Rossi finishes day 1 of Sepang 2 MotoGP test on top
Weather-wise it was a difficult day for the teams with the track temperature approaching 60 degrees at times leading to a lack of grip which meant it was impossible for any rider to post a time comparable to the previous test here at the Malaysian circuit. In fact Rossi’s best lap of 2’00.414 was a whopping 1.5 seconds slower than Marquez’s fastest lap from Sepang1, and over a second slower than his own best time from the same test. With all the fastest times set in the morning, most riders did not venture out on track during the peak of the daytime heat, instead waiting for the track to cool.
Then, just when the temperature was starting to improve, and with most riders heading back out onto the track, a torrential downpour put an end to any meaningful lap times and effectively brought an early end to the day’s action with 90 minutes to go. It did however allow some of the braver riders to head out and get some “wet” data for their engineers, before a massive thunderstorm caused the red flag to come out halting the session temporarily, before the circuit was reopened with only 20minutes left.
Movistar Yamaha had a new seamless shift gearbox to put through its paces, although they would not confirm if it worked on both up and down shifts yet, simply saying it was an “evolution” of the gearbox they had used in the previous test. Whatever they did, it appeared to work, as Rossi finished the day 0.129 ahead of the Repsol Honda of Dani Pedrosa.
Valentino Rossi – 1st / 2’00.414 / 54 Laps – “Everybody in our team was curious about the updated gearbox and the first impression is quite positive, so I’m happy. It doesn’t make a huge difference, but it’s a small help in a difficult point where we need to improve. The bike is a bit better in braking and corner entry and I think we need to work to understand the maximal potential, but the first test was good. I am happy to finish in the first position because I was in P1 from this morning, so it’s a good first day. It’s important for us to make some kilometers on the wet. I don’t really like the feeling with the bike on the wet and last year I struggled a bit. We already improved a bit today, but we need to do some more testing and make some more kilometers.”
Both Repsol Honda riders spent Sepang 1 choosing which bike they wanted to develop during this test, but it was Pedrosa who adapted best to the tricky conditions to finish 2nd, over half a second faster than his teammate Marquez.
Dani Pedrosa – 2ND 2’00.543 (52 LAPS) – “Today we focused on testing different setups for the bike and I think it went well. We have not tried any new parts, instead confirming our findings with what we had at the last test, even though the track was not perfect. It rained at the end, so we could also ride a little in those conditions. Tomorrow we will continue testing some changes to the setup, to see if we can come up with some improvements that allow us to ride more comfortably.”
Marc Marquez – 6TH 2’01.190 (43 LAPS) – “Today was a slightly strange day and not very productive, because I had some difficulties with the front brakes from the first run-out. We focused on improving that aspect of the bike and could only do runs of one or two laps. That took up the time we had allotted for trying other things and prevented us from progressing. Now we will try to find the source of the problem and tomorrow we hope to continue with the testing plan.”
Pol Espargaro was 0.462s behind Rossi on the first of the Yamaha Tech 3’s after fine tuning the YZF-M1’s electronics package today, and 0.179s ahead of his brother Aleix Espargaro, who put in an incredible performance on his Team Suzuki GSX-RR to end up in 4th with a 2’.01.055.
Pol Espargaro – 3rd / 2’00.876 / 45 laps – “I am really happy with the progress that we have made today and to finish in third is a great start to this test. We are continuing to work in the right direction and as soon as we started this morning, I knew that we could be quick. At midday it was already 54 degrees on the ground which was clearly warmer than the first test where it reached a max of 50 and so we weren’t able to ride as many laps. However, the general feeling for today was that it was productive and we focused on trying different electronic settings. The information that we collected will be very useful and furthermore, it was very good to run some laps in the rain as well. This meant that we could work on the wet setup and I am really pleased with this especially, as there is a definite improvement. The 2015 Yamaha feels great and I know that if I can ride a bit smoother and adjust my riding style slightly, we can be strong. There are a few more things which we have to study in order to improve, but we cannot rush everything and we must take it all step by step.”
Aleix Espargaro: “It has been a positive day of testing because we made some improvements. The track was more slippery and dirty today so I had to get back the confidence, but I have very good feelings. We are working on the performance improvement but working little-by-little, so I was a little surprised by the speed and power that the bike had today. I also had the chance to test the bike in wet conditions and I feel very comfortable: it is small and easy to handle so I feel confident. Tomorrow morning we will try some set-up modifications and in the afternoon we will work on the pace; since it is maybe more important than the single lap.”
After the last test in Sepang, Suzuki went back to Japan and spent extensive time in the wind tunnel developing a new fairing and also some engine updates to try and coax more power from the GSX-RR, an effort that was clearly paying off. Espargaro’s rookie team mate Maverick Viñales showed how quickly he was adapting to the premier class by setting the 9th fastest time of the day, with a lap just 0.9s down on Rossi.
Maverick Viñales:“I continue having good feelings about the bike and my objective is to ride as much as possible as I have to learn how it behaves and also the lines to be kept on track.I’m in the middle of my learning process so we haven’t been making major modifications on the machine; it’s more a matter to adapt my riding style. I also had the chance to try how it behaves in wet conditions and I had good feelings.”
It was a frustrating day for two of the title favourites as Jorge Lorenzo, even with his new gearbox, could only post a lap 7 tenths off the leading pace. Despite this, Lin Jarvis and the Yamaha team will still be happy as he was quicker than the current World Champion Marc Marquez, who could only manage a best of 2’01.190 which was only good enough for 6th place.
Jorge Lorenzo – 5th / 2’01.162 / 51 Laps – “Today was a pretty tough day for me. I feel the jet lag and last night I was only able to sleep for just four hours. At the beginning of the session we tried the set-up we used at the first Sepang test but nothing worked. We changed so many things on the bike but the result was the same. I’m a bit disappointed because of the results today but at least the new gearbox works well. We need to adjust it a bit but overall it is quite good, especially on braking where we can get more stability. The track conditions were pretty bad compared to the first test. The asphalt had less grip so we struggled a lot with the conditions. Hopefully we can improve our pace tomorrow and check the new things we need to test again before going to Qatar.”
Cal Crutchlow showed signs that he was starting to get to grips with the more aggressive riding style he says is needed on the CWM-LCR Honda RC213V, with the Brit managing to post the 7th fastest lap of the day, only 8 tenths off the top spot.
Cal Crutchlow #35, 7th (2’01.222, 13th of 43 laps) – “Today was the first day back on the bike since the last test, and I felt good straight away on it, much more comfortable. Everyone was a little way off what they were at the previous test but our speed was good and I felt happy with it. We worked hard on the settings again, and we know we need to improve things on corner entry, it’s an area we are struggling in but overall I feel comfortable and confident and I’m looking forward to working hard for the next couple of days.”
Bradley Smith continued his recovery from injury to finish just two hundredths behind Crutchlow on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZF-M1 in 8th.
Bradley Smith – 8th / 2’01.241 / 51 laps – “It’s great to be back here at Sepang again after not such a long wait so that we can carry on getting prepared for Qatar. The track conditions were different today compared to the last time when we were riding here and the circuit was a bit unpredictable with the grip levels. In some corners there was a lot less than in others but I’m happy because I didn’t really lose a lot of time compared to the other riders in these conditions. I’m closer to the front than the last test and I am also pleased because my ankle is much better than it was, although it is still not perfect. We were able to ride in the rain as well which is positive. I didn’t risk too much but I already feel much more comfortable when compared to last year in the wet and the lap time was much quicker. I think we still need to work but we are starting to see what we need to do to carry a good lap time and also to get grip in the wet with the Yamaha.”
Ducati finally unveiled the much anticipated GP15 here at Sepang, a bike which they hope will get them back challenging for the title. It is smaller than the GP14.3 they rode here last month, and they have changed the engine position to try and improve the bikes well known problem with understeer. With Dovizioso and Iannone both riding the new bike back to back with the old bike to allow their teams to collect data, they were not focusing on lap times but still managed to take 10th and 15th respectively, and will be encouraged by the start they have made with their new machine which is the first to have its design completely overseen by team boss Luigi Dall’Igna.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 2’01.355 (10th), 22 laps. – “I am really very pleased with the first sensations on the new GP15 bike, and this for me was the most important thing. Above all I hoped that the new bike turned into and went through the corners better. Already on my out lap I could feel that the GP15 had improved a lot from that point of view and I am satisfied because this was the most important aspect for me. With the new bike we can manage to work more efficiently with all the adjustments, but today was our first day and unfortunately we didn’t have much time available, so it’s normal that there is still a lot of work to do to improve in the various fields.”
Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team #29) – 2’02.142 (15th), 30 laps. – “I was very anxious and curious to try the GP15 and I am satisfied with my first approach with the new bike. We were all waiting impatiently for it and we couldn’t wait to go out on the track, and my first impressions are very positive. Obviously we still have to work a lot to adapt the bike to our characteristics but we have a good starting point and I am more than satisfied. It’s a pity I couldn’t do many laps, but half-way through the afternoon it started to rain quite heavily and we preferred to bring things to an end for today.”
Michele Pirro (Ducati Test Team #51) – 2’03.105 (23th), 35 laps. – “Today we tested various electronics solutions, including software evolutions. Unfortunately we didn’t do many laps, but in any case we managed to do some reliability testing which will be useful for the future.”
Scott Redding will be pleased with his day’s work, finishing 11th after adapting his riding style to get the most out of the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Racing Honda, just over a second slower than Rossi.
Scott Redding: 11th – 2’01.592“The jet lag wasn’t good this morning, but I’m happy to be back on track after a couple of weeks at home thinking about where we could improve. There isn’t as much grip here as there was at the first test, but we’ve started to modify the bike a bit more today to help me better understand the electronics and the differences. I feel more comfortable and, for the first time, it feels like my bike. I tried a few things with my riding style and we’ve also tested different traction control settings for when the rear tyre starts spinning out of the turns, so it’s been a busy day. The gap to the other guys is still too far, but I’m moving in the right direction and, overall, I’m pretty satisfied because every change has brought an improvement and my lap time wasn’t so bad today.”
It was a mixed day for the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini with Alvaro Bautista finishing in a promising 12th just 1.3 seconds off the leaders, but his team mate Marco Melandri just could not get going and ended the day last in 27th place.
Alvaro Bautista –“We are continuing to grow little by little and I think we can be satisfied with our progress. The positive thing is that we have already improved our times since Sepang1. So we are working well and we need to keep it up. For the first day today we focused on the electronics, trying to solve a few issues that had come up during the previous tests. We also tested a frame with a different stiffness to specifically try and improve performance going into turns. Unfortunately this afternoon the rain kept us from testing other setups.”
Marco Melandri – “Testing a different frame today I had some promising feelings. We are obviously still far from our goals, but I felt less awkward in the saddle and that gives us something we can work with. For me in these test sessions my feeling with this bike is the most fundamental aspect, without placing too much importance on lap times. We need time and we need to keep testing to choose which direction to go. Today we laid the first brick. Now we just have to keep working patiently.”
Elsewhere, Hector Barbera was the top Open class rider on his Avintia Ducati in 13th, while Jack Miller is still struggling to get used to his CWM LCRHonda RC213V-RS and could not get under the 2’03 mark, leaving him in 22nd place.
In his third test at the track since he joined the CWM LCR Honda team, Jack Miller had spent the day making steady progress on board his Open spec Honda RC213V-RS. Unfortunately, just as the Aussie returned to the track for the afternoon, once the hottest part of the day had subsided, he was caught out by the arrival of the rain.
Whilst many of the other riders stayed dry in their garages however, Miller took the opportunity to ride his new bike in the wet for the first time, and was happy with the experience.
The Queenslander and his CWM LCR Honda team will be hoping to improve on today’s best lap of 2’03.006 when they return to the track tomorrow for the second of four days work.
Jack Miller #43, 22nd (2’03.006, 23rd of 35 laps) – “Today I was not so happy because we didn’t get in as many dry laps as we would have liked. We decided to make some big changes on the bike, and I was happy with them, but I only got chance to go out once on track before the rain fell. It was good to get a bit of a test in the rain though, but I really hope for some good weather tomorrow and that the track can be a bit cleaner too.”
It was a productive day for the DRIVE M7 Aspar Team, who picked up where they left off at the end of the last Sepang test. Despite the suffocating heat both Nicky Hayden and Eugene Laverty worked hard on the electronics and chassis of their respective machines, both riders clocking their best laps during the hottest part of the day. The pair closed the gap to the lead riders in dry conditions and also took the opportunity to complete some valuable laps in wet conditions, with plenty more work to do over the next two days of the test.
14th Nicky Hayden 2.02.062 (41 laps): “On the first day of the last test we had to start with a series of short runs to test some electronics aspects but today we were able to get straight to work. There is a reason why we test here, which is that this is a huge circuit and you have to work on a lot of different things that can come up over the course of the season. Today we were already able to close the gap to the top guys compared to the last test and we have a good feeling with the bike. Now we have to keep working. We found a better feeling for the front suspension, which allows me to keep up my corner speed – especially in the fast corners. We did some laps in the wet this afternoon because we needed to try a couple of things with the electronics, which was useful. It has been a productive first day but we have a lot to test with the geometry and things like that over the next couple of days. We have more support from HRC at this second test and they have made some very useful suggestions.”
20th Eugene Laverty 2.02.730 (45 laps): “The positive thing for me is that we are back testing at the same circuit, so this isn’t like the first day – more like the fourth. To have some prior information means that I can continue my learning process and have some much-needed consistency. We had some wet track time at Valencia but this was totally different, with a completely new bike. This afternoon was a good opportunity to find out how the electronics work in the wet and I was able to get a feel for the wet tyre performance. These tyres are different to anything I have tried in the past. We found a good way forward on the final day of the last test so today was a case of picking up where we left off.”
Forward Racing’s Stefan Bradl and Loris Baz completed respectively 42 and 37 laps each, before torrential downpour interrupted the session in the early afternoon.
The German recorded a best lap of 2.02.410 and ended in 18th position in the time sheet, with Baz claiming 24th position with a personal best of 2.03.316.
Stefan Bradl – 18th / 2.02.410 / 42 laps – “I can’t say that I am really satisfied with the work done today. The track conditions were very different from last test and I struggled particularly at the start of the day. In the afternoon the feeling was better, I was able to push even on worn tires, but then it started to rain and I could not improve my lap time. I am optimistic for tomorrow, I would like to make the most of the day and improve my performance.”
Loris Baz – 24th / 2.03.316 / 37 laps – “It was a complicated day. I went on track hoping I would find the same conditions as the first test, but the reality was different and I was not able to push as I wanted. I tried some new solutions and I’m fine with them. In the afternoon, the rain started to fall heavily and I was able to complete few laps on the wet track in order to get to know better this bike in these conditions. It was another day of work, we continue to move forward step by step in view of the Qatar GP. I am confident that I will improve tomorrow.”
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