Jorge Lorenzo continues his championship winning form, the 28-year-old a full second clear of the rest of the field as MotoGP 2016 got underway at the Sepang Test
Sepang hosted the first test of 2016 as 21 riders took to the track for the first time since November. The post-race Valencia test gave riders and fans a glimpse at what was to come, but Sepang was the first time that all riders took to the track with the spec ECU and Michelin tyres fitted together.
Despite the unknowns, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo continued where he left off in 2015 as he dominated the field. A 2’00.684 set the Majorcan over a second clear of his closest rival, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP teammate Valentino Rossi in second.
Lorenzo’s lap was only 0.078s slower than his fastest lap of the race in 2015; with new tyres and new electronics this is a positive start for the five-time World Champion.
“I‘m very happy and surprised about the feeling I had today with the Michelin tyres. The lap times were relatively easy to achieve and every time we exited pit lane we improved something on the bike to understand the electronics better and they adapted very well to the Michelin tyres.
“I‘m very happy with the change, because Sepang, for me, is always difficult. Today I only slept two hours because of the jetlag and I have a sore throat so I‘m taking antibiotics. My physical condition is not perfect, but to ride two or three laps, I can do that very well. If I was fitter I could do longer stints.”
Just behind, Rossi completed an incredible 55 laps, his 2’01.717 coming on his 52nd lap. Rain had been predicted to fall earlier in the test, but held off until the final 20 minutes which allowed riders to maximise their time on track.
“The gap to Lorenzo is too big, but it’s also true that he was stronger than everybody else, so he was able to have a better rhythm. On the other side, my position is not so bad and we worked a lot on the bike. It‘s just the first day and the total count will be at the end of the third, but we have a lot of things to do.
“I‘m quite happy because the electronics already work quite well. We‘re not at the same level as last year, but it‘s already good to ride the bike and especially the Michelin front tyre improved a lot, so the feeling when you ride the bike is more similar to last year. These are the two important issues.
“We had three bikes, but one of them was just meant for doing a few laps, it was the old one. We have two 2016 bikes and I did my fastest lap time on the bike that‘s more similar to the 2015 model, so it‘s a little bit half and half, but just because I didn‘t have enough time to work on the 2016. I did only one stint and it wasn‘t so bad, we will continue tomorrow and see. Our first issue for this test is to decide which one, so tomorrow we‘ll try to get a better understanding.”
It was not just a single flying lap from Lorenzo, the factory Yamaha rider completing seven laps under the 2’02 mark, with three being 2’00s. Lorenzo fastest lap was his 32nd of 37. Meanwhile Rossi set just a single 2’01 lap, but did manage 12 laps inside the 2’02s.
Completing the top three was Dani Pedrosa, the Repsol Honda rider continuing to assess two engine specifications. Throughout 2015 Honda riders struggled with an overly aggressive engine, resolving this issue is Honda’s primary aim for the three day Sepang test.
“Today we have done a lot of work. The positive part is that Honda know this and are working on things in Japan. Using my experience I am giving my all to try to provide them with as much information as possible, and advance in every area possible. We shall see if we can finish the test with a better feeling than when we started.
“We also have to continue testing the Michelins and putting in more kilometres with them. They have made some positive changes, although we still need to work more to improve the feeling. We will continue working and evolving throughout this test. We saw Jorge (Lorenzo) go very fast on Day 1, so we are going to continue improving gradually”.
Fourth was Danilo Petrucci, 1.127s shy of Lorenzo’s best time.
Petrucci was 0.101s ahead of factory rider Andrea Iannone. Petrucci, along with Scott Redding, will race the GP15 in 2016. Iannone spent the majority of Monday on the GP15, debuting the new 2016 Ducati later in the day.
“I have to say that today went quite well, because I got back onto the bike after more than two months, and I was always close to the top guys all day. Today we didn’t change anything big or turn the bike upside-down, I just focused more on dialing myself back in and trying to understand how to get the best out of the Michelin tyres. That’s the way we have to continue: we’ve got two more days in which to make progress and understand the new Desmosedici GP in detail. Today we only did a few laps with the new bike, but for the moment we are satisfied.”
Hector Barbera made it three Ducati machines in the top six as the 2015 Open Champion put his Avintia Ducati GP14.2 in sixth.
Behind him was fellow Spaniard Marc Marquez, who set a 2’02.278 and was over 1.5 seconds behind Lorenzo.
“After going the entire winter without getting on my bike, today we began the first preseason test of 2016. We still have a lot of work to do, as we have new electronics, a new engine and a few different engine specs to what we used in Valencia and Jerez back in November. In terms of setup, we made very few adjustments, because we were focused on the electronics and adapting it to my riding style.
“It’s true that neither my place on the timesheet or lap time today are great, but this is going to be a long preseason in which we will have to work hard on many different things. We’ll see if we can improve tomorrow.”
Scott Redding, Aleix Espargaro and Cal Crutchlow rounded out the top ten and were all within two seconds of Lorenzo.
Despite the top ten result, it was not a perfect day for the Team Suzuki Ecstar rider who suffered an engine failure. Fortunately this was on his 2015 machine and his new bike with the seamless shift gearbox was unharmed.
“It was a really busy day, but I’m happy I met my team again and we started to work on the new machine. I was happy when I arrived here two days ago because I trained very hard last winter and I know that in Hamamatsu as well they’ve worked very hard, in fact they sent us much new material to try. Today we started our job and tried a couple of things and to me it seems we have a good potential. The first thing I tried was the seamless gearbox, I wanted to try it because in November I couldn’t be here for the accident I had; we still have some work to finalise it, we need to find some fine-tuning in its set-up but the improvement from the standard transmission is very important.
“I also like the engine with the new specs; to me it looks to have gained a good power distributed over all the curve, which is good for the riding feeling. As a matter of fact we verified this feeling lapping without the traction control for many runs and my impression is that this new spec is very positive. Of course here we also had the Michelin tyres, they’ve made a step forward since the ones we tested in Valencia and the feeling with the front has improved a lot. For the next days we still have many things to test, we can still further investigate many regulations and fine tunings, therefore allowing me to be confident about the room for improvement we still have.”
MotoGP Rookie of the Year, Maverick Viñales, was 11th and 0.001s faster than Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Pol Espargaro.
“Finally we got back on our bikes and I’m happy we’re back. The program we have is very busy because we have so many new things from Japan. Our first priority was to start the job from where we left off here at Sepang in November and the first runs were mainly to test the electronics and get acquainted with it. We still need to learn a lot, in fact we are using these tests to acquire as much information as possible to manage the data and finalise the machine properly. We have made some little steps forward but we still need to improve, keep working and I believe we will be more competitive.
“The difference between the standard transmission and the seamless is evident, even if we still lack in fine set-up and the improvements are sensible in the lap times. I’m also happy with the new specification engine, not only is it better and faster, but also gives me a positive confidence. This was also my third test with the new Michelin tyres, but honestly I already had good feelings in Valencia when I tried them for the first time; so here I can confirm I’m confident with that. I feel they have made a step forward compared to the last test, the only problem could be to be careful on the way you ride with the front tyre, but I believe this can be also helped by the improvement of my style.”
Both Espargaro and Bradley Smith were on the 2015 spec Yamaha, similar to what Rossi and Lorenzo raced. Smith suffered a small crash at Turn 15 but was unhurt, ending the day in 15th. The Valencia test saw a high number of front end crashes, no such issues appearing in Sepang.
Andrea Dovizioso was down in 13th as he spent a majority of his day on the GP15, completing 40 laps.
“I am happy with the good feeling I managed to find right away with the new Desmosedici GP. There are some positive aspects which I picked up on immediately: good handling, better precision in both changes of direction and corner turn-in, and other improvements in the bike’s overall behaviour. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to push it to the limit and set better times, due to the amount of things we had to test today and the conditions towards the end of the session as it began to rain and we couldn’t use the Michelin performance tyres. The important thing was to establish a good feeling with the new bike, and now we have two more days to work and take the Desmosedici GP to the limit.”
Behind the factory rider was Aspar MotoGP Team’s Yonny Hernandez, the Colombian adapting to the new Michelin tyres. It was an unfortunate end to the test for his teammate Eugene Laverty who fell at Turn 4 and suffered a broken right wrist, ruling him out of the rest of the test.
“We did various electronic tests this morning and the feeling was really good. I like the new electronics and even though we have a lot of work to do we are already on the right lines. I am happy with this first day – I was really looking forward to getting back on the bike. We had a little setback at the end of the day and didn’t have chance to try the soft tyre, which I think would have improved the lap time a little more. We are relaxed though because we still have two more days to test and we have plenty of margin to improve. I am starting to like the Michelin tyres, more so than when we tested at Valencia. They give good feedback and I think there is a lot we can still get out of the soft option. They have brought a new front tyre here and we are working hard to get the most out of it.”
“We’ve been for the X-ray and thankfully there is no fracture, just some tissue and ligament damage, which is a relief. It’s just unbelievable that after spending the last couple of months recovering from a broken wrist we have this on the first day of the first test! It seems we had a mechanical problem and I had to jump off the bike under braking into turn four. It was a scary moment but quite lucky really because it could have been much worse. The bike went straight into the tyre wall at well over 100km/h so that wasn’t nice to see – I never like to see a bike destroyed! Overall it wasn’t a great day because we spent the morning with some electronic problems, the throttle stuck open and I was lucky not to crash on that occasion too. It meant the guys had to check things over and we lost some track time. Now I have to wait and see how the hand is tomorrow. Obviously I want to get back out there as soon as possible but we’ll have to wait and see when that is.”
Michele Pirro ended the day 16th, the Ducati test rider having already ridden on Saturday and Sunday.
“This morning I carried on with the development of a new component and so I had to do ins and outs from the box a few times. After lunch we verified that some new measuring instruments installed on the bike were working and then towards the end of the day we did a couple of set-up tests. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to do a quick lap to get closer to the others because in the last few minutes, just while I was putting my helmet on, it started to rain.”
Meanwhile Loris Baz celebrated his 23rd birthday with a 17th place finish, competing 58 laps, just one less than teammate Barbera.
With 53 laps, Tito Rabat continued to adapt to life in the premier class. As teammate Jack Miller is out injured, the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS team focused all of their attention on the Spaniard.
“Today was all about getting back the feeling with the bike after such a long time away from the track and with the new electronics package that we will use this season. At first the sensation was a little different to last year, but with more laps the feeling improved. The bike felt good, but we were focussed more on my riding rather than set up, as the lines here are very different on a MotoGP bike and the carbon brakes take some getting used to. Overall it was a good first day but, tomorrow, we need to up the workload and start improving the bike, refining the set up to suit more my riding style.”
Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista rounded out the 21 riders, the Aprilia pair on a lab bike as the reveal of the new 2016 model was pushed back.
It was also announced that Casey Stoner will join the MotoGP riders on track on Tuesday, Stoner participating in his first official timed session since Valencia in 2012.
Testing begins again at 1000 Malaysian time today; 1300 EDST and runs through to 2000.
Sepang MotoGP Test -Day One Times – Monday, February 1, 2016
Jorge Lorenzo 2m00.684 (37 laps) Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.