Aspar Team make a great impression in Qatar
Aspar Team make a great impression in Qatar

What a move returning home to his previous team it has turned out to be for Pull & Bear Aspar Team rider Alvaro Bautista, who on the Ducati Desmosedici GP16, finished the final of the four IRTA off-season MotoGP tests at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar as the fifth quickest rider, and became the fastest independent team rider of the test.

Bautista doing well with former team

Having switched from the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, Bautista seems to have well and truly settled in in the Aspar camp, and has also seemed to quickly come to grips with the Italian machinery. His success was mirrored by his new teammate, Karel Abraham, who got off to a fantastic start on the opening days of the three day test.

Abraham fourth at the end of day one of testing in Qatar

Day one saw Abraham finish fourth quickest, as the second highest placed Ducati and independent team rider. Completing 42 laps on the opening day, his fastest was his last as he set a time of 1:55.613. Iniitally, the Czech Republican rider who has returned to the MotoGP paddock after several seasons away, thought that “in the beginning it looked like it would be a very hard day” due to the fact the track was “very dirty and very slippery”. He mentioned how after three visits to the track “it didn’t get better”.

Once more riders had chosen to venture out he found that “everything got much better”. After “one set of tyres completely destroyed” they changed them for new and decided to try “two new electronic settings for the throttle control”. He confirmed that the “first one was really bad” and again he “still wasn’t happy with the second one”. As a result, they “decided finally to come back to the original set-up” and match that up with “a soft tyre to chase a lap time”.

On an empty track, he spoke of how he “had to push on [his] own” which was when he was able to set his best time which he was left feeling “surprised by”. However, he was left feeling “confident now with the bike” and so was “happy with the work” they had done and remained optimistic for the days that followed.

Bautista sixth after missing chance to ‘time attack’

Bautista only managed to finish 6th quickest on the opening day however there was less than one second covering the riders between him and second place rider Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha). Bautista completed 43 laps on the opening day with his fastest lap being set on lap 31 with a time of 1:56.116. As he continues to familiarise himself with his new machinery, he spent the first day comparing one version of the GP16 with another and therefore missed his opportunity to complete a ‘time attack’.

Bautista confirmed how they “took the opportunity to tests a lot of things on both”. He felt the opening day was a “day to try things” as well as working to “recapture [their] rhythm” and to “wrap up some work [they] had unfinished from other tests”. He felt they “lost some time at the end trying out some new software from Ducati”; he explained how this led to him being unable to “use a new tyre because the track conditions were no longer optimum”.

Race simulation on day two for Abraham

Although Abraham was able to improve his time from the opening day by 0.193 seconds, he was only able to finish as 11th quickest by the end of the second day. His day was spent completing a race simulation by completing 20 fast laps with a consistent time. His day ended with a small crash which he was able to walk away unharmed from.

The Czech was left feeling “happy” as he felt he had completed a “satisfactory race simulation” where he said he was “able to set some fast and consistent laps”. He described how they “tried some small modifications to the electronics and the chassis” in the opening hours. He “put some new tyres in” on his last venture out on track however he “wasn’t able to follow anybody” and so instead “rode alone”. He still, however, was “able to improve” on his best time from the day previous. Explaining the incident, he said, “I had a little crash at the end of the day but the bike and me were fine.”

Bautista on a mission from the start of day two

Immediately at the start of the second session out of the three, Bautista was able to make significant improvements from the first day, reducing his fastest time by half a second within laps. Unfortunately too for the Spaniard, he also crashed but too was unhurt. He then focused on the stability and turning of the Ducati Desmosedici GP 16. He lapped 48 times in total, with his fastest lap of the day occurring on lap 48 setting a time of 1:55.245. He finished the second day in seventh overall, less than three quarters of a second of the fastest time set by fastest man on track Vinales.

The Spaniard spoke of how after “finding a decent base to start from” on the first day, they “made some detailed changes”. He found that the “small modifications” allowed him to “focus more” on his riding, and work on “getting references because the bikes weren’t changing much between runs”. Instead they “focused on race pace on used rubber” and then also “tried a few alterations to find more stability”.

He revealed that when testing in Phillip Island, in Australia a month previous, that they “found something that [they] thought might have confirmed” in Qatar, however he confirmed they had to “keep working on stability and turning”. He also admitted that the place he was “struggling most [was] on the gas in corner exit”, still he explained that he had “taken a step forward in confidence and feeling” and planned to “improve the set-up” and to also “complete a race run of 20 laps on used rubber”.

Bautista finishes fifth overall despite crash on final day

The final day proved the most successful as Bautista ended the session and the test in fifth place with a time of 1:54.714. He completed 65 laps on his final day with his quickest coming on lap 46. Again however Bautista crashed but thankfully was once again uninjured. Instead, he was able to continue with testing, and completed the race simulation he had scheduled the day before.

Afterwards he spoke of how he ended the day “feeling very happy” and that after improving hisfeeling with the bike the previous day, they were able to find “something else that gave [them] a little extra confidence and pace” on the third day. He found he “lost a little time with the crash” however he fortunately “still had enough to complete [their] programme for this test”.

He confirmed how his “best lap over the three days” came during his race simulation which he felt was “important and good for confidence”. He admitted he is “feeling more and more confident with [their] race potential and with the bike”. Ending the test “feeling very happy with how the team is working and the support [they] are getting from Ducati”, he hoped that they could “have the same feeling in a couple of weeks at the race”.

Abraham unwell to continue with strong performance in Qatar

Unfortunately for Abraham, on the third day he was feeling under the weather and had developed a dose that affected his performance. Still, he was again able to improve on his own time from day two by 0.87 seconds and his final fastest time of 1:55.333 left him placed 13th on the timesheets.

Abraham described how “physically” it has been “a really bad day” for him as he described the symptoms of his cold. It left him “frustrated” throughout the final day of testing, and he was “not in a good mood” but still did what he could. He confirmed that they “did a couple of things with the electronics that seemed to work out” however he said he wasn’t himself on the track.

After switching to a soft tyre he “managed to get behind Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team)” which led to him setting his fastest time. He explained that he “wanted to go a little bit faster, but it’s a good lap time” and that they could be “happy with [their] day in general”.