Alex Rins put Suzuki at the top of the timesheets during the penultimate night of MotoGP pre-season testing in Qatar.

After three runner-up finishes last season, then highly promising pace at the opening Sepang test, it was a further sign that the Spaniard is moving closer to his goal of a race win on the GSX-RR.

"I think if the race was tomorrow, we would be happy to start! said Rins, who edged out Yamaha's Maverick Vinales by 0.057s on his 44th of 47 laps. "Because as you can see, we are doing a very good job.

"In Sepang, and in Qatar during these two days, I think we are happy. The team and me. We confirmed all the things that we tried in Sepang, and also new parts, like the new exhaust Suzuki brought here to Qatar. I think we are in the good direction."

Explaining where progress has been made with the GSX-RR, Rins cited "the braking area a little bit, this was one thing I was asking Suzuki to improve in the last part of last season. And for sure they made a small step.

"In general, the bike is similar to last year, no big changes, but the small changes they made are quite consistent."

That will be a relief to Suzuki, which no longer has access to technical concessions such as engine modifications during the season, a rule that caught them out when the wrong design was selected in 2017.

And is the step enough to become a MotoGP winner in 2019?

"We hope! This is the target for Suzuki and, basically, we are going in the right way. The target is to win, because last year I made a lot of podiums, a lot of second places, third places.

"To win a race is difficult for sure, but it we don't win here in Qatar, there are 18 races before we finish in Valencia. Here, the first race, everybody wants to win, everybody wants to finish on the podium, so I think we need to go step by step, and in the end, we will see where we are. "

The GSX-RR's only race win to date was at the hands of Vinales at Silverstone 2016.

The final night of pre-season testing takes place on Monday.

"Tomorrow we want to do a small long run, to see where we are, to see how the tyre life is going," Rins said.

Rookie team-mate Joan Mir was eleventh quickest (+0.687s).

 

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