New Avintia Ducati rider Johann Zarco could be one to watch during qualifying for the Qatar MotoGP season opener.

Playing catch-up after missing last year's Valencia and Jerez tests, the Frenchman turned heads with the sixth fastest lap time during day two of the final pre-season outing at Losail.

Zarco admits he's not yet able to be as strong for race pace, but is understanding more about the Desmosedici GP19 with each lap.

The former Tech3 Yamaha, KTM and LCR Honda rider completed 186 of those laps over the three days in Qatar, finishing 14th overall on the combined timesheets, 0.7s behind Maverick Vinales (Yamaha).

“It has been a good test," Zarco said. "Compared to Malaysia I had a better control of the bike and when the tyres are new, I can get a good lap time.

"Now we are trying to feel this comfortable on the bike every lap.

"For sure I'm not yet able to do it consistently, but every time I ride this bike I'm getting a better answer and it's giving me motivation to do even more. So it's very positive.

"I’m happy with the test and I can’t wait for the first race.”

Avintia's Ruben Xaus added that one of the reasons for Zarco's progress has been a "positive connection" with the team's new crew chief Marco Rigamonti, who previously helped Andrea Iannone to victory with Ducati and podiums at Suzuki.

On the other side of the Avintia garage, Tito Rabat was only 0.1s slower than Zarco for the 17th fastest lap time.

"It was a positive test. It will be a hard-fought championship as we are all in the same second," he said. "I'm satisfied with the lap time, but we have to improve lap by lap."



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