Avintia Racing enjoyed a dream Phillip Island MotoGP test with Hector Barbera the top Ducati rider on the final two days, closely followed by team-mate Loris Baz.
Barbera had posted the third fastest lap during the opening Sepang test, but that had been while using the soft rear tyre, just before it was withdrawn due to Baz's fall, and he dropped back to eleventh on the last day.
But at Phillip Island Barbera was persistently quick, taking the Desmosedici GP14.2 - raced by the factory Ducati team back in 2014 - to sixth place on day two, then fourth on day three and just 0.2s behind Honda leader Marc Marquez!
The top factory Ducati rider on Friday was Andrea Dovizioso, in tenth place and half-a-second from Barbera's lap.
“One more test and we finished really happy,” Barbera said. “Before lunch time the test was interrupted by the rain and I thought it was finished, but we could finally get back on track and I'm very happy as I was able to do many laps in '29 and I also managed to improve my lap times in the final minutes with a 1'29.3 lap, and that's almost one second faster than last year race.
“It's also encouraging to be in the top five during the day, and gives me great motivation. The team did a really good job and I want to say big thank you, because they always give their 110%. We are in a good momentum and we have to carry it on and take profit of all the information gained during this test.
“We are looking forward for the next test, as it will be really important before the first race at Qatar. The winter test has been great so far, but I still realistic. I don't want to put pressure on me, my target will be to finish every race between the fifth and tenth place, and everything more than this will be a gift for us.”
The Spaniard, who took the GP14.2 to open class glory last year and is thus familiar with the less advanced electronics of the new unified ECU, set two laps good enough for fourth place on Friday and featured sixth times in the list of top 50 lap times
on the final day, the same as the top Yamaha of Valentino Rossi.
But Baz did even better in that respect.
Sixth on the Friday timesheet (+0.425s) is impressive enough, especially given his massive Sepang accident, but the Frenchman also set eight of the day's top 50 laps, a figure beaten only by Marquez! Admittedly Baz's laps were from 14th onwards on that list, but it underlines that he could set a consistently high pace.
“To be honest I can only be happy after these days at Phillip Island,” said Baz, who has moved to Avintia after spending his rookie season at Forward. “Yesterday we focussed in my riding position and today we started to work in the bike set up. Step by step I build my confidence and in the morning I did two really fast laps behind Maverick, and I was able to see many interesting things. Then in the afternoon I was riding alone and I was very strong, so I'm really happy.
“We have been third during a big part of the day, and together with Hector, the first and second Ducati. At the end of the session several riders improved their lap times, but we did a good job. I did two long runs at the end and I almost equal my best lap time of 29.5, and this time riding alone.
“So, although we didn't improved, to be so fast by my own and with less track temperature was very positive. My confidence with the bike is growing everyday and I'm close to know the limits. To finish the test so close to the first and with such a good pace is something incredible. But we have to keep working because it seems this year everything will be very tight.”
In terms of combined lap times over all three days in Australia, Barbera and Baz were ranked fifth and seventh respectively and again the top two Ducati riders.
The final pre-season test will be held in Qatar from March 2-4.