With such limited time on track at Sepang, and with the shortest pre-season testing program ever, the work list for the riders and technicians to battle their way through over these three days will be absolutely massive.
Jack Miller and Simon Crafar got in some early laps in a BMW course car but come Friday morning, not long after bikes hit the track and started getting some laps in, the track was then closed and the session suspended due to condition of the circuit.
The track presenting as excessively dirty due to ongoing construction in the area and rain.
The pristine MotoGP motorcycles caked with dirt and looking as though they have just been ridden for days in Indonesian jungles rather than on a tarmac road race circuit.
Clean up crews were sent out on track to try and prepare the surface to a more satisfactory standard.
After a lengthy delay the circuit opened again with the news that the finish time for the day would be extended by 45-minutes to help try and make up some of the one-hour and 40-minutes lost time. The pressure will really be on to get productive laps in to try and gain as much data as possible.
Times like these brands such as Suzuki and Aprilia, with only two riders on track, will be really ruing the lost time and their riders really under pressure to work through the test programme. Ducati will have terabytes of data from their massive contingent of eight riders, double the number that Yamaha, Honda and KTM have on track.
Michelin also have no experience here and are desperate for data to try and ensure they bring the right rubber back here when we race in just over a months time. They already suspect that the circuit might be brutal on rear tyre longevity.
Pecco Bagnaia, Fabio Di Giannantonio and Marco Bezzecchi all reduced their potential laps today, all three Ducati men crashing when the track opened up again an hour or so after the delay.
It is rare you see chicken strips on MotoGP front tyres but the lack of grip here today, even after the track completely dried, only to then become dusty, demonstrated the lack of confidence in corner entry.
Jorge Martin was the first man in the 1m33s, a 1m33.987 on his 37th lap with two-hours and 40-minutes left in the session. The 24-year-old Spaniard then immediately backed it up with a 1m33.358 on his next lap which indicated the track was starting to come good.
Repsol Honda riders Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro joined Martin in the 1m33s a few minutes later.
It was half an hour later before the next rider dipped into the 1m33s and that was Fabio Quartararo, only just though a 1m33.951 on his 67th lap. The World Champion the hardest working rider of the day by far. He then went quicker again, a 1m33.856 on his 69th lap.
Alex Rins joined the 1m33s club with just over two-hours remaining in the session. A 1m33.816 to go third quickest.Martin was still the benchmark at 1m33.358 and Pol Espargaro second on 1m33.455.
Raul Fernandez then made it a club of six, a 1m33.966 to the KTM rookie.Aleix Espargaro then expanded the 1m33s club to seven with a 1m33.635 to go third quickest. Joan Mir then signed up with a 1m33.635, Johann Zarco with a 1m33.756 before Maverick Vinales then made it a club of ten with just over 90-minutes remaining when he shot to the top of the timesheets with a 1m33.147.
Half hour later the 1m33s club was looking a whole lot less exclusive as there were now 17 riders in the 1m33s and Jack Miller was El Presidente on a 1m33.114.
Not happy with anyone now being allowed membership, a new club was established, the 32 club!The founding member was Brad Binder but Pol Espargaro then signed up soon after after dropping in a 1m32.466, the fastest ever motorcycle lap of the new Mandalika Circuit. Aleix Espargaro then followed his brother into the club with a 1m32.937 to make it an all Espargaro 1-2 at the top of the timesheets.
With half hour remaining in the session Pol Espargaro was still atop the charts ahead of his brother, and all six different manufacturers were represented in the top six spots on the time-sheets. Dorna must have wrote this script…. Dorna then also called the clouds into threaten rain to make sure the six different manufacturer in the top six stayed as the headline for the day…
Dirty track and all, the MotoGP bikes are already lapping faster than the1m32.877 set by Toprak Razgatlioglu here last year during the Superpole session of the World Superbike event. The sheer horsepower of today’s MotoGP bikes was on display with top speeds around 25 km/h quicker than the World Superbikes. Quickest through the speed trap today was Johann Zarco at 314.8 km/h, and the four fastest bikes were also on Ducatis.
That said, the track doesn’t seem to be a circuit where top end horsepower is as important as many others. It’s a fast flowing circuit, with only a couple of hard braking points, turns 1 and 10, thus it is somewhat a little like Phillip Island in those aspects.
This is the first day MotoGP bikes have ever been around this circuit so obviously nothing can be read in to the results from today. If the weather holds and the track continues to clean up just how fast will they be by this time Sunday…? That has to be 1m31s, probably 1m30s and I would imagine that if the planets align sufficiently maybe even 1m29s….?
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