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Bautista, Honda to the fore in Qatar
8 March 2014
Alvaro Bautista and Honda took the initiative during the second night of the final MotoGP pre-season test, in Qatar.
Joint fourth quickest with fellow satellite RC213V rider Stefan Bradl on the Aleix Espargaro led opening night, Bautista and Bradl claimed the top two places on the Saturday timesheets.
The evening got off to a slow start with riders waiting until the beginning of the third hour to take to the floodlit Losail circuit.
Tech 3 Yamaha rookie Pol Espargaro led the initial running before Bautista broke 0.7s clear of the field at around 7:30pm. The Go&Fun Gresini Honda rider then maintained his position to the 11pm track closure, by which time LCR's Bradl had trimmed Bautista's advantage to 0.314s.
Bautista best lap of 1m 55.194s is only a few hundredths outside of Casey Stoner's 2008 official race lap record and several tents quicker than Espargaro's Friday best.
Forward Yamaha's Open class star Espargaro continued to threaten the Factory class quartet present this weekend, setting the third fastest lap (+0.392s) of the night, albeit slightly slower than his soft tyre best on Friday.
Nevertheless, Espargaro was again quicker than both Factory class Tech 3 Yamahas, with Bradley Smith (+0.433s) and young brother Pol Espargaro (+0.682s) following him on the timesheets.
Only four Factory class riders are present for the Qatar test - the Honda, Yamaha and Ducati manufacturer teams having held their final pre-season test at Phillip Island earlier this week.
Next best Open rider after Espargaro was once again Pramac Ducati's Andrea Iannone, who repeated his opening night sixth (+0.832s), with Espargaro's team-mate Colin Edwards likewise holding seventh place - although reducing the gap to the top from 1.5 to 1.1s.
The pattern continued with Pramac's Yonny Hernandez, Aspar Honda's Nicky Hayden and Gresini Honda's Scott Redding also repeating their Friday positions to complete the top ten.
Hayden found half a second of lap time relative to the leader, but was still 1.729s adrift, while rookie Redding (+1.960s) will have been pleased to again keep in touch with the former world champion and leading RCV1000R rider.
Hiroshi Aoyama (+2.087s) and Karel Abraham (+2.534s) made its four Open Hondas in a row.
Paul Bird Motorsport riders Broc Parkes (+2.536s) and Michael Laverty (+2.666s) were 13th and 15th on the Aprilia-powered PBM bikes, although the pair completed the last laps of any team.
Between the PBMs was top Avintia rider Hector Barbera (+2.544s), whose rookie team-mate Mike di Meglio was 16th (+2.981s).
The 17 rider timesheets were completed by lone Ioda competitor Danilo Petrucci (+4.111s), making his ART debut after the team missed the previous Sepang tests.
All riders broke the two-minute barrier on Saturday.
The final night of 2014 pre-season testing takes place from 4pm-11pm on Sunday. The season opening round will be held back at the Losail circuit on March 20-23.
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