Marc Marquez led the Sepang 1 test timesheet with a superb 1’58.867s lap as the pace increased on Friday morning, with the MotoGP World Champion and many of his rivals also going on to carry out race simulations before departing from Malaysia.
The early hours of the action on Friday saw relatively cool temperatures and on fresh rubber in qualifying trim with two days of riding behind them many riders set their best laps of the test, with the top seven all going under the two minute mark around the South East Asian track.
Marquez was the standout rider again in terms of outright pace and his best lap time from the test compares favourably with his own 1’59.791s pole record at the track set in 2014 and with the 1’59.533 he set at the Sepang 1 test last year.
The premier class title holder’s Repsol Honda teammate was Dani Pedrosa (+0.139s) second on the timesheet. Both riders carried out race simulation runs later in the day, with Pedrosa particularly impressive as he marked ten consecutive laps under the 2’01 barrier.
Marc Marquez – 1ST 1’58.867 (52 LAPS) – “The truth is that when I saw the time I was surprised, just like everyone else! In any case, I must say that today the track was fast, as we all rode faster than before. I’m glad I was able to set a good lap, but more important is the fact that I felt very comfortable, right from the start. We did a race simulation later on, which also went very well and was perhaps even more important than a single lap. During the race simulation we tested different mapping and in every part we tried different things. The positive is that with the new bike we are already at the same level as in 2014, and there is still plenty of room for improvement. Now I can’t wait for the second test and to see what progress we can make.”
Dani Pedrosa – 2ND 1’59.006 (41 LAPS) – “I’m happy with the work we have done today, because we have made progress in some aspects with the rear. There is still room for improvement, but overall we’ve taken some pretty positive steps in this test and I think that’s a very good thing. The team have also integrated well and we have worked very smoothly together, so I’m very happy about that. We did a race simulation in which we tested the bike for the first time in such a scenario. Obviously there are some things to improve but, considering it was the first time, the findings have been pretty good!”
Comparing the riders’ distinct race simulation pace must be done with a note of caution given the variation in temperature and time of day in which they each carried out their longer runs.
Ducati Team’s Andrea Iannone concluded the test in third place overall on the GP14.3, the Italian 0.521s down on Marquez but also half a second ahead of his compatriot and teammate Andrea Dovizioso who was seventh overall. The Ducati pair have the delivery of the new GP15 bike to look forward to at the Sepang 2 test before the end of the month.
Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team #29) – 1’59”388 (3rd) – “I am very happy because I return home after a really positive test. We constantly improved from the first day until this evening. This afternoon we also worked with the second bike and we tried some different settings to try and understand if the modifications were going in the right direction. We also did several tests with the electronics, seeing as we had an evolution version of the software for the GP14.3. There has been a lot of work over the last three days, and I’m also happy with my new team: the guys have done a great job. Now I’m really anxious to try the new GP15 at Sepang 2 but in any case I’m happy with the way we have improved in the last few months.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 1’59”874 (7th) – “I am very satisfied with these three days’ testing because our aim was to improve the chassis and the electronics even more, as well as doing some comparative tests that will be useful for the new bike. We were quick throughout the three days, and this is always very important, and I also managed to get under the two-minute mark, which was one of my aims on this beautiful track. The only negative aspect is that this morning I didn’t manage to do a perfect lap with the only soft tyre I had available, but the rest of the work we did was very good: yesterday we even did a 15-lap long run, setting some interesting and constant times. I go back to Italy very satisfied and very curious to see and test the new GP15.”
Luigi Dall’Igna (Ducati Corse General Manager) – “From my point of view these first tests of 2015 have gone well, and I am pleased both regarding the lap times we set but above all for the development work we managed to do in these three days. We have certainly made some steps forward regarding the software and also the chassis. We tested some things that we never had time to test throughout last season and as a result we also obtained some very useful information for the development of the GP15, which will take to the track in the next tests at Sepang.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi lapped just over half a second behind Marquez in fourth overall, with Rossi’s colleague Jorge Lorenzo (+0.757s) also in the top five. Lorenzo later enjoyed a consistently quick race simulation somewhat down on the pace of Pedrosa’s and admitted being impressed by the progress of his Honda rivals.
Rossi also undertook a longer run but did not manage the consistently quick times of Lorenzo or the Repsol Honda duo. The Italian carried out an electronics experiment for the run and also used new swingarm, adjusting his engine mapping during the simulation which affected his times.
Valentino Rossi – 4th / 1’59.401 / 49 laps – “Today I’m more satisfied. It was a good day and we did a good job, especially because we tested everything and we decided what we have to use to continue the development. I’m very happy because 1’59.4 is my best lap in Sepang in my whole career and I’m already 0.3 faster compared to last year. It’s true that the conditions today are good, but also compared to yesterday we improved the setting of the bike a lot and also my pace is not so bad. We also tried a race simulation, but not with our performance at a hundred per cent. We tried some different parts for the bike, something good and something I didn’t like. My pace in the simulation was quite good so the test was positive. The only negative thing was the speed of Marc and Dani. They are a little bit faster than us on a lap with a fresh tyre, but also in terms of pace. That means that, if we want to beat them, we have to keep working.”
Jorge Lorenzo – 5th / 1’59.624 / 55 laps – “In the morning we weren’t very explosive to make a good lap time because the bike didn’t stop so well on the brakes. We modified the set-up to improve the braking, but we didn’t have any new tyres left to do a good lap time. I think we might not have been able to ride a 1’58, but maybe a low 1’59. The race simulation was interesting. We did one at the time of day when the temperature was the highest and our pace was very consistent. I think that if there was a race tomorrow, we could fight for the win, so this is positive. The bike improved a little compared to how it was at the Valencia test. I think we have a big thing to try at the second test at Sepang. Let’s see if this is clearly better.”
In sixth place overall was Pol Espargaro (+0.984s) who had crashed without major consequence on Friday morning – his third crash in three days. Espargaro’s teammate Bradley Smith has been riding with an ankle injury sustained recently in private training and the Englishman was ninth fastest on the timesheet, 1.517s behind Marquez.
Pol Espargaro – 6th / 1’59.851 / 50 laps – “The last day has been a really good one. I’m happy because at the end we could complete a day positively which we are truly satisfied with. The first day was a good start, then yesterday we tried some different thing and had a few difficulties, which we needed to experience in order to understand the best direction to work towards. However to finish the test, today has been very strong and a great conclusion. I was fast, I felt great on the bike, everything went according to plan, the rhythm is truly promising and we found a strong setup. So I’m really enthusiastic about the work we have completed today and cannot wait for the next outing where we will look to improve further. Now, I am going to Thailand for a few days to visit Yamaha which is going to be fantastic and I can’t wait to meet all of the people there.”
Bradley Smith – 9th / 2’00.384 / 50 laps – “It’s been a really productive and positive three days here in Sepang and a great way to open the 2015 season. I improved my time around seven tenths of a second every day which shows we are definitely heading in the right direction. Today we sampled a new swinging arm but the results were inconclusive so we will retest this part next time. We also tried some different front forks which gave me a good feeling that I am very happy about. My physical condition didn’t get worse, so I remain optimistic that when we return here my ankle will be completely healed and I can really go for it. In addition, I am very pleased to have improved my personal best time around the Sepang circuit by half a second. It’s been a great three days and I’m happy to be back on my bike. Next up, I head to Thailand for Yamaha which I am very much looking forward to.”
Stefan Bradl (Forward Racing Team) finished as the top Open equipped rider in eighth and will be pleased with his performance at this test, with an engine upgrade still to come before the season starts.
The Sepang 1 test saw good progression for the Team Suzuki MotoGP pair of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales. The Japanese brand are working on reliability and top end power and also developing their chassis as they return to premier class racing this year, with Espargaro ending the test in 10th place overall.
The Spaniard improved by just under two seconds from day one to day three, simultaneously dropping his gap to the top of the timesheets from 1.963s to 1.619s and ending up tenth. His impressive new rookie colleague Maverick Viñales gained confidence and pace on the GSX-RRs over the three days improving by well over two seconds and closing the gap on his teammate.
Aleix Espargaro 10th:“Overall I’m very happy with the first test and we have to be proud of improving a lot of the reliability of the engine. We had no problems in three days which is great and the atmosphere of the team is really fantastic. I already feel better than last year as I am very comfortable with the team. It’s very important for me that I feel the people working together are my family; so I’m very happy about this!
“I‘m also happy that the bike is improving and developing really quickly: From the first test I think that our bike is not so-far-off the factory Yamaha and Ducati, so we have to be proud of that – although we still have to continue really hard. We finished the test 1.6-seconds away from the factory Honda, so we need to be closer at the next test.
“I know that the Suzuki engineers and technicians will work really hard at the factory and I will also train harder in my house to be fully-fit. It won’t be easy during the first part of the season, as everything is still new, but I’m really optimistic.”
Maverick Vinales 12th:“I’m very happy as we worked so hard from the opening day of the test and we made some big steps forward. We improved more than two seconds from the first day, so we are very happy. We worked so much with the chassis all the time during the past three days and I believe that we can go two-to-three steps better now.
“I would like to concentrate a little bit more on the engine-side for me at the next test, but the chassis is perfect; I can go 100% on the bike and I can push so much more with the front tyre, so that this is what I really like a lot with the bike. I can go so fast into the corners and this is the big advantage. If we are able to have slightly more engine power, and keep this advantage of the chassis, I believe that we can make even bigger improvements.
“Although I’m struggling a little bit on how to manage the tyres – as it’s so very different to Moto2 – finding the best lines is a slightly difficult-point for me right now. My team helped me a lot finding the best lines and I managed this and improved a lot during the test. I’m so happy that all the crews and engineers worked so hard for me during these three days of testing and I’m really looking forward to our next test.”
CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow was 11th best as he continued to put in the laps on his RC213V, with Estrella Galicia 0.0 Marc VDS rider Scott Redding 0.7s behind his compatriot on the same machine.
Cal Crutchlow #35 (2’00.536, lap 19 of 67) – “I’m relatively happy with today, although I’m not that pleased with the final lap time because we didn’t manage to get in a fast lap. We’ll need to start to work in that area soon though, because on old, used race tyres we are very fast and working in a really good way with the team.
“At the moment I’m still not quite familiar enough with the bike to push extra hard and take advantage with the newer rubber; I’m just not comfortable enough to do that yet. However I do feel comfortable on used tyres, and just like yesterday we have made some solid improvements over the course of the day and we can definitely come back to the next test here at Sepang and be competitive.”
Scott Redding: 17th – 2’01.263 – “The Honda RC213V is a lot different to ride than the bike I raced last year, so I came here to Sepang to learn how to get the best from it. It means we’ve been focussed on the bike and me rather then the lap times and, as a result, we’ve made good progress. I’ve been running without a lot of electronics, just trying to adapt my riding style to suit better this bike. Like I said, I’m here to learn not chase lap times; the priority is to get comfortable on the bike, get a good feel for the brakes, for the suspension and to build my own confidence. Although the timesheet might not show it, I think we’ve achieved a lot here over the three days. The team is working well and I’m looking forward to returning to Sepang in a few weeks for the second test.”
Drive M7 Aspar’s Nicky Hayden was the fastest rider on the Open spec RC213V-RS package +2.641s down on Marquez in 18th place, with CWM LCR Honda rookie Jack Miller (+3.028s) behind the American in 20th on the same spec bike.
18th Nicky Hayden 2.01.508 (52 laps): “At this test the whole team have encountered a completely new bike and lots of work ahead to try to resolve all the issues that have emerged. Gradually I will be adapting my riding style to this new bike. We have evolved throughout the test, but our times were not as fast as we wanted, so I’m a little upset. This morning I lowered the time from yesterday quite a lot, but we have to work to go faster. It’s mainly work with the electronics. We still have a lot of work ahead, but there is time. On some parts of the track the feeling was positive, however the acceleration on the slow corners was very strange. Importantly, we have gathered a lot of information. Thanks to some changes to the geometry, we have improved the handling of the bike and now it turns better, but we still we suffer when accelerating out of the slow corners.”
CWM-LCR Honda’s Jack Miller was happy with the big step forward he and his crew have made during their first outing of the 2015 season, improving his lap time by well over a second from yesterday. The Australian today finally started to put some laps in using a bigger range of the electronics available to him this season, as the team gradually introduce him to the RC213V-RS.
As is normal in Malaysia, track conditions were best in the first hour after the circuit opened at 10am, after which the effects of direct sunshine and heat means it is almost impossible to set a fast lap. As if to demonstrate that fact, factory Honda rider Marc Marquez set the fastest-ever lap of the 3.444 mile layout on just the eighth of his 52 laps (1’58.867).
Like Marquez, Miller was also able to make the most of the cooler climate in the morning, as he set his best lap of 2’01.895 on the third of his 50 laps of the track. This compared to a 2’03.083 on day two, and 2’02.807 from the first day.
The CWM-LCR Honda team now return to Europe to work on their findings from this test, before heading back out to Malaysia for a four-day session later this month starting February 23rd.
Jack Miller #43 (2’01.895, lap 3 of 50) – “Today we improved our pace in the morning, managing to put in a different tyre at the right time and we improved our lap time by a second. Everyone else improved too, but we are making steps forward.
“We made some real progress, particularly in the last three runs out on the track, when we started to work with the electronics including the traction control and anti-wheelie settings. It was good, so I’m really looking forward to the next test and working some more on the electronics and aids to make the lap times come that little bit easier.
“For now though, I’m happy. It’s been a positive test for me and the crew. I’ve picked up lots more experience with the Bridgestone tyres and I think that it will get even better for the next test here.”
Hayden’s M7 Aspar teammate Eugene Laverty was eight-tenths slower than Hayden and ended day three 24th quickest.
24th Eugene Laverty 2.02.334 (57 laps): “The first day of the test was positive, yesterday we did not find a clear direction and this morning we did, but it was still hard for us to lower our times. The changes to the bike have remained focused on the chassis, and I’m still looking for my best riding position. I still have to learn, but luckily I have Gino and Jorge who have come to see me on track to advise and make my work easier. We continue to work on turning the bike, but the feeling on corner entry is progressively being better. We have improved the setup of the chassis and we are understanding how it works. However every time we put on a new tyre we were unable to get the most out of it.We will have to find out about this too. Today I had the opportunity to follow a few riders on track, and that helped me understand some things.”
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri will aim to cut the gap to the top riders at Sepang 2 in less than two weeks having finished the test down the timesheets in 21st and 28th places respectively.
Fausto Gresini: “Considering the fact that the project is in its fledgling states and that right now we are obviously still not interested in lap times, I think that Bautista’s performance over these three days was positive. Keep in mind also that Sepang is also one of the most demanding and difficult tracks of the championship. After testing the new Aprilia RS-GP Alvaro decided to go back and focus on the 2014 version which is giving him a better feeling at the moment. Along with the mechanics he worked quite a lot on both fronts to gather a large amount of data which will be used by the Aprilia Racing engineers to develop the technical package. As for Melandri, we knew that it would not be easy for him to get used to a completely new technical situation. Marco needs to adapt his riding style to this type of tyre and we know that takes time. We have confidence in him. The important thing is that he stays focused and determined.”
Alvaro Bautista: “I’m quite pleased with these first three days of testing. The team worked well, giving me maximum support. On the first two days I conducted various comparisons between the bike used at the end of last year and the new RS-GP which, in any case, is still not giving me good sensations in terms of chassis performance. So on the last day I decided to focus on the 2014 version in order to gather as much data as possible and to allow the engineers to work in view of the next tests, scheduled at the end of the month. We worked a lot on the electronics and did various setup tests and I’m pleased with what we found. The important thing is that we know which areas need improvement. We gathered a lot of data so the result is positive. Aprilia is very committed. I’m confident for the next session.”
Marco Melandri: “I admit that I was expecting a better début, but when we decided to take on this new adventure we knew that is would be a lot of hard work for us. I have to build a feeling with the bike completely from scratch. We need time and we need to think about what we found in these tests in order to improve as quickly as possible.”
Thirty riders – including a total of five test riders from Aprilia, Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha – took part in the first group test of 2015, completing a total of 4429 laps (24,550 kilometres) on Bridgestone tyres. The gap in lap time from the quickest to slowest rider at the first Sepang test was 7.323 seconds.
Fine and dry conditions presented themselves during the three days of the test, with a peak track temperature of 53°C recorded on the afternoon of the second day. Track conditions were usual for Sepang, with only moderate grip levels and certain sections of the circuit being quite bumpy, but the combination of fine weather, the latest MotoGP machinery and Bridgestone’s 2015 specification tyres resulted in the test being run at record pace. The slightly cooler conditions on the morning of the final day allowed the riders to extract maximum performance from their tyres, with the top seven riders on the timesheets able to set times in the 1’59 bracket.
All front and rear slick compound choices were utilised by riders over the three days and Bridgestone will now analyse the data acquired to incorporate into their tyre development programme for the 2015 season. Bridgestone will be back in Sepang for the second MotoGP official test which will take place from February 23-25.
Shinji Aoki – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department – “This was a successful first group test and I am happy with the feedback we received from the riders on our 2015 specification tyres. Our technical objectives for this test were to give the riders some newly developed tyres based on our learnings from last year, while also ensuring that we provided a softer rear tyre allocation to cope with the increased performance of the current Open-class machines. I am happy to say that we achieved all our objectives, and despite track conditions not being ideal, the pace set over the three days was very impressive. We now look forward to continuing our good work at Sepang in a few weeks’ time.”
There will be further action at Sepang on Saturday with a small group of riders remaining in Malaysia to test Michelin material.
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