Maverick Viñales (Yamaha Factory Racing) took the first honours of 2019 track action at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo, setting the quickest time of 1:31.416 to head 2018 World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) by 0.302, with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha Factory Racing) third on the timesheets.
Onlookers also witnessed Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team), Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and others get to grips with their new machines – although it was an earlier end to the day than anticipated after rain cut action short in the late afternoon.
The day also began with similar weather problems, with the skies dry but the track a little damp, and that delayed proceedings a little. Once it did get underway, the day ushered in a new era.
At the Repsol Honda Team, Marquez was a threat near the top for much of the day and the reigning Champion had two other black-liveried bikes in the garage – a 2019 development bike and an all-new bike for the coming season.
But arguably the biggest talking point from the test was Lorenzo’s debut on an RC213V machine. The five-time World Champion didn’t head out until around 1pm local time, but eventually completed 30 laps before rain stopped play at around 15:20.
Still not up to full fitness after his wrist injury, Lorenzo ended Day 1 with the 18th fastest time; his 1:32.959 was 1.543 off Viñales as he begins his adaptation from Ducati to Honda.
“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to try everything we had planned to, as the track was still half-and-half in the morning and it started raining again later in the afternoon. So we only did 25 laps. Anyway, we tried three different bikes, starting with the current one but moving immediately to two other bikes, each with slightly different specifications. It was a positive test; there’s still a lot of work to do but we’re on the right path and the first feeling is good. Tomorrow we’ll continue with the same plan, trying to understand the bike’s balance because it changed a bit, and we still have to test the other small modifications. Pre-season just started, so we look forward to improving step by step.”
Viñales was the later improver to take to the top. The Spaniard’s main focus was on the engine, and he began with some time on the ‘old’ bike before changing to a new engine option which helped put him on the top of the timesheets.
“We tried to make a step forward with the engine, and I just felt really good going out. We still need to amend the engine in terms of acceleration, because the engine is different from what we had during the 2018 season. We need to keep going and I’m really happy. Tomorrow we might have another engine with another step. Maybe we will try that, but I’m quite happy with what we have now, so I want to make laps and set up the electronics really well, because it changes a lot over the whole track and we didn’t have time to do it today. I did my best lap with the new engine. I feel the direction we’re going in is the right one, because I feel much better in the corners, which is where we needed to improve, so now we can focus on acceleration.”
Teammate Valentino Rossi, meanwhile, was also near the top – and he had positive things to say about the engine he tried, that it stresses the tyre less. He also gave a peek of what he’ll be working on tomorrow – another spec.
“Today we tried one (engine) and tomorrow we’ll try the other one, which is similar but different. Tomorrow, the most important thing is try the second spec. For me, these two tests are not crucial, but are important. We have time until next February to choose the engine, but in this test we can give a good indication to work more in one way.”
Ducati was a slightly different story, with 2017 and 2018 runner-up Andrea Dovizioso left a little frustrated after Day 1. With no dry laptimes from the weekend as a reference, the Italian worked on an updated GP18 to lay down some laps to use as a comparison for the new bike – but then it rained.
Tomorrow the number 04 will be looking to get that base and then begin work in earnest if the weather proves better, but he did finish Day 1 only 0.001 off Rossi.
“Unfortunately the day wasn’t very productive because in the morning, with the track surface still partially damp, there weren’t the conditions to go out on track. We had to wait a lot, in the end we didn’t do many laps, and in addition we had to prepare a base set-up with the 2018 bike, because during the race weekend we were unable to lap in the dry. The tests we had scheduled must be done well and in a precise way, because the decisions we will take during these tests will have an effect on the definition of the bike we will use next year. We wanted to do a good back-to-back test but when we were ready, in the afternoon, it began to rain. Tomorrow morning, we hope to find the track dry and to be able to lap all day.”
On the other side of the garage, newcomer Danilo Petrucci described it as the first day at school as he debuts in factory colours, and had no negatives to report back.
“My first day in the factory team was a fantastic feeling, for me it was like the first day at school! The team welcomed me so well and I immediately felt at ease with them. We were able to work with both bikes, and it’s a pity the rain came when I was lapping strongly and there was a lot of rubber on the track. We did a lot of laps with used tyres and we were quite quick. The new bike is an excellent starting point and doesn’t have any negative aspects, but I’ll also have to work to improve my riding style. It was a good start and I hope to continue this way also tomorrow.”
Test rider Michele Pirro, meanwhile – the only rider to crash on the opening day – headed out on a GP19 for 19 laps to set the tenth fastest time, 0.804 from the top.
“Today we did several tests on various components and we gathered some useful information, but unfortunately the weather wasn’t much help and we started our laps late and finished early. However, we’ve already been able to identify the path we have to follow over the winter months, and this is a positive fact. Unfortunately, I also crashed because the shoulder I injured at Mugello is not quite right yet and even though the painkillers have an effect, I don’t always have total control of the situation. When you have this type of physical problem, these things can happen, but it’s just a matter of gritting my teeth until the end of the month and then I’ll have an operation to finally resolve the situation.”
Behind Dovizioso, LCR Honda Castrol’s replacement rider Stefan Bradl completed the top five after 51 laps, putting in a 1:32.015, with teammate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) a little further down the timesheets in P13.
In sixth came one of the most impressive performances of the day from new team on the grid Petronas Yamaha SRT. Franco Morbidelli, fresh from being crowned 2018 Rookie of the Year, was only two tenths off Rossi and using a hybrid of Johann Zarco’s former 2018 bike with a new engine from the factory.
“It has been a great first day, I felt good with the bike as soon as I got in it and the connection with the team is really good. I managed to get some laps in this afternoon that were solid and fast. I have more time to find in my riding, as I get to know the bike and understand its strengths and weaknesses, to get the most out of this test. I have been surprised how smooth the Yamaha is to ride and how easy it is to understand.”
And on his first ever outing on a MotoGP machine, teammate Fabio Quartararo was able to get 38 laps under his belt to set a quickest time of 1:33.850 – 2.434 off Viñales. The biggest change? The Frenchman reported it was the power – and where he has to brake in the premier class compared to the intermediate.
“The first day of the test has gone really well. It was a shame we didn’t get to do more laps because of the conditions, which weren’t the best, but I am happy because each time I went out onto the track I improved. So far in the middle of the corner and the exit we are quite strong but I am losing time in braking. The team are encouraging me to believe in the brakes because at the start you think you’re not going to be able to get stopped but in the end you can do it and I enjoyed that. The most impressive thing about my first outing on the Yamaha was the power, especially on the first straight, and also the brakes. Hopefully we can have good conditions tomorrow because we want to work on braking and improving the feeling.”
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was satisfied and positive after Day 1, too. The Spaniard was working on updates and hopes the machine will be the basis of their 2019 bike, and he was up the timesheets from early in the track action and eventually finished up in P7.
“These tests started off on the right foot. In addition to the technical upgrades, there were some new faces in my garage: crew chief Antonio Jimenez and electronics engineer Gianluca Giorgini. From this point of view, the initial impact was more than good. The engine upgrade that I tested today also had some positive sides, especially in terms of power distribution management. This is an aspect that should let us be more effective in conditions with very used tyres, in other words, in the final laps which are often the decisive ones in the race. In any case, I want to delve farther and compare the different configurations calmly in order to avoid any rushed decisions.”
New teammate Andrea Iannone also took to the RS-GP for the first time. The Italian was only able to get 15 laps under his belt to as he ended the day in P19, while test rider Bradley Smith was able to get to grips with his new bike – 17 laps completed for the British rider, with a best time of 1:33.709.
Behind Aleix Espargaro and Petrucci was the hero of the hour for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing on Sunday: Pol Espargaro. The Spaniard was positive after Day 1 and ended up P9, putting in 35 laps due to the decreased track time and eager to go again tomorrow. The focus, he says, is currently on electronics – where KTM could stand to make a key gain as they aim to establish themselves as regular runners nearer the podium they took in the Grand Prix on the weekend.
New teammate Johann Zarco, meanwhile, reported a 50/50 day – the Frenchman said he initially struggled to find a base setting but is delighted with the feeling in the team and the factory support; another eager to head out again on Wednesday. Zarco was P17 overall, seven tenths off his new teammate.
The fastest rookie of the day was Francesco Bagnaia, who joins Alma Pramac Racing. He impressed in P11 just behind Pirro, and was focusing on simply putting in the laps and settling in.
“Unfortunately the rain stopped us after only 38 laps. But I’m really very satisfied with this first day. Honestly, we just tried to lap as much as we could. We’ll start working on the setup tomorrow. My first feeling? The bike is impressive.”
His teammate Jack Miller, meanwhile, said his new bike has almost nothing in common with the old and had positive reports – although the Australian’s day was brought to an even earlier end due to a small technical problem they’ll have rectified for Day 2. Miller ended the day in P14.
“Feelings are very positive. I feel that the new much is better in many ways. Unfortunately, we had a technical problem that forced us to stop the test earlier. I can’t wait to get back on track tomorrow”.
Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins slots into P12 after Day 1. A podium finisher on Sunday, Rins was straight back to business in testing and, much like Dovizioso at Ducati and Marquez at Honda, was about to head out to begin some key work when the rain came down. The Spaniard was suited and booted to start evaluating the Hamamatsu Factory’s new engine, but that will now be a task for tomorrow.
“Today was a bit of a shame, because at the beginning we could do some positive work, but when we were ready to go with the new engine the rain arrived and we had to give up. We were still able to put in some laps and try some small things, but we haven’t really tried anything major yet. The grip level was quite low so riding wasn’t easy today, we hope tomorrow will be drier and we can fit more laps in. I have a lot more experience now and this gives me bigger confidence to help develop the bike, we have a lot of confidence in each other when it comes to preparing for next season. Joan has a lot of potential and we’ll see how he continues, he did a great job today.”
Rookie teammate Joan Mir, meanwhile, ended the day in P15 just behind Jack Miller – and only a few tenths off Rins after an impressive first day of ‘official’ experience – having briefly tested the Suzuki in Japan previously.
“My feeling was really good. It’s my first real day as a MotoGP rider, and my first day in Suzuki colours and I’m super happy. I have a great crew around me and I feel comfortable with them and also quite comfortable with the bike, so that’s important. It’s a big challenge to adapt from Moto2 to MotoGP. Compared with Moto2, you spend a lot more time braking, and you must brake very hard. And, of course, the acceleration is much more powerful. Electronics will be one of the things that will require more efforts to learn. It’s only the first day, but I’ve already found it useful to compare info with Alex. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager
“It’s been a good day but it could have been better because the rain arrived. Alex wasn’t able to complete his plan to test the new engine, so we hope it will be dry tomorrow so that we can do it then. We still tried some things, which of course is always useful, but we lost a lot of time in the morning due to the conditions. It’s been positive for Joan, he was able to do a lot of laps in the afternoon before the rain, he is learning, understanding, and adjusting. Everything is on schedule with him. He really enjoyed riding and that’s always a good way to start.”
Just behind Mir came Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing). The Spaniard, out of action since his crash at Silverstone, said he was positively surprised how he felt on the bike and his sixteenth-place finish on the first day showed once again that the former intermediate class Champion is made of steel.
His new teammate, Karel Abraham, was four-tenths off him as the Czech rider moves in one leap from a GP16 to a GP18. He spent most of the day settling in, and reported he made some big changes already.
Jonas Folger (Yamaha Test Team) was another man back in action as he begins working as a Europe-based test rider for the Iwata factory. He did 30 laps on the first day and was 0.040 ahead of Quartararo.
The final names on the timesheets were Hafizh Syahrin and Miguel Oliveira, who both begin new eras – as does the Tech 3 team. Beginning a new chapter with KTM, the KTM Tech 3 Racing riders put in 20 and 33 laps respectively as the Malaysian adapts from the Yamaha and Oliveira adapts from Moto2.
Hafizh Syahrin – P24
“I’m very happy to be in the KTM garage and part of this family. We were not able to do many laps today, because this morning the track was still wet and many riders were waiting. I did 20 laps and we planned to continue, but the rain suddenly came nearly two hours before the official end of the test, so we had no chance to do more laps on a dry track. At the moment, I have the feeling the bike is quite good in handling and more powerful, but obviously we need to change some things to adapt to my riding. Anyway, I’m very happy to be riding the RC16 and can’t wait to keep on working with it.”
Miguel Oliveira – P25
“I’m really happy to officially sit on the MotoGP bike for the first time. Everything feels obviously quite strange. We spent our runs on trying to get a sensation for the commands like the throttle, brake, gearing, also rear brake while trying to get an overall feeling for the bike, plus trying to understand a little bit how the electronic works. We were just getting the laps in, so I am happy for that. Obviously we were pretty slow, but I’m sure I’m getting my time to understand and make solid steps.”
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