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Continuing our thought on who really was fastest at the Qatar test, the idea of comparing best lap times again seems more than moderately preposterous, considering last night’s sessions were for testing purposes. That’s not to say however that some basic understanding of how teams are shaping up before the season cannot be divined, and by looking at the individual lap times we can get at least an impression of whom is finding some consistency on the desert track.

Jorge Lorenzo has his hands full in 2011. With his stylized JL #1 replacing last year’s 99 on his Yamaha M1, Lorenzo wants to keep up the momentum with which he swept the 2010 season. But as the official tests have made clear, repeating in the style of the man he both dislikes, and wants to be, will be prove a difficult task indeed. After the first night of the final test in Qatar, Lorenzo managed the fifth best time, four tenths behind Dani Pedrosa, and nearly three tenths behind the man everyone fears, Casey Stoner.

Stoner only put in 20 hot laps (32 total) and managed second on the time sheet. Lorenzo did 60 total laps, but had one impressive series of low 1:57s and high 1:56s after another. That consistency just may be the key to fending off the competition over the long haul if he can make 2011 as mistake-free as 2010. The lone star on JL’s new 1 logo is eerily reminiscent of his teammate, Texan Ben Spies, who managed to creep ahead of Lorenzo to demote the Spaniard to 5th on the evening. There is no shortage of riders who are likely to make Lorenzo’s amazing season in 2010 very tough to replicate.

MotoGP’s last pre-season test concluded today in Qatar, as riders finished their second day of lapping around the Losail International Circuit. Conditions were colder than yesterday, and the wind made its presence known earlier in the day than before. At the start of the session, riders seemed reluctant to take to the track, but it wasn’t long before testing was underway in earnest.

Once again the Hondas proved to be very fast, accounting for three out of the Top 5 fastest riders for the day. Unlike Sunday, the Yamaha camp was divided in progress, as Ben Spies was very comfortable with the day’s results, while Jorge Lorenzo, in the best of light, was frustrated with being unable to keep pace with Stoner and Pedrosa (and his teammate). The Ducatis continued to struggle in the windy conditions, again showing issues with turn-in. Sixth quickest, Randy de Puniet topped the time sheet for the Italian manufacturer, followed by Nicky Hayden (9th), Hector Barbera (11th), and then Valentino Rossi (13th). MotoGP’s testing at Qatar saw just about every Ducati end up in the gravel trap, with the majority doing so at Turn 2, a problem spot on the track in the past.

MotoGP riders will get Tuesday off from riding, and then go into a four-day program for this race weekend, taking to the track once again Thursday night. Stay tuned to Asphalt & Rubber, as we’ll will be here in Qatar for the rest of the week covering the first race of the 2011 MotoGP season.

As you may have realized already this week, Asphalt & Rubber is coming to you live from Qatar, as MotoGP finishes up its last testing weekend of the pre-season, and gets ready for its first race of the year. Qatar is a strange country, mostly in that it’s not that different from the United States (at least not nearly as different as I was expecting, as this is my first trip to the Middle East). Perhaps even stranger is the laid back atmosphere of the MotoGP paddock during the testing session (maybe 1/4 as many people as a normal GP weekend, sans MotoGP fans). While we sit through Day Two of testing, which is currently underway, here’s something to chew on from Day One.

Now the purpose of MotoGP testing is of course actually testing the motorcycles, new parts, setups, etc., and not the attainment of absolute lap times. Therefore it strikes me funny on how much concern is given over to whom was fastest on a given day of testing, as there’s an obvious disconnect between what the teams are trying to achieve, and what the fans would like to see (with the journalists unsurprisingly pandering to this latter group).

That all being said, some sort of analysis has to come out of the event, and the path of least resistance is in the time sheet stamped out by Dorna, and handed to the assembled press. However if you drill down into the times lap by lap, not only do you get a better idea of the consistency that the MotoGP riders are attaining, but also it provides for another way to sift and sort the riders into some sort of categorical heirarchy, since that seems to be the name of the game at these tests.

It seemed John Hopkins’s return to MotoGP was well underway, as reports earlier this year said the Anglo-American would be testing at MotoGP’s last pre-season test being held at Qatar this week; however Hopper’s stint on the GSV-R seems to have been relegated to merely doing some laps on the Suzuki MotoGP bike as part of a PR video campaign for the Rizla squad.

Hopper’s test originally was supposed to assess the former-MotoGP rider’s ability to apex a GP machine, and give Paul Denning’s squad an option should Alvaro Bautista become injured in the 2011 season. After Saturday’s filming though, Hopper’s return seems less likely, but the now British Superbike rider remains hopeful.

MotoGP was under the lights of the Losail International Circuit out here in Qatar on Sunday night. With the weather staying warm, but the humidity coming on in the latter stages of the night, it was the Hondas once again who were setting the pace for MotoGP’s pre-season testing sessions. With four Hondas within half a second of each other, it seemed only the Yamahas were capable of getting in-between the RC212Vs of Pedrosa, Stoner, Aoyama, and Dovizioso (Simoncelli would finish farther down the time sheet as 11th fastest).

Leading the tuning fork charge was Ben Spies, who bested his current teammate Jorge Lorenzo by just over a tenth of second. Spies also would lead former teammate Colin Edwards by just under two tenths of a second, as the three Yamahas rounded out what would be the second row if this was race qualifying. Meanwhile the Ducatis all landed in the slower half of the field, clearly struggling with the desert track.

We’re live here in Doha for the next 10 days, covering the last pre-season MotoGP test and the Qatar GP. The skies seem perpetually hazy, with the sun poking through every now and then. That’s just fine by us, as it’s keeping daytime temperatures in the low 80F’s, with nights being a pleasant 60-70F. As usual we’ll have our Twitter feed going on the site, keeping you up-to-date with the latest happenings in the MotoGP paddock.

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Photo Feed from MotoGP’s Warm-up at the Qatar GP:

It started out as a rumor, with Crash.net reporting that John Hopkins could see himself once again taking to the Suzuki GSV-R in a one-off wild card race during the 2011 season. That notion in the past few days has expanded to to include Hopper riding at the IRTA test in Qatar next month, presumably to see if he would be capable of replacing Alvaro Bautista, should the Spanish rider become injured during the 2011 season.

For those keeping track, that’s Hopkins going from the AMA, to the BSB Championship, and now MotoGP (albeit as an alternate) in a matter of months; and as MCN reports, it’s due largely to the fact that Paul Denning owns not only the Crescent Suzuki Team, but is also the Team Manager for the Rizla Suzuki MotoGP effort.

MotoGP testing has concluded at the Losail International Circuit just outside of Doha, Qatar, and sees Casey Stoner making a late push to take the top spot at what has become one of his top tracks in the past years. There was some doubt with Stoner though, as Rossi lead almost all of Thursday’s sessions, and was biting on Stoner’s heels today. Surprise appearances from the test come in the form of Ben Spies, Andrea Dovizioso, and Randy de Puniet. Spies finished Thursday third quickest, and was the fourth quickest rider overall. Dovi took the honors as the fastest Honda, but was challenged by de Puniet on Thursday for that spot. Thursday the French rider was 5th quickest, and managed to keep his shirt on despite the hot weather in Doha.

Friday saw Nicky Hayden make progress with the Ducati Desmosedici, while Colin Edwards slipped down the overall grid Friday, despite his strong numbers Thursday and consistent runs during both test days. Lorenzo and Pedrosa were both present for the track test, but not in spirit. Both riders were suffering from injuries, and it showed in their performance under the hot desert lights. Check past the jump for a full timing sheet.

After injuring his hand earlier this year, Jorge Lorenzo has been sitting out MotoGP’s testing days, trying to recover in time for the upcoming season. Now leaving a post on his Facebook page, Lorenzo confirms that he will be at the Qatar test later next month. Surely with this message, all eyes will be trained on the Middle-Eastern track, looking for the first signs that Lorenzo will be able to dethrone the reigning World Champion Rossi.