As the MotoGP action for 2015 got underway on Wednesday at the Sepang International Circuit it was Marc Marquez who led the way with a lap best lap time of 2’00.262 on day one.
With 30 riders featuring on track, the full 2015 MotoGP grid were all in attendance other than Pramac Racing rider Yonny Hernandez who should return from injury at Sepang 2. Five test riders from the various factories also gathered data for their respective manufacturers.
Repsol Honda’s double MotoGP™ World Champion Marquez recorded his best time on the 62nd of 63 laps, whilst his teammate Dani Pedrosa was 0.483s behind in fifth place. Pedrosa had a crash late on at turn nine without consequences.
Marc Marquez – 1ST – 2’00.262 (63 LAPS) – “I’m glad to finally get back on the bike. It’s been a hard day and at the same time very positive, because on the first day after the winter break you have to regain confidence with the bike and adapt to the feeling of the MotoGP machine again. We tried three different bikes today, and this has been very important. I focused on testing them thoroughly and deciding which bike was the ideal one to continue working with at this test, and then this afternoon we focused more on one of the machines. I was able to start riding better and feel more comfortable on the bike. There are still many things to try at this test, so we have to remain calm like we did today and keep working.”
HRC have arrived at Sepang with numerous bikes for the factory riders and their test riders to use – 2014 machines for comparison and 2015 prototypes for development. Marquez’s timesheet-topping best effort was 0.024s quicker than his fastest lap on the first day of testing last year.
Dani Pedrosa – 5TH – 2’00.745 (45 LAPS) – “I’m happy with the work we have done today on the first day of testing, because we were able to get back on the bike and we had a good pace. It went pretty well and I think we have improved the bike compared to the one we tested it at Valencia. We had a lot of work to do and it has been positive to have a good first day: it was important and we are happy with what we have achieved. There is still more to do, but we have taken a good first step. Tomorrow we’ll see if we can continue moving things forward.”
In second place on Wednesday was Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi (2’00.380), with the Italian and his teammate Jorge Lorenzo on similar YZR-M1 prototypes to those they tested in November at Valencia. Yamaha continue testing a shorter exhaust pipe, this time featuring a grill covering the air exit, with a view to avoid flame escapes and prevent the entry of gravel and debris.
There was also a special new ‘winter’ helmet for Rossi featuring snowflakes and reindeer, neither of which are likely to otherwise feature at Sepang this week. Lorenzo was third fastest, 0.141s behind Rossi.
Valentino Rossi – 2nd / 2.00.380 / 57 laps – “It’s a positive first day and I’m very excited to be back on the bike. Today has been really good because I was consistently fast in both the morning and afternoon. We worked a lot on trying to improve our pace with a used tyre, but it’s already quite good. The bike is good and with the new tyre we were able to attack and ride a good lap time. At the end I was in second place just behind Marquez, but not by far. It looks like the bike has improved in different areas. We still have a lot of work to do but the first day was ok.”
Jorge Lorenzo – 3rd / 2.00.521 / 55 laps – “It’s a completely different story from last year, when we had a lot of problems, to now arrive here and feel comfortable on the bike and also with our position in the classification lap time-wise. This year we’ve been at the front from the beginning, in first three positions, and that means that the bike is working. My physical condition is very good. I feel strong, but the first day is always difficult. You have to use different muscles that you don’t usually use at the gym or during your preparations, so you always get tired. However, compared to the normal pre-season I’m feeling well. Sepang is not our best track, but to have two Yamaha’s in the top three is a good signal.”
Meanwhile Rossi and Lorenzo’s Monster Yamaha Tech 3 colleague Pol Espargaro showed good pace in sixth despite an early light crash as he begins his second year in the premier class. Espargaro’s teammate Bradley Smith lapped further down the timesheet in ninth. Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga also crashed unhurt in the morning.
Pol Espargaro – 6th / 2’00.930 / 55 laps – “It was really nice to be back on track today. Just to be on my Yamaha again and to feel the speed of the M1 has already made me happy. Aside from this, we had a constructive day and I set a good time. I tried to lower my time towards the end of the session, but the track was quite slippery which prevented me from progressing further. However, my rhythm is promising and I remain positive for the next two days. We were able to improve in the key areas that we wanted to, when compared to last season, so I’m already excited to continue testing tomorrow morning. Furthermore, I am able to say that my physical condition has improved a lot from last season when I first rode the bike. This is because my preparation for 2015 with training has been different, yet additionally, I’m also riding smoother, which does not require as much strength. Therefore I could take advantage of the full test time, which had not been the case last year on the opening day.”
Bradley Smith – 9th / 2’01.707 / 52 laps – “I am happy to have jumped back on the Yamaha today and having completed 52 laps we were able to get a good feeling with the M1 after such a long time off the bike, which is positive start. This week is just going to be a case of providing general feedback because my leg has not quite recovered from the injury, which means that I don’t think I will be able to push for really fast lap times. Nevertheless, I am sure that we can still find a good pace plus firm our direction to head towards and in the future we will try new solutions with electronics and geometry settings. I was able to evaluate bike 1 and bike 2 which both had slightly different setups, but the overall feedback was encouraging for both. The track conditions are a bit better than when we visited here for the GP last year and although it’s hotter and there is less grip than in Valencia, the improvements that I felt in Spain with the 2015 bike have certainly continued here. Overall, I am pleased with today’s performance, plus the new bike for this year is a good step forward which I am very satisfied about. I want to thank Yamaha for giving Pol and I this opportunity and I look forward to tomorrow.”
The new CWM LCR Honda team duo of Cal Crutchlow and Jack Miller got down to work with their RC213V and Open spec RC213V-RS packages, finishing the day 10th and 19th respectively. Miller focused on adapting to the Magneti Marelli MotoGP electronics package – the Australian aiming to achieve better performance with traction control, whilst for Crutchlow the test is simply about reacquainting himself with his new factory machine.
Cal Crutchlow #35 (10th, 2’01.713, 61 laps) – “Today was obviously a good familiarisation day from my point of view with CWM-LCR Honda Team. We got back to working ways quite well.
“I was happy but really rusty from the winter off. We did a good job, we made a lot of laps on used tyres and the lap time was the same as what I did with the new tyres, so we need to keep improving with the new tyre and be able to feel a little bit more comfortable on the bike.
“In the last run we seemed to have some sort of problem to not be able to take advantage of the lap time, but I was happy overall and it was nice to get back on the bike in Malaysia today.”
Jack Miller #43 (19th, 2’02.807, 59 laps) – “I’m very happy with the result today, we started off where we left things at the end of last year and I’m really happy with how the bike is working.
“The team is working great as always and today we tested many things. Without electronics, I’m still trying to adjust my riding style to fit the MotoGP bike and tomorrow we might be able to start working with some electronics and start making some more steps forward.
“For today we are really happy. We are learning to conserve the tyres better and making a good job and looking forward to the rest of the test.”
Estrella Galicia Marc VDS Team’s Scott Redding also got plenty of laps in on the RC213V factory prototype, finishing the day 11th.
Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso and his new teammate Andrea Iannone used a GP14.3 – an update on the GP14.2 which features some visually different aspects and electronics upgrades. The new Ducati GP15 is due for delivery for Sepang 2, later in February.
Dovizioso was fourth overall with a 2’00.617 best lap time, nearly two seconds quicker than on the same day of action at the same test last year. Iannone tried a new front fairing and finished the day seventh.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 2’00.617 (4th), 41 laps – “I’m really happy about today because the track was luckily in a good condition and we were able to start in the right way to test what we wanted. We tried some set-ups for the chassis and the electronics, and from the beginning my feeling was very good today. I like Sepang a lot: I always manage to go well here and our speed is really good compared to that of our rivals. I am still using last year’s bike, with several important updates, but I’m really curious to try the new bike at the end of the month. The GP15 will be quite different from this one, but all the work we are doing is useful feedback for the new bike, and so the work in these three days is very important
Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team #29) – 2’01.424 (7th), 59 laps – “These tests are for sure very important for our future, and here we have brought the Desmosedici GP14.3 evolution, which has been updated with several new parts and this allows us to adjust the chassis more. I am happy because finally I’m back on the bike again after last year’s test, I can shake the rust off, and it’s always a big emotion every time I get back on my Ducati. Today was a positive day because we managed to try some things that will also be useful in the future. Everyone lapped really fast on the first day: we only used our hard tyre and I am quite happy with my time. For sure there is room for improvement, but it wasn’t bad for the first day.”
The Factory Aprilia Gresini pair of Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri (15th and 26th respectively) worked hard on their new machines – with pneumatic valve engines – after test rider Michael Laverty carried out an early morning shakedown on the Italian brand’s evolving prototype.
There was an early mechanical fault for Bautista on new Aprilia and he needed a push from Suzuki test rider Nobu Aoki – who was watching trackside at turn 4 – to get restarted.
Aleix Espargaro appeared not to be held back too much by a knee ligament injury sustained over the winter as he and MotoGP Rookie Maverick Viñales got back to work on the Suzuki GSX-RR. Espargaro ran off without major consequence at one point and ended up 14th – just under two seconds down on Marquez. Viñales lapped just under a second behind his new colleague in 21st place on the timesheet.
Aleix Espargaro:“I am very happy to get back on the bike again after a long winter period and this is what I like a lot. Although I’m not too much happy with my fitness right now, as I could only train really hard during last 10 days because of my injury, I’m not 100% yet. But this should not be a big problem as we have plenty of time before the first race in Qatar. Regarding the bike, I like it a lot and it is working really well; plus we also have good grip. Of course we need a lot more testing to obtain the best set-up, but for the moment we also know that our main target is to improve the power. We need to be patient because it will not be so easy, but regarding the current situation, I think that the gap in lap-times between us and our main rivals is not a great issue.”
Maverick Vinales:“It was a good day and I’m quite happy. We still have many things to work-through on the bike and also myself as it was my first ride after three months, but as it was only the first day, it was important for me to get back my feeling on the bike first. The bike was quite similar compared to the one I tested in Valencia, although I felt a great improvement with anti-wheelie system; which was much smoother than before. The important target here is to get a good pace going and that I’ll keep trying to give my best.”
Suzuki also have a shorter exhaust pipe for testing and their factory riders only got started once test rider Takuya Tsuda had given the bike a shakedown early on.
In the absence of Pramac Racing’s Hernandez, Michele Pirro (12th) worked on electronics for Ducati using the GP14.2, whilst Danilo Petrucci (13th) worked with the GP14.1 using Open software.
Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera (18th) and Mike Di Meglio (23rd) got used to the new Open Magneti Marelli software, as will all the riders using the new electronics package this season. Improvements to traction control and anti wheelie settings should assist the riders with their performances and set-ups.
NGM Forward Racing pair of Stefan Bradl and Loris Baz (25th) made progress on the Open Yamaha, with German Bradl impressing in eighth overall as the fastest Open rider – 1.294s off Marquez’s pace. Bradl had some electronics issues earlier in the day and was only able to produce a fast time after 5pm.
Stefan Bradl – 8th / 2’01.556 / 58 laps – “It has been a very positive first day. The lap time is good and finding yourself at the end of the session in the top ten is definitely a good start. The feeling is also pretty good, although I have yet to learn to take the right confidence with the Magneti Marelli software. I have in front of me two more days of work and I’m sure I can find a good setting to be immediately fast in the first race.”
Loris Baz – 25th / 2’04.163 / 66 laps – “The feeling at the end of this first day is positive. I completed 66 laps and my work continues in a positive direction. I still need to find the right confidence and position on the bike but we are growing up quickly. We still have two days of work to find the right feeling.”
Drive M7 Aspar’s new signing Eugene Laverty was 22nd will aspire to get as close to teammate Nicky Hayden’s lap times on the Open RC213V-RS over the three days, with Hayden completing day one in 17th. AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham on the same spec bike concluded the day in 24th position.
17th Nicky Hayden 2.02.699 (46 laps): “We have made a pretty good start, I was able to get back on the pace quite easily. We had a lot of work to do today with the new electronics package, so we spent some time on that this morning, and then in the afternoon we also did some work finding edge grip when the tyres start to slide. We have made some decent progress and it was a positive day overall, even though we didn’t get the lap time down in the afternoon. I haven’t checked it alongside any of the other bikes but the new engine feels more powerful. The electronics are completely different so we will have to spend the majority of our time on that aspect during this test but we just have to sit down, make a plan and work hard. The wrist has healed up well over the winter so that’s another positive.”
22nd Eugene Laverty 2.03.295 (47 laps): “This bike is completely different to the one I rode at Valencia, it’s another step up. We worked hard today to improve my feeling with the front. We need to understand how best to brake and get the bike turned. We did some good work on my body position – I am coming from a completely different kind of bike and tyres so it is important to get the basics right before we start work. There are so many options with this bike and we need to explore them all. We are trying to make the transition from Superbikes to MotoGP as simple as possible. This bike is much smaller and the tyres allow for a lot more lean angle so I need to adapt. The new Honda is everything I thought it would be and more, it’s a great bike. Now we just need to work on getting maximum performance out of it. Today was a good shakedown and I am happy with the first impressions.”
Octo IodaRacing Team’s Alex De Angelis will reportedly move onto Aprilia’s factory spec electronics for Sepang 2, therefore still running Open Marelli software on the 2014 ART this week. He was 27th as the first day of 2015 tests came to a close.
The test resumes tomorrow at 10am local time.
Yamaha’s Massimo Meregalli – “It’s great to be back on track and working towards the start of the season in the best possible way. Both Valentino and Jorge are in great physical shape and fully motivated, it is as if they never stopped riding! The main target for this test is to leave at the end confident in the development direction we want to take. Our starting point today has been the bike from the last test in Valencia, it is important to know that what the riders felt there also works here in Sepang. From today it seems that this is correct. It’s only day one and we are shaking off the cobwebs but it’s a good way to start. We are testing some small things also as the details are very important and we will continue to work through our programme for the next few days.”
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