Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli made big gains on the third and final day of testing in Qatar, with the reigning Moto2 World Champion going almost a second faster compared to yesterday.
Morbidelli had been struggling to get the best from the softer option Michelin tyres, with a number of minor crashes in Thailand sapping the Italian's confidence as he pushed to reduce the gap to the frontrunners on new tyres.
But solid work from Morbidelli and his crew during the three days in Qatar saw this confidence restored and in his final time attack the MotoGP rookie moved into the top 12 with a time of 1'55.132, to end the test on a high.
Lüthi also saw an improvement in his lap time after completing more than 50 laps of the 5.38km Losail International Circuit today, as he continued working with his crew to increase his understanding and familiarity with the Honda RC213V and Michelin tyres.
The Swiss rider has been playing catch up after missing two tests in 2017 due to injury, but made a big step forward during the second test of the season in Buriram, which he backed up with further progress here in Qatar. Lüthi is the first to admit that the learning curve is still steep, but maybe not quite as precipitous as it was when he threw a leg over the Honda RC213V for the first time in Sepang back in January.
The next time Morbidelli and Lüthi take to the track will be to make their premier class debut at the opening race of the season, which takes place on Sunday 18th March, again at the Losail International Circuit.
Franco Morbidelli: 1'55.132
"We made a fairly big change to the bike for the last part of the test yesterday, but today was more about refining the set up with just a few small changes. Now we've had three days on this track and we've done a lot of laps, which has allowed us to improve our pace and this is the important thing. The three days here in Qatar have gone pretty well, we kept improving and I feel more confortable with the bike, so it's been a good way to end preseason testing. Now testing is done and I'm looking forward to the first race of the season in two weeks time."
Tom Lüthi: 1'56.122
"We had some tyres left, which meant I could put in some laps today and more time on the bike is exactly what I need right now. We started today where we left off yesterday and we saw some improvement, but I'm definitely still looking for more. At the moment it's the same each time for us; working on the bike, trying to understand and, above all else, trying to learn with each exit. What is important is that we've made progress every day of the preseason tests, even on the final day here in Qatar. The feeling is coming better and better and that's exactly what I needed ahead of my first race in MotoGP."
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
"I think Franco has shown that he's now ready for the first race. He had an issue with getting the best from the soft tyre in Thailand, and crashed a few times as he tried to figure out the process, but that's a scenario common to new riders in MotoGP. But today he mastered the soft tyre, posting a good lap time that compares favourably with the race times from last season, so we're happy with this. On Tom's side there has been constant improvement, even if his position on the timesheet doesn't reflect this, but his lap time is similar to our times from the race last year, the difference is not so big, but everybody is improving and that's how it is in racing. I think that soon we will see Tom make the same step that Franco made today, but we lost some time due to him missing the tests last year. I'm confident that in just one or two races Tom will at the same level as Franco is now."
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