Andrea Dovizioso was almost two seconds off the pace of Aleix Espargaro in opening practice for the Qatar MotoGP – the Italian admitting that missing the pre-season Losail test had severely hampered Ducati.
Alongside the factory Honda and Yamaha teams, Ducati had instead attended a Phillip Island tyre test, leaving them three days of track time behind the rest of the field. Even so Dovizioso felt that the gap to the fastest time was far greater than expected.
“I didn’t expect this gap but it’s the reality of everyone making the test so we don’t have to be worried about that,” said Dovizioso. “It’s a strange track here and it’s difficult because the lines of the corner are quite long so it’s difficult to get grip. I think that it’s more about getting the rhythm and it’s only been one practice session so I hope this won’t be the limit for us. I used the hard tyre so we saved a soft tyre for tomorrow and also for qualifying.”
While Ducati had applied to join the Open class this season, a last minute rule change means they will instead remain in the Factory class but be granted all of the Open class benefits until a certain number of top three results are achieved.
Dovizioso was keen to stress that the improvements made by Ducati this winter were due to the influence of new Ducati Corse general manager Gig Dall’Igna and not because of the change in technical rules.
“What we improved isn’t about the rules. In Malaysia and Australia it was just about the changes that Gigi made. After that, sure, we have some more fuel so in some races we can use a little more power and the soft tyre, but I don’t know if we can use that tyre in the races. Here it looks like nobody will be able to use the soft tyre in the race.”
While a race distance is unlikely, Aleix Espargaro used the soft tyre to set the fastest lap by 0.466s on Thursday and it should help those racing under Open rules in Saturday’s qualifying session.
Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, fastest of those that had not previously tested, was 1.131s behind Espargaro.