.
Reigning champion Marc Marquez, the second Suzuki of Alex Rins, and the Ducati pairing of Danilo Petrucci and Jorge Lorenzo rounded out the top ten.
Bradley Smith came home in 14th overall, pleased with his pace as they continue to make big steps forward with the Red Bull KTM, while Scott Redding was 22nd on a hybrid Aprilia machine that is still very different from the final package that he’ll race in two weeks’ time.