SHOWS STEEL

Sur­vives crash to tighten Qatar stran­gle­hold

New Straits Times - - Sport -

DOHA pace set by Vi­nales.

Vi­nales, who moved from Suzuki in the win­ter be­fore go­ing on to dom­i­nate all four pre-sea­son test­ing ses­sions, had es­caped un­scathed from a crash ear­lier in the day.

The in­ci­dent hap­pened on Turn Four af­ter he had slipped by Rossi.

Sparks flew from be­neath his bike as it ca­reered across the track but Vi­nales was soon able to re­sume his evening’s work on his back-up ma­chine.

“The crash was a big mis­take on my part. I was push­ing and I was go­ing wide,” ex­plained Vi­nales.

“I was at that point where you have to de­cide — to go wide or try and make the corner. I tried to make the corner and I lost the front.

“My mis­take and I was an­gry with my­self be­cause I shouldn’t make those mis­takes.

“But I’m happy be­cause we had good pace to­day even though the con­di­tions weren’t as good as yes­ter­day. It was slip­pier, I don’t know why but we did 1:56s con­sis­tently.

“The bike is work­ing well but we just need to im­prove the grip a bit. Maybe it was the con­di­tions to­day af­ter it rained and it was a bit dusty. I’m happy over­all but the crash was a big mis­take. I know when I con­cen­trate 100 per cent I don’t make those mis­takes.”

Rossi’s strug­gles ear­lier on Fri­day led to 1993 world cham­pion Kevin Sch­wantz sug­gest­ing that the great Ital­ian, now 38 years old, may even re­tire at the end of the sea­son should he be out­paced and out­shone by Vi­nales in the cham­pi­onship.

“Do I think he’ll re­tire at the end of the year if Mav­er­ick beats him week­end in, week­end out? He pos­si­bly could,” Sch­wantz told motorsport.com.

To­day’s night-time race in Qatar is the first of 17 rounds in the 2017 cham­pi­onship.

How­ever, Rossi can at least boast im­pres­sive form at the desert cir­cuit, hav­ing won there on four oc­ca­sions. AFP

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