Maverick Vinales in action during the preseason test at Losail International Circuit.
Doha: Maverick Vinales confirmed his status as early favorite for the new world MotoGP championship by dominating night-time practice at Qatar on his Yamaha.
The Spaniard was fastest in Qatar where the season starts on March 26 just as he had been in previous test sessions in Barcelona, Sepang and Phillip Island in Australia.
On Sunday, Vinales clocked 1:54.330, beating the previous lap record at Losail in the desert set by Jorge Lorenzo in 2016.
Behind him, Andrea Dovizioso on a Ducati was 0.071sec off the pace with Dani Pedrosa on a Honda at 0.139sec.
“We made another step with the bike and I feel comfortable, even on the race pace we are quite happy,” said Vinales who has moved to Yamaha from Suzuki.
“I feel that we can still better the electronics and gain a couple of tenths, so we have a margin to improve. For sure we’re not on the bike’s limit, so we can still push a little bit more.
“If we do the same in the first GP as we did in the test, we can fight for the victory.”
World champion Marc Marquez on another Honda fell three times and was only 10th fastest on Sunday.
Nine-time champion Valentino Rossi, Vinales’s teammate at Yamaha, was 11th best.
“I crashed three times, the first at the very beginning because the bike had a wobble at turn 4 and I braked late,” said Marquez.
“Then later in the night I lost the front twice, and especially the last crash during my race simulation was my fault.
“Anyway, better if this kind of thing happens now, during a test, and hopefully when we come here again for the race we’ll be able to manage things better.”