Aleix Espargaro put the returning Suzuki team an impressive fourth on the opening night of the final pre-season MotoGP test in Qatar.

The Spaniard set a best lap time just 0.433s from the pace-setting Ducati of Andrea Iannone around the floodlit Losail circuit.

However Suzuki, like Ducati and Aprilia, can use the softer Open class rear tyre not available to Honda and Yamaha. While Iannone wasn't clear about which he had used, speaking only of used tyres, second fastest team-mate Andrea Dovizioso stated he had not used the soft.

Related Articles

Espargaro meanwhile was happy to admit he had run both types of rubber, with the soft not a suitable race option.

"Today we focused on adapting the set-up to the track, which is new for us, and to get well-prepared for the race," he said. "Lap times are not so bad but there is still room for improvements. We tested both soft and hard tyres: the first one is very competitive, but it is not suitable for this kind of track as it deteriorates pretty quickly. I feel more-confident with the hard tyre, the pace is not that much slower but the grip drops after 10/ 11 laps, so we need to work on electronics and settings to counterbalance this.

"So far we tested the same configuration we ran in Sepang 2, making improvements step-by-step, in particular the traction control which will probably be the key to find consistency with the hard tyre for longer runs. We have some upgrades to test in the next two days but our priority is to find more traction over the distance and to find a comfortable set-up for the race."

Rookie team-mate Maverick Vinales had a tougher first experience of the GSX-R at Losail. After barely putting a wheel wrong during the two Sepang tests, the young Spaniard fell twice on his way to eleventh, albeit only 0.865s from the top.

"I am happy for this first day because I finally had the chance of trying my GSX-RR on a new track," he began. "We did a lot of work mainly on my adaptation to the circuit and the finalisation of the set-up and electronics. Losail is a very peculiar environment, I need time to get used to the conditions and to adapt to the bike, but we managed to test some improvements in electronics, in particular the traction control.

"I made a couple of mistakes in braking that led to two crashes, but I'm not worried because I know they were my responsibility and my machine is following the improving process we had planned. We still have many improvements to do, mainly to finalise the new electronics and to get ready for the race, both in fast laps and in pace, but for the moment the feedback is very encouraging."

Testing continues on Sunday and Monday.