The opening day of Official 2021 MotoGP testing in Qatar concluded with Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia causing a surprise at the top of the timesheets.

Despite electing to sit out yesterday's Shakedown, Espargaro made repeated appearances in P1 throughout the day, remaining out of reach throughout the final hour.

The Spaniard took the updated RS-GP - which features engine, aerodynamic, chassis and electronic changes after last year's best race result of eighth place - to a time of 1m 54.687s, which is under the official Losail race lap record but 1.2s from the pole record.

Closest to Espargaro was Honda test rider Stefan Bradl, fastest during the Shakedown and the busiest MotoGP rider so far this year with several private tests at Jerez already under his belt. The German, set to replace Marc Marquez should the #93 continue to be unfit for the opening races, has three bikes at Losail.

Despite being one of the last riders on track, reigning world champion Joan Mir finished the day in third place for Suzuki, with new Factory Ducati Team rider Jack Miller fourth and KTM's Miguel Oliveira making it five manufacturers in the top five.

Pramac Ducati's Johann Zarco topped the timesheets on several occasions on his way to sixth while Franco Morbidelli started 2021 as he finished 2020 - as the top Yamaha rider on his A-Spec machine, in seventh. New Petronas team-mate Valentino Rossi was 14th, just ahead of his Monster Yamaha replacement Fabio Quartararo, with Maverick Vinales in ninth.

Pol Espargaro was the first race rider out on track for his Repsol Honda debut, eventually settling into 17th. Danilo Petrucci was another early starter, on his way to 23rd on his first Tech3 KTM outing.

Alex Marquez recovered from an early fall to finish ninth on his LCR Honda debut while Jorge Martin, who fell during the Shakedown, was the quickest rookie in 18th.

Apart from Bradl, other Factory test riders joining the MotoGP regulars at the test include new Yamaha signing Cal Crutchlow, 31-time MotoGP race winner Dani Pedrosa (KTM) and former World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli (Suzuki).

Crutchlow is sharing M1s with Yamaha's Japanese test riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Kohta Nozane. The three bikes, which appear to include both the 2019 (A-Spec) and 2020 (Factory-Spec) models, are labelled '#T1', '#T2' and '#T3'. Official timing only lists the bike, not the rider.

Testing, which took place from 2pm to 9pm, concludes on Sunday evening. A second and final Qatar test will then be held on March 10-12.

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2021 Qatar MotoGP test times - Saturday (FINAL)
  RiderNatTeamTimeLap
1=Aleix EspargaroSPAAprilia Gresini (RS-GP)1m 54.687s42/57
2=Stefan BradlGERRepsol Honda (RC213V)+0.256s45/54
3=Joan MirSPASuzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR)+0.293s33/45
4=Jack MillerAUSDucati Team (GP21)+0.335s44/54
5^11Miguel OliveiraPORRed Bull KTM (RC16)+0.397s57/59
6˅1Johann ZarcoFRAPramac Ducati (GP21)+0.423s49/54
7˅1Franco MorbidelliITAPetronas Yamaha (YZR-M1)+0.487s47/61
8˅1Alex RinsSPASuzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR)+0.511s29/46
9˅1Maverick ViñalesSPAMonster Yamaha (YZR-M1)+0.572s33/51
10˅1Alex MarquezSPALCR Honda (RC213V)+0.591s39/48
11˅1Takaaki NakagamiJPNLCR Honda (RC213V)+0.780s45/58
12˅1Brad BinderRSARed Bull KTM (RC16)+0.848s40/52
13˅1Francesco BagnaiaITADucati Team (GP21)+0.885s41/50
14˅1Valentino RossiITAPetronas Yamaha (YZR-M1)+0.897s45/54
15˅1Fabio QuartararoFRAMonster Yamaha (YZR-M1)+1.020s35/69
16˅1Yamaha Test2N/AYamaha Test Rider (YZR-M1)+1.120s15/20
17=Pol EspargaroSPARepsol Honda (RC213V)+1.191s52/68
18=Jorge MartinSPAPramac Ducati (GP21)*+1.460s26/37
19=Lorenzo SavadoriITAAprilia Gresini (RS-GP)*+1.824s41/42
20=Enea BastianiniITAAvintia Esponsorama (GP19)*+1.906s34/51
21=Yamaha Test1N/AYamaha Test Rider (YZR-M1)+1.954s29/37
22=Iker LecuonaSPAKTM Tech3 (RC16)+2.233s50/55
23=Danilo PetrucciITAKTM Tech3 (RC16)+2.302s59/60
24=Luca MariniITASky VR46 Avintia (GP19)*+2.648s25/49
25=Sylvain GuintoliFRASuzuki Test Rider (GSX-RR)+2.773s41/51
26=Dani PedrosaSPAKTM Test Rider (RC16)+2.930s14/48
27=Yamaha Test3N/AYamaha Test Rider (YZR-M1)+4.009s22/23
28=Michele PirroITADucati Test Rider (GP21)+4.230s16/16
29=Takuya TsudaJPNSuzuki Test Rider (GSX-RR)+5.006s26/26

Key:
^X Rider is X positions higher than previous hour.
= Rider is same position as previous hour.
˅X Rider is X positions lower than previous hour.

2021 Qatar Shakedown Test:
Best lap:
Stefan Bradl GER Honda 1m 55.614s
 

Official Qatar MotoGP records:
Best lap:
Marc Marquez SPA Honda 1m 53.380s (2019)
Fastest race lap:
Jorge Lorenzo SPA Yamaha 1m 54.927s (2016)

By Peter McLaren

 

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