Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) got within just 0.067 of Jorge Lorenzo’s fastest ever lap of Sepang on Day 2 of testing, with the 1:58.830 set by Lorenzo last season – although not an official lap record – now surely under threat on Day 3.
Viñales had been hovering in third for much of the latter part of the day and left his vie at record breaking late as the final few minutes saw time attacks light up the timesheets.
More than three tenths up before the final sector, the Spaniard eventually crossed the line 0.527 ahead of nearest rival Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), setting both a supreme lap and a serious benchmark.
Maverick Vinales – P1
“Honestly, we tried to work really hard today on the race pace. We were always using the spec for the race. I felt good and around midday we made good lap times especially during the race simulation when it was hot, without grip, so I’m actually really happy how we worked today. We made a good improvement on the bike, so we need to try to do this again tomorrow.”
That built on a positive first day on the timesheets for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP and Valentino Rossi in sixth added to the good vibes. The veteran Italian did 51 laps and was only two tenths off second, although the distance to his teammate stretched out from there. The Iwata marque confirmed they have a busy agenda, with different winglets and chassis items on the menu. Happy with progress since November, Team Director Massimo Meregalli says the biggest focus from Sepang is the last part of the corner and specifically, acceleration.
Valentino Rossi – P6
“We continued to work because we had some other items to improve and also today was not so bad. We found something that improved the performance and I think we did a good job. At the end my pace was always quite strong. So, it was a quite positive second day and we still have something to test tomorrow. We will try to continue to work and we’ll see what our situation is like at the end of the three days.”
Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli ended the day in P14 and P15 respectively – and the Frenchman had a 2019 bike as he made that key step forward. They both did 58 laps.
Fabio Quartararo – P14
“The second day here at Sepang International Circuit has been very positive. This morning we set some good lap times on the new tyres and made the most of the track conditions to make a time attack, which I was really happy with. This afternoon we tried to improve but it wasn’t possible. We worked a lot on the setting of the bike, especially under braking, where we managed to improve the feeling. This evening we will analyse the data and come back tomorrow to try and improve the lap time and make more progress under braking, which is the area we have most room to improve.”
Franco Morbidelli – P15
“Today we focused on improving grip and trying to set a good pace on used tyres. I am happy with the work we have done and with the progress we made on both tyre compounds. It was a shame to crash so early because we missed out on the coolest part of the day and the chance to make a good time attack. In general, we have improved the feeling from yesterday so I am happy. We are showing some good form in the test but we still have a lot of work to do. Tomorrow we will continue working, try to improve our performance and make more progress overall. We will keep pushing to the maximum.”
Alex Rins was the man who lost his top spot to Viñales after seeming set to end the day fastest, but the Spaniard’s 1:59.424 was nevertheless an incredible laptime and he did 61 laps on Thursday.
Suzuki Team Manager Davide Brivio said it’s going well and they have different swingarms, new aerodynamics with both riders and some different combinations; engine mapping, clutch, “things like that” – as well as an exhaust to try on Day 2. The Italian said their focus is fitting together the “puzzle” correctly for the first race, and the timesheets seem to bode well for Rins despite the Hamamatsu factory losing their concessions in 2019. Rookie teammate Joan Mir ended the day in P21 after 64 laps.
Alex Rins – P2
“Today was a very positive day; we tried the new fairing, some new electronics settings, and it was all good. My rhythm and race pace were very good, even on used tyres. We were able to confirm a lot of things, we still need to improve a little bit, but nothing major. Overall, I’m very happy with how it’s all going, and with my lap times too.”
On Rins’ tail was the fastest Ducati on Day 2 and once again it was an Independent Team rider – this time Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing).
The Australian was a late mover like those above him and was only a tenth off Rins by the end of play, putting in 49 laps.
Jack Miller – P3
“We have worked hard on the set up and tried many solutions. The feeling with the bike is very good and already with the used medium tyre I was able to lap very fast in high 1’59’’. It’s a shame about the crash: it’s the second one in two days at turn 9. Tomorrow I have to stop this bad tradition”.
Just behind Miller came Andrea Dovizioso, who was the fastest Mission Winnow Ducati and looked set to top the day’s action until the late flurry of fast laps saw him pushed down to fourth. Initially the number 04 was working on frames, and Team Manager Davide Tardozzi confirmed that teammate Danilo Petrucci was focused on finding a better connection between the throttle and the rear tyre – working on the electronics and engine. Roles were then reversed, and Tardozzi also confirmed the Borgo Panigale factory also had some work on aero planned. That’s expected tomorrow. Today, it was two red machines in tandem as the two were on track together on some longer runs in the afternoon, with Petrucci saying he has “more to learn” than his teammate and ending the day in ninth.
Andrea Dovizioso – P4
“It’s been a really positive day, and I’m very happy with the way we’re working, which allowed us to gather plenty of interesting data. Today, we focused on some areas in which we struggled a bit in the past, finding good solutions. Instead of just riding alone, I also managed to do a couple of longer runs together with Danilo to bring the tyres to race distance, which helped us to better simulate what happens during a GP. We still have a few components to try tomorrow, development never stops and we’ll keep looking for more ways to improve our performance.”
Danilo Petrucci – P9
“It’s been a very intense day from a physical standpoint, because we clocked a lot of laps and we even rode over the race distance in two consecutive runs during the hottest hours. I have to say we gathered a positive feedback, both from a technical and physical standpoint, and the team did an excellent job. A small setback prevented us from further improving our lap times, but the rankings are certainly not our priority at this point of the year. Compared with yesterday, we’ve been a lot more competitive with higher temperatures, which makes me really confident ahead of tomorrow.”
Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) pipped Petrucci on his GP18 to end Thursday in P7, with Francesco Bagnaia fastest rookie in P12 for Alma Pramac Racing.
Pecco Bagnaia – P12
“It’s been a very good day. I worked much better than yesterday at the technical level and in the afternoon we made a big step forward. Tomorrow we will try to make a time attack and a race simulation but I think it is a positive test so far: lap after lap I feel to better understand the bike”.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) put in a good showing on Thursday to take fifth overall and end the day as fastest Honda. The Brit is returning from a badly broken ankle sustained at Phillip Island last season but managed 53 laps to end the session within just 0.004 of Dovizioso. He also suffered a crash; Rider OK.
Cal Crutchlow – P5
“Today was a positive day and the team worked very well. We tried the 2019 bike all day, and we had two of them in the garage which meant we could do back-to-back tests on a few things. It was always the plan, so it’s good to do that. I felt quite comfortable over the day and we are pleased with what HRC has brought us to the test and as a race bike for this season. My physical condition is not too bad as regards my ankle. I have more pain at the end of the day and the ankle is swollen due to the heat, but in general I’ve felt good on the bike. I had a small crash at turn five, which was a strange one because I wasn’t pushing or doing anything different – it was a first lap out of the pits. Luckily, I was ok. We look forward to the last day tomorrow, where we will focus more on working on the setting, and we can try and get all the information we need to be ready for the start of the season.“
Next up for Honda was eighth placed Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), who downed tools early once again and put in 37 laps on Day 2 – although some of those were a longer run in the afternoon. The team confirmed they’re on schedule despite the lighter lap load for the reigning Champion, too – with Marquez routinely having done over 90 laps per test day last season – and were working on the new bike, new engine and electronics, with a lot to get through including some different fairings.
Marc Marquez – P8
“Today we worked much the same as yesterday and tried a few new things, the most important ones for Honda. I started the day well but then the shoulder started to get a bit worse so we stopped to be able to run well again tomorrow. I can’t ride exactly how I’d want, normally I’m a rider who brakes very late and deep but I can’t do that at the moment and have to brake earlier and smoother. In regards to the bike, we’ve been working mostly on corner exit but sometimes at this circuit the grip can change a lot.”
Crutchlow’s teammate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) took P10 after 60 laps, with Stefan Bradl (Honda Test Team) taking P16 after 59 laps.
Takaaki Nakagami – P10
“Second day done, and we finished in P10, and to be inside the top ten is a good thing for us. This is testing however, and the main thing is that we stay focused on our programme and planned testing schedule, which we are doing. We are working hard to improve the set-up of the bike. Yesterday we had a bit of a struggle with the braking stability, but finally today we found an improvement and a better feeling on the brakes. On the other hand, we are still missing a bit of edge grip on the rear. Tomorrow we have to see if we can find a better balance on the bike, and then we can make a race simulation. At the end of the day today we went into the 1’59s, and that was my target for the day so that is good. We will keep pushing tomorrow of course and let’s see what happens.”
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing saw some tables turned on Day 2 as Johann Zarco ended the day as fastest Austrian machine for the first time since his switch to the marque. He said he outstripped his expected progress for the day and it made him smile to dip below the 2 minute mark for the first time, and he ended the day in P11 after 58 laps. Teammate Pol Espargaro was P17 and just over three tenths off the Frenchman.
KTM test rider Mika Kallio was a couple of places back, and just pipped Red Bull KTM Tech 3 rookie Miguel Oliveira.
Miguel Oliveira – P20
“It seems like we can improve our lap time every day a little bit. With the used tyres I was quite happy with my performance, also with the performance of the bike. It was only the last run, that we couldn’t improve the lap time, because we ran a different traction control setting, which was really something else and combined with the new tyre, it didn’t work. We had to learn, which direction to take and will finetune this area tomorrow to be able to go faster. I’m very motivated, plus the team is doing a great job, we understand the bike more and more. Today we were only missing the time attack, but I would say we are quite strong and on a good direction.”
Malaysian Hafizh Syahrin had a tougher day, outside the top twenty.
Hafizh Syahrin – P25
“To be honest, I’m still quite slow at the moment and far from the top, especially because Maverick (Viñales) improved in the end. But now I start to understand many things when I was on the track. Today I followed some others, while before I rode alone, trying to do my best to improve my lap time. When I followed some riders like my teammate Miguel and also Pol Espargaro and Mika Kallio, I tried to understand how they can do such a good turning. Now we found out where the point is and we’ll improve it for the last day tomorrow. I hope I can do something good. I keep my motivation and work hard and also try to give my best for my team.”
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, meanwhile, had a race simulation fairly early on Day 2 for Aleix Espargaro as Andrea Iannone remained focused on adaptation. Bike balance, electronics and torque control were a focus for the Noale factory.
Espargaro ended the day in P13 after 54 laps, Iannone in P18 after 39.
Aleix Espargaro’ – P13
“Today I did a 20-lap race simulation and I am very satisfied, both with how I held up physically and with the performance of the RS-GP. I managed to lap in the first half of the long run at 2’00 and in the low 2’01s for the second half – a good pace that confirms our competitiveness with used tyres. I must be realistic and also consider that the track is in better conditions than those of the race, but I am still pleased with the performance. We are still lacking incisiveness when we have more grip on new tyres. It seems like the others are able to exploit it better on the flying lap.”
Andrea Iannone – P18
“Today we began to get to know the bike better, which is part of our growth path. There are some positive changes and some not so positive, so we’ll keep going without revolutionising the bike, but with the clear goal of constantly improving, lap by lap. We managed to find some advantages in performance with used tyres. I did my best lap precisely in these conditions and using the medium. I am pleased about that and I can confirm our potential, considering the fact that this is our first real test.”
Romano Albesiano, Technical Manager, also confirmed that it’s not just the immediate future that Aprilia are working towards, with plans made to make some big changes in testing in order to set up some more radical development later in the season.
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.