Jack Miller will make his debut with the latest evolution of Honda's 2017 ('big bang') engine during this week's test in Qatar.

The Marc VDS rider heads for the final pre-season outing having finished ninth overall at Phillip Island, with a best lap time just 0.8s from the top.

"I'm feeling really good after the tests in Sepang and Phillip Island and I'm looking forward to carrying that momentum into the final pre-season test in Qatar, where we'll be testing the latest specification Honda engine for the first time," confirmed Miller, who will thus have the same engine spec as Repsol riders Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, plus LCR's Cal Crutchlow.

"It's been a good pre-season so far; we've found some improvements and, step-by-step, we've managed to go faster, finishing inside the top ten last time out at Phillip Island. Now we're heading into the final test before the season gets underway and the aim is simple; to make sure we're fully prepared for when the lights go out for the first time in 2017."

Meanwhile, team-mate Tito Rabat has been passed fit to return to action in Qatar. The Spaniard missed the previous Phillip Island test due to multiple fractures sustained in a highside during the opening 2017 test, at Sepang.

"The last four weeks have been all about rehabilitation, working with the physiotherapist to recover from the injuries and also the surgery," Rabat said. "I am still not back to full fitness but I'm fit to ride and although we'll need to take the injuries into account in Qatar, this won't stop us from enjoying a productive test.

"This test isn't about pushing for a lap time, it's about working with my crew, rebuilding my confidence with the bike and ensuring we are as well prepared as it's possible to be when we return to the Losail International Circuit for the first race of the season."

Team Principal Michael Bartholemy added: "We will be happy to see Tito back on the bike in Qatar, after what has been a difficult period of rehabilitation for him. We're not expecting him to be fully fit, as his training has been limited by the injuries and also by the antibiotics that were necessary to fend off infection in his knee.

"However, he is confident that the injuries are sufficiently recovered to allow him to test and we will of course monitor his physical condition closely throughout the three days."

It is assumed that Rabat will still be using the older engine spec, first tried by Miller at Jerez last November.

The Qatar test takes place from March 10-12 with the season-opening race at the same circuit on March 26.

By Peter McLaren



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