The 2019 season well and truly got under way at Losail International Circuit in Qatar with Friday’s FP1 and FP2 sessions.
When the riders took to the track in the early afternoon for FP1 it was still daylight, with air and track temperatures of 28°c and 37°c respectively. Team SUZUKI ECSTAR’s riders put in solid work in the incredibly close session which saw the top seventeen riders covered by just eight tenths of a second. Rins ended up 9th and Mir 14th, but both showed good pace.
FP2 got underway at 8pm local time after a short delay, this is the same time that the race is scheduled to be held on Sunday. With the floodlights on and the riders all keen to set quick laps, Alex Rins made his intentions clear by going top. Later in the session Joan Mir put in a sensational lap to hit the number one spot. The pair worked well to ensure Top 10 finishes at the end of the session, with 8th and 10th respectively. This could prove to be crucial for direct passage to Q2 depending on what happens during FP3.
Davide Brivio – Team Manager: “We’ve started the first race weekend of the season and it’s a little bit of a mixed feeling. The positives were that both riders are in the Top 10, which was our first target, let’s say. Alex isn’t feeling fully comfortable with the bike so we need to analyse things tonight and use his feedback to see what we can improve for tomorrow. Joan had a very good start and was able to stay in the Top 10, so from this point of view it’s been a very good Friday. Alex needs to feel more comfortable with his feeling, and Joan can continue to learn and improve.”
Alex Rins: “I expected to finish a bit higher up today. This morning in the daylight, in the sunshine, I struggled with grip and the bike was sliding a bit. I hoped in the night-time conditions I would find a better feeling with the set-up, especially as FP2 was the same time as the race will be. But I still didn’t feel very comfortable, so we need to check the data with the engineers tonight to try and improve. My lap time was not so bad, but I just don’t have enough confidence yet. The first step tomorrow is to solve the problems, and then hope for Q2.”
Joan Mir: “I’ve enjoyed myself a lot today, I felt a bit nervous to get back on track but it was a really positive day for us. We’ve made another step forward and I’m feeling much more comfortable and I’m happy about how I’m able to ride the bike. We have a bit of margin to improve upon, but we just want to keep working in this direction and see if I can go directly to Q2 tomorrow. It’s important to prepare for the race, too. For this first race I’d be really happy with a Top 10 finish, but it won’t be easy! There’s no pressure because it’s only the first day of the first round.”