Four riders in the 1m29s as MotoGP testing gets underway at Phillip Island
Warm and sunny weather greeted the riders as they arrived at the Phillip Island circuit to start the first of three days of testing this morning. Conditions would have been perfect for testing were it not for the gusting wind that is so often an issue at one of the most exposed tracks on the MotoGP calendar.
There were some crashes for the field including Hector Barbera (Reale Esponsorama Racing), and Sam Lowes (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), and two Red Flags. One saw animals on track cause a short stoppage, before a crash for Lowes at turn six damaged the tyre barrier and necessitated some repair work.
The first day of the Australian test concluded with Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez leading the field, his fastest lap of 1’29.497” just three-thousands of a second off the 2016 best race lap (1’29.494”).
Marc Marquez – 1st 1:29.497
“We had a quite a busy day because we worked a lot on the engine, which of course is different from the one we used here at Phillip Island last year. That meant we had to readjust everything during the morning and spend a lot of time in the box. In the afternoon we found a base for the electronics, but we still need to work harder in this area. I’m fast, but like in Malaysia we want to double-check how it’s working in some areas. We also worked on the setup, and overall it has been a positive day. The weather was good, which is always important, so hopefully it will stay the same for the next two days.”
Marquez’ Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa kept a fast pace throughout the session and finished the day in seventh place.
Dani Pedrosa – 7th 1:30.281
“I think we started this test in a positive way. Of course it has been a while since I’ve ridden at this track, as I missed the GP year and needed to do some laps to get reacquainted with it. Anyway, the first feeling was good enough. We didn’t work on the electronics too much today because we focused more on the fork’s setting as I looked to find a good feeling with the bike. Tomorrow we’ll focus on the electronics, as we need to find a good base setup. We hope to take another step forward because that will help us at every track.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP held second on the timesheets for most of the latter part of Day 1, first with Maverick Viñales after the Spaniard had led the way, and secondly with Valentino Rossi – who ended the day in P2 on a 1:29.683. The rider from Tavullia also saved a potential crash earlier in the session. Viñales, who did a best of 1:29.989 after 64 laps, didn’t better his time towards the end as his new teammate and Rossi’s compatriot Andrea Iannone did, moving down to P4.
Valentino Rossi – P2
“It was a good day, I‘m quite satisfied. We started in a difficult way this morning. Before the break I wasn‘t strong enough and because I couldn‘t push at the maximum I didn‘t have a lot of feeling. We worked well during the break and in the afternoon the situation changed, I was a bit better. At the end, with the new tyre, I was able to do a good lap and second position is positive for the first day. For sure, we still have a lot to do, especially on the long distance and we hope to have good weather also in the next few days.”
“About today, I think I can be happy in one area. On the race pace and basic set-up we made a good step, I feel comfortable. We didn‘t set a fast lap time at the end of the session, in the last ten minutes we went back in the box. We still have time until Qatar to be fast and try to improve the bike and I think our objective here is to be consistent and really fast.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha Team Director
“This was the first day on Phillip Island, which is a very different track compared to Sepang. The difference in circuit lay-outs makes it important to evaluate the items we tested two weeks ago in Malaysia. Despite the strong wind, as soon as the riders found a good base set-up, they started the comparison of the frames, the fairings and other different settings, with important results. The feedback from the riders has also been positive and both are feeling confident and comfortable on the bike. This is further underlined by both riders dipping under the 1‘30s mark. Vale ended the day with a good 1‘29.683s lap on new tyres and Maverick had a strong pace right from the start this morning, when he set a 1‘29s lap in cooler conditions. One of the main tasks for this test will be to do a race simulation, which is important for us. We‘ve been waiting to be able to complete a long run since Sepang and we would like to do it with both riders. If the circumstances allow it, we will start working on this target tomorrow.”
Iannone shot up the timesheets for Team Suzuki Ecstar near the end of the day, taking third overall with a 1:29.926 after having spent much of the session outside the top ten. The “Maniac” completed 70 laps and set his fastest on number 68.
“This morning was very difficult for us. The team couldn’t find the proper setting to feel confident. I struggled a lot. But then in the afternoon, we changed some settings and improved step by step. At the final stage I was happy because the machine improved, as well as the feeling of the bike and the pace. This is a very positive outcome, because it means we have the capability to overcome very hard situations and turn them into a positive. As of tomorrow, we have the chance to work on pace as well as single lap performance, and also introduce some more improvements. We are on a good path. My crew chief is as new as I am with the GSX-RR and it’s very important for us to learn and get to know it at its best.”
Teammate and rookie Alex Rins did 66 laps as he gets to grips with MotoGP, setting a best of 1:31.432.
“The program of first day mainly focused on doing as many laps as possible to get confident with the GSX-RR on a new circuit and find good lines for a MotoGP machine and try to be consistent. Here the wind plays an important role that can affect the riding style. From a technical point of view, we just tried the new 2017 suspensions with some different settings, collecting data to work on. Probably tomorrow we will introduce some more new things, but again the focus will be on my riding style. With my crew chief, I’ve already seen that there are many parts of the track where we can be more effective, like sector three, and this will come with experience and confidence.”
Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager
“The beginning of the day hasn’t been that easy for us. We struggled to find a good set-up for Andrea, making his work complicated. Then his engineers sat down in the lunch break and with clear minds they analysed step-by-step the problems and possible solutions. The Team made a good job and at the end, things went better. He found a good pace and felt confident, especially the very last laps. Tomorrow we can start from here to look for confirmation of these improvements and to proceed with the work for further improvements. Also Alex’s first day was positive. His main task was to get acquainted with the machine and try to adapt as best he could to the GSX-RR on this circuit. He suffered a lot because of the wind; wind had been hard for all riders, but probably his lack of experience with a MotoGP machine caused a bigger challenge for him. He is still in the process of learning; we are working step by step with him.”
LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow completed the top five with a 1:30.065. Putting in a late charge to move up, the Brit did 61 laps and set his fastest on his final effort. Crutchlow was another testing a version of the new specification engine for Honda, as well as Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller.
Cal Crutchlow – 5th (1’30.065 – lap 61 of 61)
“It wasn’t too bad a day’s testing today. We had a lot of small things that we needed to fix on the bike, and that meant lots of short runs in and out of the pit complex, which cost us a bit of time, but overall I’m pleased with our pace. We are using the newer spec engine again in Australia, and it is taking a little bit of getting used to for all the riders at the moment, but we are happy with Honda’s work and I’m happy with the way the team worked today. It’s the same engine configuration we were testing in Malaysia, and we have found some positive things and some negative things. Obviously we’re trying to keep the positives whilst working on the negatives. At the moment that’s proving a difficult balance because we are trying different things to the factory team – they are trying one programme and we are trying another and maybe we will be able to help each other out in that way. We now have another two days of testing left, where we hope we can improve the package we have even further. We had some more things we wanted to try today but didn’t manage to get done, however I felt good riding the bike and felt at ease. We know what I and the team are capable of doing around this circuit, and I feel that if we had the race again tomorrow we would be in a similar position. I’m happy with that, but we still need to work hard because I still think we can have a better feeling with this bike.”
Miller, the only Australian in the 2017 MotoGP field, did 82 laps of his home track with a best of 1:30.426 – impressively ending the day in the top ten in P9. Miller’s teammate Tito Rabat is not at the test following a crash at Sepang, but is hoping to return for the Qatar test. Miller was quickly up to speed once testing got underway, ending the first hour in eighth position as he continued the work started in Sepang on improving feedback from the front tyre. The Australian also tested new front forks from Öhlins with positive results.
The Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 rider progressed to fifth before the lunch break, during which his crew made suspension and geometry changes ahead of the afternoon session.
The wind picked up considerably during the afternoon, causing problems for all the riders through the ultra-fast turn three. A fifth gear corner under normal conditions, the strength of the headwind meant that it had to be negotiated in fourth gear and Miller was struggling to get the bike turned as the wind tried to push him wide.
Miller took advantage of a slight drop in the wind during the final 20 minutes to push for a fast lap on the soft tyre, improving by two-tenths to finish the opening day ninth on the timesheet and just 0.929s off the top spot.
Jack Miller: 9th – 1’30.426 – 80 Laps
“We started today with a slightly different set up to Sepang because Phillip Island is a very different circuit, but the good feeling with the front remained. We managed to improve this further with new front forks from Öhlins and we tried a few things with the front to quicken up the steering, sacrificing a little bit of braking stability in the process, but that isn’t so important here. The wind was a bit of a problem this afternoon, especially through the faster turns, but it had dropped just enough to allow me to put in my fastest lap right at the end of the session. Today we had the pace, but tomorrow we need to improve the consistency if we are to close the gap to the front. Overall, a good day and I’m looking forward to more of the same tomorrow.”
Michael Bartholemy – Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Principal
“Jack seems to have picked up where he left off at Sepang, despite the Phillip Island circuit placing very different demands on both rider and machine. For him to be on the pace at two very different tracks is very positive, not to mention another boost to his rapidly increasing confidence. And he looks confident on the bike, much more so than last year. The gap to the front was under one second, but Jack didn’t manage to string together his best sectors in one lap today. If he can do that tomorrow then he can reduce this gap further. Overall I’m satisfied with the result today and I’m confident of further improvements tomorrow if conditions remain the same.”
Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) was a late charger as he moved up to end the session in sixth, just ahead of Pedrosa and fastest Ducati on Day 1. Putting in 87 laps as he gets used to life on his new GP17, the Italian also set his quickest lap on his last – a 1:30.262.
6th – Danilo Petrucci – 1:30.262
“I am very satisfied with this first day of testing. We worked with the right approach and with two bikes available we had the possibility to focus a lot on the race pace. In the end I managed to make even a good lap with the new rubber. To close an intense day of work with a good lap time is a reward for the team too.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was the next Borgo Panigale machine, and the 2016 Malaysian GP winner ended the day in eighth with a 1:30.410. Charged with testing new parts and continuing the progress of the Desmosedici, “DesmoDovi” did 64 laps. New teammate Jorge Lorenzo continued his progress as he focuses instead on adaptation to the machine, spending much of the day in the top ten and one of the first out on track. The “Spartan” did 61 laps with a best of 1:30.631, just pushed down to P11 in the latter stages.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 64 laps – 1’30.410 (8th)
“Today we concentrated on doing some tests with the chassis because we had to define several aspects, and we used up the entire day for this work. The feeling is quite good, but here at Phillip Island you feel the difference between lapping with the wings and without more than in Malaysia. We still have to improve the bike’s balance and set-up, and that’s scheduled for tomorrow, so then we’ll see what sort of times we can lap in, as everyone will surely make a further step forward.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99) – 61 laps – 1’30.631 (11th)
“The tests here at Phillip Island have begun a lot better than in Sepang, and today we used the same base set-up that we had established at the end of the test in Malaysia. It was a shame that during the last one and a half hours we were unable to improve our lap times while other riders did. We struggled to lower our times because of the strong wind and in addition the last rear tyre we fitted didn’t have the same sort of performance that we had expected. In any case it’s positive the fact that every day we are accumulating new information and that we are always making small steps forward.”
Just ahead of Lorenzo and sneaking into the top ten was the fastest rookie of the day: Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3). Impressing once again after a solid debut in Sepang, the German posted a 1:30.578 and did 62 laps. Teammate Johann Zarco, reigning Moto2 World Champion, did 80 laps with a best of 1:30.867 to go P15.
Jonas Folger – 10th Time : 1’30.578 Laps: 62
“I am quite happy with the outcome of today and we collected some important information, even if it was a bit tricky because of the wind, but fortunately, the weather improved in the afternoon. I set a solid lap time in the morning and then after that, we started to experiment with the bike setting and the tyres. Towards the end of the session, the Yamaha started to feel a bit light at the front, so now we have to analyse why this is happening and see whether it is because of my riding or the setting. Nevertheless, the team and I took a lot of data and we feel positive which sets us up well for tomorrow and we will continue to do our best when we get back on the track.”
Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team), Hector Barbera and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) completed that top fifteen, ahead of Zarco.
12th Álvaro Bautista 1.30.770 (68 laps)
“On this first day here in Australia we haven’t had the same feeling from the start that we had in Sepang. Whether it is because this track is a little different or because the tyres are a bit harder, I felt like I had more difficulty. At the start I wasn’t comfortable with the front in the turns but we slowly improved it and by working on the suspension we got it to turn better. I also felt that the rear was lacking contact with the track. The tyre doesn’t feel like it is working well, it doesn’t grip. We tried different things to fix that and some of them gave me a better feeling. We are putting all the data together now to try and improve the feeling tomorrow and find what we had at Sepang or at Jerez last November. Once we find that we will be more competitive. The bike feels nervous, very reactive, but we will work hard to improve it tomorrow. I also had a little crash today, which was a choice between going down or hitting the wall. I saved a slide and ran wide and I was heading for the wall so I laid it down. It was slow and I wasn’t hurt.”
Hector Barbera | 1’30.771 | P13
“We continue as in Sepang, I can not find the confidence with the front and I’m not able to push harder. We have tried many things with the geometries of the bike, but at the end, when I’m in the corner, I have no confidence and I have to release the brake. I crashed again for that reason, and as soon as I push a little bit more, I can feel that I’m going to crash. We have to keep working and we have several new things to try tomorrow, we have a different fork, that can help us find the way. One second gap is not too much, and we didn’t use a soft tyre at the end. Right now the lap times are not important, the target is to get confidence with the bike, and this is something I’m missing from the first day with this bike.”
Johann Zarco – 15th Time: 1’30.867 Laps: 80
“The first day at Phillip Island went positively for me and I am looking forward to getting back on the Yamaha YZR-M1 tomorrow. The conditions were really good and the temperature was warm which meant that I could complete a lot of laps. I must admit that I was not fully confident at this circuit because I have fallen a few times in Moto2 in the previous years, so the main task for today was to keep riding in order to feel more comfortable. We did not adjust too many technical aspects because I just ran some distance but step by step I am improving and feeling more positive. So overall, today was encouraging but we have work to do on Thursday and Friday.”
16th Karel Abraham 1.31.179 (61 laps)
“The day started very well, we set a quick lap time and I was happy with the lap and the position. However, then we started to try some modifications to the chassis and especially the electronics, some of which worked and others didn’t. We stopped for lunch when the track was at its hottest because there were a few crashes. The temperature was high, around 50 degrees. We went back out on a new tyre and I was looking for a tow to improve my lap time but there was nobody on track. I pushed anyway and came close on three occasions but couldn’t beat my previous best. That was a little frustrating although I think the positive part is that even riding alone I set some strong times. We have a lot of work to do tomorrow, but hopefully we can improve the lap time in the morning and then in the afternoon we want to do some longer runs.”
Red Bull KTM Racing continue their progress in MotoGP as they prepare for their full-time debut in Qatar, with Pol Espargaro putting in a 1:31.200 as the fastest Austrian machine on Day 1, and 17th overall on the timesheets.
Loris Baz | 1’31.249 | P18
“Today was a normal day. In the morning we had an issue with the bike and we didn’t find the problem until lunch time. At this track the bike is quite difficult and we have been working hard to improve the set up. But it seems all Ducatis are struggling a little bit at this circuit. We have to keep working in the next two days because I think we have several good directions to try, and then we will see if we can find the right one. We need to make a big step that allows us to make the bike easier in a long run, because right now the bike is very demanding and complicated to ride.”
Scott Redding worked hard on the set up of his Ducati Desmosedici Gp 2016. The British rider completed 59 laps in total but failed to solve the problem of lack of feeling at the rear that did not allow him to find the ideal conditions to exploit a time attack.
20th – Scott Redding – 1:31.755
“Unfortunately things did not go as hoped. I could not find the feeling on the rear and this hasn’t allowed me to have confidence in corner entry, especially in the fast corners. We need to improve in this and we have much work to do. But this is a normal thing during testing.”
Action continues at Phillip Island on Thursday, with the grid eager to head back out and continue their 2017 preparations as lights out in Qatar begins to loom large.
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