'Strange'. That was the word both Power Electronics Aspar riders used when describing their Qatar MotoGP weekend.
Lead rider Randy de Puniet arrived at round one having been the best of the new CRT bikes by a a considerable margin in testing, but the Frenchman's confidence took a knock with two falls in practice.
Starting 14th on the grid, de Puniet - like top CRT rival Colin Edwards (Suter-BMW)- dropped down the order on lap one.
The pair were 16th and 17th across the start/finish line for the first of the 22 laps, then moved through order together, before de Puniet suffered a gearbox glitch that sent him back to 16th.
The Frenchman recovered to 13th by the midway point, one position behind Edwards, where both riders remained to the chequered flag.
"In general, this weekend has been rather strange,” said de Puniet, who finished 12sec behind Edwards. “I crashed twice and I ended up with a bike that didn't behave as well as in [the final test at] Jerez - I suppose that was due to the lack of grip on this track.
“These small things made me lose my confidence a little and I started the race with doubts in my mind. However, the situation turned around in the race. After the opening laps I started to make a comeback through the field and began to catch Edwards, but then we had an unfortunate issue with the gearbox and at the end of the straight I was unable to move down gears.
“That meant that I began to lose time again and I had to regain more positions. Right at the end I began to note the lack of grip on the rear, which probably means that we made a mistake with the suspension configuration.
“The positive thing is that we adapted to everything that was thrown at us and placed second out of the CRT bikes – 13th overall. I think that this is a good result, but we have to keep on going in the same way in order to ride as fast in Jerez as we did in the tests."
On the other side of the Aspar ART garage, Aleix Espargaró continued to experience chattering issues with his bike. The Spaniard concluded his return to the premier-class in 15th place, where he had qualified.
"I gave my all in the race and got a positive result, but I leave Qatar disappointed because we weren't able to solve all the chattering problems that plagued us this weekend,” said the Spaniard.
“It is strange, but we've been here four days and we looked to have got an idea as to which direction to take things, but we weren't able to overcome our adversities.
“This is a situation that hurts your confidence a little, but I'm not going to get downhearted and I know that this is a long season. We are going to turn this around, we have all worked extremely hard and we will carry on doing so when we go to Jerez.
“We have two weeks in which to find solutions and get our motivation back up to maximum."