Marquez tops Sepang Test Day 1 – Miller 11th
Despite recoverying from surgery on his left shoulder, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) has topped the timesheets on Day 1 at the Sepang Test with a 1:59.621, 0.259 faster than Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in second and 0.316 quicker than third place Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) as 2019 revs back into life.
Marquez completed 29 laps on Day 1 before stopping in the early afternoon to give his left shoulder a rest ahead of the next two days, with the reigning World Champion heading for more physio in the afternoon.
Teammate Jorge Lorenzo sits out the test due to injury, but there were three Hondas in the top ten as Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), fastest in Jerez, took seventh and Stefan Bradl (Honda Test Team) ended Day 1 in P9, just under six tenths off Marquez.
Marc Marquez sharing, “I’m very happy to ride again after a long winter, but I was expecting to be better than I was. I still don’t have full power, for one or two laps it’s ok but I had to change my riding style to compensate. We stopped early to save myself for the rest of the test, there are still two days and we will see what the feeling is. Honda have been working really hard this winter and we tried a few things, but the list is really big. We’re trying the most important things first. The bike is already at a good point, but there’s always more to try before Qatar.”
LCR Honda Castrol rider Cal Crutchlow, meanwhile, returned from his ankle injury sustained at Phillip Island with a solid 51 laps on Wednesday, ending his first time back on a bike in P14 with a 2:00.681.
Alex Rins was one of the big headlines of the day, able to put in a substantial 61 laps on board his 2019 GSX-RR and was fastest for some time until deposed by Marquez. He remained second after his earlier fast lap, however, and was the lead Hamamatsu machine by quite a stretch. Rookie teammate Joan Mir ended the day in P23, just behind veteran French test rider Sylvain Guintoli.
There were positive signs from Yamaha on the timesheets. Maverick Viñales ended the day in P3 after 63 laps with a best of 1:59.937, with teammate Valentino Rossi in P6 after 56 laps and just over a tenth off Viñales. The Iwata marque are focusing on final decisions for their 2019 engine, the electronics and some chassis elements – and say comparing their times to competitors’ is a key point of interest after an intense winter of work.
Maverick Viñales saying, “I’m actually really happy, because I felt good straight away. I trained quite a lot with bikes this winter, so physically I’m OK. I want to do the three days with maximum power, so I can be quite precise, especially on the track. There’s room to improve and that is very important if we want to battle for this championship. I would like to improve the acceleration and also a little bit the breaking areas, where we struggled last year, so I’m really focused on that.”
Valentino Rossi adding, “First of all it is a great feeling to be back on the bike and I enjoyed it even though it was very tough physically, because it was very hot for the first test. The first day is quite positive for us, because I always had a good feeling with the bike and we worked very much on improving the grip and our lap times, especially with used tyres. As it is the first day, I looked a bit at the pace of the strong guys, and we are not so bad. It looks like we made some improvements compared to last year.”
New team on the block Petronas Yamaha SRT, meanwhile, had Franco Morbidelli just outside the top ten in P12 after 60 laps – only eight tenths off the top – with rookie teammate Fabio Quartararo a further half a second in arrears in P18 on tight timesheets.
Franco Morbidelli explaining, “We are really happy with the first day of the test here at the Sepang International Circuit – the feeling with the bike was similar to the way it was at the end of 2018, even though today we weren’t super fast. We focused this morning on getting back up to speed because it has been two months since I last rode a MotoGP bike. In the afternoon we worked more on the medium and used tyres to see how the bike behaved and gathering data for analysis. We finished up on the soft compound but it wasn’t a real time attack. The Yamaha bike flows well and is very stable, which I think helps me a lot with my riding style. It also suits the characteristics of this track a lot. I am delighted with the support that the factory is giving me and the way they are listening to and analysing my feedback.”
Fabio Quartararo adding, “We were really looking forward to riding again after two months off the bike and we were excited for the first day here at the Sepang International Circuit. It wasn’t easy to get a feeling for a bike with so much power but I thought the first few laps would be more difficult. I am happy because we have taken a step forward, in that [at Jerez] I needed a lot of laps to set a fast time but today we were able to do a qualifying time after just two laps. The test here at Sepang is different to Jerez, which is a much smaller circuit, whereas here we have some very long straights and it is very hot. Tomorrow we need to keep working on the bike and try to find a better feeling under braking, which is where we are lacking. I’m really keen to just keep on learning.”
Just behind Viñales, meanwhile, was the first of the Borgo Panigale machines – but it was Reale Avintia Racing’s Tito Rabat who took that honour. Less than half a tenth off Viñales and the last man under the two-minute barrier, the Spaniard impressed on his first day back on a MotoGP machine at fuller strength, having missed much of the latter part of last season following his crash at Silverstone.
Just behind him came the first of the Mission Winnow Ducati machines in the form of new arrival Danilo Petrucci, with the Italian just 0.003 ahead of Rossi after 54 laps. 2017 and 2018 runner up Andrea Dovizioso, meanwhile, ended Day 1 of 2019 in P8 with a 2:00.197.
Danilo Petrucci saying, “It’s been a positive first day. Despite the fact that we didn’t try a flying lap, I was able to be quick right away this morning with medium tyres. On the other hand, we still need to improve when temperatures rise and grip levels decrease, so tomorrow we’ll focus on this. Physically I don’t feel fatigued, which means I followed the right conditioning regime over the winter break, and for tomorrow we have a couple of longer runs on schedule during the hottest time of the day. We have a solid base already, which is the most important thing. Also, I have to say it was pretty emotional to go out with the new livery for the first time.”
Andrea Dovizioso adding, “Today has been really positive because we found the track in good conditions already and the weather stayed dry. We made some comparisons but we haven’t found substantial differences yet so we need to make more evaluations in the following days. We have a really good base, and the work done by Michele Pirro is always helpful to this end, because he can try some components beforehand, saving us precious time. Also, I felt great physically, so I’m pretty happy overall.”
Jack Miller wasn’t far off the second factory machine despite a small crash either, with the Aussie taking P11 – three tenths off ‘DesmoDovi’ and lead Alma Pramac Racing machine. Rookie teammate Francesco Bagnaia – reigning Moto2 Champion – made for close company too, impressing in P15 as the fastest debutant.
Jack Miller saying, “I trained a lot during the winter break but riding a MotoGP bike in conditions like the ones we found today is something else. The feeling is good and I think the first day of testing was positive. It’s a shame about the small crash – without any particular consequences – that forced me to change bike. All things considered, I’m satisfied.”
Completing the top ten was an impressive day’s work for Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who put in a fitting 44 laps with a best of 2:00.313 despite a crash at the end. The Spaniard took the honours of lead Austrian machine by sixth tenths, although the second KTM on the timesheets was an equally stunning performance: rookie Miguel Oliveira of Red Bull KTM Tech 3, despite a brief technical issue.
The Portuguese rider finished the day in P16 and only just off fastest newcomer Bagnaia, making a big impression on Day 1 after more difficult tests at Valencia and Jerez. Experienced test rider Mika Kallio was in P19, just ahead of Espargaro’s new teammate Johann Zarco as the Frenchman continued his adaptation in P20.
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was the fastest Noale machine in P13 and said the 2019 bike is a definite improvement, with the Spaniard putting in 55 laps to end the first day of the season just ahead of Crutchlow. New teammate Andrea Iannone was down in P21 and suffered a crash, ending the day 1.6 seconds off Marquez as he continues to get used to his new machinery.
That’s it from Day 1 and somehow, it’s still that familiar number 93 at the top of the timesheets despite the reigning Champion’s surgery and tough off season. Is it a one-off? Or will he repeat it tomorrow and manage to come out swinging at full strength in Qatar, too?
MotoGP Official Sepang Test Day 1
- MARQUEZ, Marc Repsol Honda Team 1:59.621
- RINS, Alex Team SUZUKI ECSTAR 1:59.880
- VIÑALES, Maverick Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP 1:59.937
- RABAT, Tito Reale Avintia Racing 1:59.983
- PETRUCCI, Danilo Mission Winnow Ducati 2:00.051
- ROSSI, Valentino Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP 2:00.054
- NAKAGAMI, Takaaki LCR Honda IDEMITSU 2:00.158
- DOVIZIOSO, Andrea Mission Winnow Ducati 2:00.197
- BRADL, Stefan Honda Test Team 2:00.214
- ESPARGARO, Pol Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 2:00.313
- MILLER, Jack Alma Pramac Racing 2:00.383
- MORBIDELLI, Franco Petronas Yamaha SRT 2:00.460
- ESPARGARO, Aleix Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 2:00.602
- CRUTCHLOW, Cal LCR Honda CASTROL 2:00.681
- BAGNAIA, Francesco Alma Pramac Racing 2:00.694
- OLIVEIRA, Miguel KTM Tech 3 Racing 2:00.902
- QUARTARARO, Fabio Petronas Yamaha SRT 2:00.985
- KALLIO, Mika Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Test Team 2:01.054
- ZARCO, Johann Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 2:01.121
- IANNONE, Andrea Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 2:01.249
- GUINTOLI, Sylvain Suzuki Test Team 2:01.286
- MIR, Joan Team SUZUKI ECSTAR 2:01.432
- ABRAHAM, Karel Reale Avintia Racing 2:01.627
- SYAHRIN, Hafizh KTM Tech 3 Racing 2:01.853
NC SMITH, Bradley Aprilia Racing Factory Team
NC TSUDA, Takuya Suzuki Test Team