Brad Binder signed off preparations for his rookie MotoGP season in style by being the fastest KTM rider in Qatar.

The South African rocketed as high as fourth place after fitting new tyres to his RC16 on the final night - the lap time eventually good enough for ninth overall and just 0.4s from Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) on the test standings.

The next best KTM was team-mate Pol Espargaro in 15th and next closest rookie Tech 3's Iker Lecuona in 20th.

“I was quite surprised to be honest," Binder said. "I felt comfortable and we made some changes today that helped me a lot and sorted many of my issues. I put in a new set of tyres and ‘bam!’ the lap-time came.

"The bike was good. I felt way more comfortable to get it stopped, turned quicker and also get on the throttle earlier. Once we figured that part out then it was a lot easier to put a fast lap together but it was still quite difficult to do 22 of them, so I have a long way to go!

"We made some good steps these three days and the team has been awesome. I’m looking forward to continuing at the GP.”

Espargaro was denied a time attack of his own due to a late fall, but still labelled the outing a 'great test' and was still within 0.8s of the top.

“A good day but not such a great ending," he said. "We worked well and got some good info with a lot of things but then got a bit lost and it affected us going for a time attack.

"We made a couple of mistakes and had some issues and then I lost the front on Turn 2 which meant we could not have the happy end we wanted.

"Overall it has been a great test though and I feel very ready for the race weekend and that’s the most important thing. Brad did very well with a good lap at the right time and that shows we can be there.”

KTM team manager Mike Leitner added: “I think there is clear proof that we made a step with the bike from 2019 to 2020.

"The lap-time from Brad was very impressive by a rookie but we have been looking at the longer outings and he did well there also.

"Pol didn’t go for a super-fast time today but we are not worried about his performance at all.”

KTM Technical Coordinator Sebastian Risse also feels the RC16, which now features 'drooping' wings, is 'ready' for the new season.

"We managed to do most of the large items on our test schedule in Sepang and we know Losail is quite special in terms of the conditions and the way it changes with day sessions and night races and so on," he said.

"So, we focussed on race distance and knowing the tyres specs better and for this place in particular: this all worked out quite well. You have to look behind the list of times when you are here.

"I think we are quite well-prepared but we did struggle a bit with Pol today to make the ultimate lap-time; however we know what we have to look for and what we need to do so we are confident.”

 

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