Casey Stoner quickest on Sepang MotoGP Test Day One
Ducati Team test rider and double MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner led the way at the top of the timesheets on the first day of the first Official Test of 2017 – ahead of Ducati race rider and 2016 Malaysian GP winner Andrea Dovizioso as the Italian factory locked out the top.
“Today was positive and the best thing about it was that we got a lot of dry track time. It’s been hanging in the balance really with the weather because the track takes so long to dry and if it rains at all within twelve hours, you’re going to get very little track time. It’s great that we got out there straightaway this morning and started putting in some good laps, reconfirming what we felt earlier in the week. We got a lot of comparisons done today so it was really good to get a feeling and direction with the bike. We still have a lot more work to do, it was disappointing that it rained but hopefully on Wednesday when we come back on track we can pick up where we left off and move this bike further forward, especially in the chassis area.”
“The first day of testing in 2017 went pretty well and I am pleased because we showed good pace right from the start, using the same bike as Valencia and without needing to make any particular changes. Without the wings we had to adapt to the bike, and we still have a lot of fine-tuning work to do, both with the electronics and on the set-up, because the bike behaves differently, but in any case we are maintaining a good competitive level and it’s always important to start off with this sort of confirmation. Starting off on the right foot helps us continue with the development, and if you add to this the fact that I set my quickest time on a medium tyre, then we have to be satisfied.”
Behind the two red machines was Maverick Viñales in P3, showing his teeth once again after topping timesheets first time out on his new Movistar Yamaha machine in Valencia.
“We have been working a lot to prepare before the race season starts and honestly I‘m quite surprised. The first day is always difficult, but I‘m feeling OK on the bike and physically good, so I‘m happy and I want to go back to working on the bike some more. We tried many things today to get a good package and now we focus on comparing many things. We‘re doing some difficult work these days before we go out to set a fast lap time, but it‘s really useful for the next few tests.”
Rain cut the day short as it began around two hours before the end of the session, putting paid to any attempt to better times. Stoner put in 33 laps with a best of 1:59.681, ‘DesmoDovi’ 33 laps with a best of 1:59.796.
The two men were the only riders below the two-minute barrier. New arrival in red Jorge Lorenzo was further down the order in P17; a 2:01.350 on a 2016 machine, before rain put paid to any further advances.
“At this circuit I noticed a bigger difference between my Ducati and the bike that I have ridden for the last nine years. Now we have to do two things to be quicker: the first is to gradually adapt the bike to the way I like it, and the second and more important, is to know how to do that and understand how to be quicker. I still need some more time for that, more than I hoped for, but in any case it’s still too early to come to conclusions. It’s only a question of time and laps on the track, so we will work in this direction. The important thing is that the other Ducati bikes were very quick, and this means that the bike has a lot of potential.”
One of the Ducati Team’s most high-profile additions in Malaysia is a strikingly-new exhaust, something that proved a key focus in the initial stages of testing for the factory as the red machines were put through their paces.
Viñales’ 2:00.128 in P3 was his best over 55 laps on his first track day of 2017, with teammate Valentino Rossi on a 2:00.694 to go P8 – a second down on Stoner after 28 laps – with new additions left off the agenda for the first day back on track for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP.
“The first feeling wasn‘t so bad, because in this session we finally have the ’real‘ two bikes that we will use during the championship and they are better than the first prototype that we tested in November, from many points of view. Unfortunately, it was a difficult day today. This morning I woke up with a very bad headache and until 12 o‘clock I wasn‘t in good shape. After that we were able to do some laps and the feeling was good. In the afternoon we had to finish the work but it started to rain, so we have to wait and hope that in the next two days we will have good track conditions. We will try some new things tomorrow. Today we worked on the engine and the electronics and found some good stuff.”
Both Rossi and Viñales also tested at Sepang late in 2016 in a private test shared with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rookies Jonas Folger and Johann Zarco.
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“It‘s been a positive first few hours of testing in Sepang for us and, so far, we are quite satisfied. The progress is going well and we are on schedule. In the beginning of the test we suffered a bit from a lack of grip when Maverick started his first run, so he couldn‘t ride as he wanted, but we tried some different things and now it‘s much better. Valentino wasn‘t feeling 100% fit this morning, but he still headed out on track because we were expecting rain in the afternoon. His and Maverick‘s pace started to pick up throughout the first stints when the track was cooler, though we honestly haven‘t been focussing on setting fast lap times. Today our target was to confirm our findings from November and we did do so without any issues. We also worked on the engine, the electronics and the rear tyre life. The changes that we made improved the feelings for the riders on how the bike is performing. It doesn‘t look like the temperatures affected the riders too much, but today was only the first day, there are two more to come.”
Fastest rookie on Day 1 was Folger in an impressive P7, who was up the timesheets from the off. The German’s best of the day was a 2:00.643 after 41 laps, with his French teammate putting in a best of 2:01.224 over 70 laps. Both premier class newcomers got in some wet track time late in the afternoon.
“Today was positive and I am happy with what we accomplished. I had a good feeling as soon as we got going this morning, so we only changed a few settings. After lunch, the team and I aimed to make a step forward with regards to the front of the bike because I felt like I was already close to the limit with my lap times and we saw that I could improve with the braking. Therefore, we made a big adjustment, but when I went back out, the weather interfered. However, we have two more days left to try this setting properly but overall, I am really happy about today, not only with the result, but also with our work. In addition, I was able to ride in the rain for the first time, which was very useful and I felt positive on the wet Michelin tyres. I went out twice and it was important to experience this because it’s different with the brakes. We gained a lot of data and I have started to understand the bike a lot more so I am excited to see what we can do tomorrow.”
“I am happy to be back on the YZR-M1 and we collected a large amount of significant information today. I have not been on the bike for a long time due to the winter break so I took the time and step-by-step, I gained a good feeling. I undertook a lot of laps, but I didn’t just push for two laps and then pit, so when I started, I relaxed and did it how I wanted. In the end, I can be happy about this, even if I could not be as quick as I aimed to be, but I know this will come. I also completed my first wet laps which is important as we must prepare for the season and be ready for any weather condition. I went out when the circuit was fully wet and again, when it was drying, and I got a positive feel for it. I know we will improve every day so I am looking forward to getting back on track.”
It was a strong start to the 2017 preseason for Bautista, the Pull&Bear Aspar Team’s Spanish rider spending much of the morning on top of the timesheets thanks to his fourth lap, which stopped the clock at 2’00.925. Bautista had clearly picked up with the same positive feelings he enjoyed at the last test at Jerez in November, registering fourteen 2’00 laps from 27 completed today.
“It has been a very positive start. I finished the Jerez test in November with a good feeling and that came straight back as soon as I got on the bike today. I felt comfortable, even though the job today was just to find our rhythm without making too many big changes. We worked on some finer details with the electronics to adapt them to this circuit but we have a good base to work from. It is time for us to start doing quality laps. When I tested the Ducati last year I could see that it had a lot of potential, I still feel that way and the objective is to be much closer to the front than I was last season. We’ll see if we can be fighting for top five finishes at every race. It is difficult because there are a lot of factory riders but I think it is possible.”
Meanwhile his team-mate Karel Abraham continued with his adaptation to the team and the Ducati GP15 he will ride in this year’s championship. The rain marked a slightly early end to the day for the Czech rider, who finished with a best effort of 2’01.926, just 1.8 seconds off the pace of Bautista, after spending the day making small changes to his set-up, completing 45 laps.
“It is a great feeling to be back in MotoGP. This is a very different Ducati to the one I rode in 2011 and 2012. I am still getting used to the team and they are still getting used to me. Our plan for the moment is to find a good set-up to work from in future. I think every rider is different and I am different to the riders the team have had in the past so we need to work step by step to continue to adapt to each other.”
Team Suzuki Ecstar’s charge was led by Andrea Iannone on day 1 as the Italian put his new MotoGP machine up into the top five. The ‘Maniac’ put in 45 laps, with an impressive best of 2:00.490.
“For the moment everything is fine. Of course after a long break the main thing is to try to find back the confidence as quick as possible and find a good pace. We could already have some outcomes on the machines, it is very important to keep the comparative so we are working a lot switching the standard 2016 with the 2017 evolution one. We don’t have any decisions yet, of course, it’s long work that requires patience, but we’re happy with all the information we’ve collected. The relationship with the crew is very positive, everybody works really hard but the mood makes me very comfortable, I’d say my feeling now is really easy.”
Rookie teammate Alex Rins, who is getting back to full strength following a crash in testing in Valencia, was down in P20 with a 2:01.889, but showed a clear progression – and ventured out even after the rain started.
“I feel very good on the bike, I believe we have done a positive step since Valencia and now I’m starting to get the confidence to be more and more effective. It’s a good feeling to be back on the bike after winter, the back is not 100% fit but I did a good preparation and I’m recovering. The good thing is that I get better and better feeling with the machine, this is a further push to improve. We found a good set-up with the machine and we started to work on the development. For today we mainly focused in finding a good set-up that makes me confident to take the references with the 2016 standard GSX-RR, so that tomorrow when we will introduce some bigger improvements in the bike I can give affordable feedback to the team with proper comparatives. The whole crew is supporting me at the best, they have big experience in helping a young rider to get acquainted, to take confidence and to improve.”
Davide Brivio – Team Suzuki Manager
“I’d call this a good start of the season, the work with both riders has been positive, with both of them we are proceeding step-by-step to introduce the improvements that has been developed during the winter. We are doing intense work collecting information, today we could do many laps, therefore we have a significant amount of data to work on tonight, also to determine how to adapt for tomorrow. We are introducing many improvements and so the objective of these three days is to decide what is positive and what is ineffective, so that we get the path to follow. Also we’re happy because Andrea confirmed the good feeling he has with the GSX-RR and Alex showed many improvements with the machine as well as more and more confidence.”
It was a positive start to the year, with Crutchlow finishing the first of three days’ tests as the sixth fastest rider out on track, with a 2:00.570 his best time after 45 laps. A two-time race winner in 2016, he was using the same frame as he used at the end of last season, and in terms of engine was working on a different configuration in order to provide feedback to HRC as they define their 2017 motor.
“First of all, I’d like to say how nice it was to get back to the LCR Honda Team after a couple of months break. I didn’t ride a motorcycle too much during the winter, I did two 20-minute rides on a motocross bike so today the feeling was a little strange for me, but it was nice to be back into some sort of rhythm with the team. In terms of testing, today we were able to give some feedback immediately as we started with our testing programme, and at the moment we are going through a few small things that we have to try. Then the plan is that over the next two days we can test and evaluate some other things for Honda.”
Repsol Honda Team got 2017 in gear in P9 and P13, with reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez leading teammate Dani Pedrosa by two tenths. Marquez did 57 laps with a best of 2:00.737, Pedrosa 46 laps with a top time of 2:00.970.
“The feeling today wasn’t so bad considering that the first day after the holiday break is always a bit demanding for the rider and the team! We’ve been testing two bikes with different engine configurations, but we mainly concentrated on one, playing with electronics, geometry, setup and so on. We gathered a lot of information, and now we’ll keep working. We also decided to make the best of the situation when the rain arrived and did some laps in the wet, but we look forward to continuing testing in the dry tomorrow to better understand and exploit the potential of our bike.”
“Today I basically got reacquainted with riding my bike, with the track and the tyres, and I also rode for the first time on the new asphalt here at Sepang. We’ve started working on the bike as we have two different engine configurations to test. We mainly worked with one bike. We also had the chance to ride in the wet on that bike, and we got good information. Hopefully it won’t rain tomorrow, and I think we’ll be able to go more deep in the testing than we were today.”
EG0,0 Marc VDS Honda duo Jack Miller and Tito Rabat had a slightly tougher day at the office, with Assen 2016 winner on a 2:01.942 and the former Moto2 World Champion a further four tenths back.
“Overall I’m pretty satisfied. Today was all about getting into the swing of things again after such a long break, not crashing and testing a few things on the bike. I like the new chassis a lot and the new compound Michelins, which we tested for the first time today, are an interesting development. Still, there’s a lot of room for improvement between now and the end of the test, so I’m looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow. Hopefully the track will have dried out after the rain this afternoon and we can get back out there and get in some decent laps.”
“Today was a pretty good day. I’ve been a long time off the bike and returning to the track for the first time is always a little bit exciting because everything seems so fast until you start to adapt to the speed again. But today was positive; I have more confidence with the bike, my team is working well and, step by step, we improved as the day progressed. Unfortunately the first day was cut short by the rain, but that has given us some time to go over the plan for tomorrow, when the aim is to improve again.”
Honda were another manufacturer with a new exhaust as one of their key points of investigation for the test, and both Marquez and Pedrosa also took to the track in the rain.
Hector Barbera rounded out the top ten for Avintia Racing with a 2:00.744 out of 39 laps, with Octo Pramac Yakhnich duo Danilo Petrucci and Scott Redding in hot pursuit.
“It was a good first day. We have mainly been working on the set up of the bike and although we had a little technical issue at the end, we were lucky because it happened just before the rain started. As we finished the day ahead of schedule, we saved one set of tyres and this was positive, because we don’t have too many tyres for the three days. Our lap time was quite good since we did not push too much. We worked on adapting the bike to my riding style and although we only did 38 laps, we got plenty of information. For tomorrow, we have some ideas that can help us improve. The track is completely different to Valencia and Jerez where we did quite well, but the 2017 season has really started in Malaysia today.”
“The first day was quite positive, because we did many laps in the morning and the feeling with the bike was good from the first lap. I feel in good shape and the injuries from last season are a thing of the past. Today I worked on my riding style, trying to make it smoother, especially at this track where the tyres suffer a lot. We also tried a few things on the bike that worked quite well, and all in all we improved steadily. We work in a calm way, step by step, with the aim to be ready when the season kicks off with the first race”.
Petrucci, on the 2017 Ducati, clocked a best of 2:00.850 – with his teammate on the 2016 machine a mere two-thousandths in arrears on a 2:00.852.
“It’s always a thrill to get back on track after the winter break. I am pleased with the work we have done today. The bike is working well. It’s a big step forward compared to the 2015 version. The bike has great potential and I feel I have it also. I can do better but I’m very happy with this first day. I really enjoyed coming back on track.”
“It was a quite good day. We worked a lot on used tires and I must say that the feelings are good. It was great to be back lapping after a few weeks. We made some kind of shake-down trying to find the right direction to take for the next two days. If it rains we’ll try anyway but without taking unnecessary risks.”
Aleix Espargaro led the Aprilia charge for Aprilia Racing Team Gresini in P15 with a 2:01.271, with the Noale machines sporting a new fairing. Rookie teammate Sam Lowes did a best of 2:02.942, but did get a significant amount of track time – 51 laps – something important after the Brit sat out some previous sessions in Valencia and Jerez following some big crashes. Espargaro completed 37 laps.
Red Bull Factory Racing KTM duo Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith got back to work on their 2017 project as full factory riders for the first time, with Espargaro putting in a 2:01.338 and Smith a 2:03.034.
The younger of the two Espargaro brothers also ventured out in the rain in the final part of the session as KTM prepare to go racing full time in the premier class, eager to test out the bike – which sports some key differences to its competitors such as the tubular steel chassis – in different conditions.
Day 2 coverage begins at 9:45am local time on Tuesday (2:45 CET), with live programming on motogp.com as the action unfolds.
2017 MotoGP Sepang Test – Day 1 results
- STONER, Casey / Ducati Test Team / 1:59.681
- DOVIZIOSO, Andrea / Ducati Team / 1:59.796
- VIÑALES, Maverick / Movistar Yamaha MotoGP / 2:00.128
- BAUTISTA, Alvaro / Pull&Bear Aspar Team / 2:00.134
- IANNONE, Andrea / Team SUZUKI ECSTAR / 2:00.490
- CRUTCHLOW, Cal / LCR Honda / 2:00.570
- FOLGER, Jonas / Monster Yamaha Tech 3 / 2:00.643
- ROSSI, Valentino / Movistar Yamaha MotoGP / 2:00.695
- MARQUEZ, Marc / Repsol Honda Team / 2:00.737
- BARBERA, Hector / Avintia Racing / 2:00.744
- PETRUCCI, Danilo / OCTO Pramac Yakhnich / 2:00.850
- REDDING, Scott / OCTO Pramac Yakhnich / 2:00.852
- PEDROSA, Dani / Repsol Honda Team / 2:00.970
- ZARCO, Johann / Monster Yamaha Tech 3 / 2:01.224
- ESPARGARO, Aleix / Aprilia Racing Team Gresini / 2:01.271
- ESPARGARO, Pol / Red Bull KTM Factory Racing / 2:01.338
- LORENZO, Jorge / Ducati Team / 2:01.350
- BAZ, Loris / Avintia Racing / 2:01.351
- TSUDA, Takuya / Suzuki Test Team / 2:01.812
- RINS, Alex / Team SUZUKI ECSTAR / 2:01.889
- ABRAHAM, Karel / Pull&Bear Aspar Team / 2:01.926
- MILLER, Jack / Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS / 2:01.942
- NOZANE, Kohta / Yamaha Factory Racing / 2:02.187
- NAKASUGA, Katsuyuki / Yamaha Factory Racing / 2:02.290
- RABAT, Tito / Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS / 2:02.315
- LOWES, Sam / Aprilia Racing Team Gresini / 2:02.942
- SMITH, Bradley / Red Bull KTM Factory Racing / 2:03.034
RECORD LAP – TIME 2’00.606 – RIDER J. Lorenzo – BIKE Yamaha – YEAR 2015
BEST LAP – TIME 1’59.053 – RIDER D. Pedrosa – BIKE Honda – YEAR 2015
- A. Dovizioso (Ducati) 42’27.333
- V. Rossi (Yamaha) +3.115
- J. Lorenzo (Yamaha +11.924