The second day of the Sepang test got off to a steady start as riders slowly made their way out onto the Malaysian circuit after a day of reacquainting themselves with their machines.
A flurry of fast laps then soon came with Danilo Petrucci setting a 2’00.095 to lead early in the day and go over half-a-second faster than Jorge Lorenzo’s best time from Monday. This time would go unbeaten after a tyre failure for Loris Baz saw Michelin withdraw the soft option tyre from the pool of rubber available.
“I’m happy for this result. We were quick and we made the most of the situation considered what has happened with Loris Baz. It’s nice to set the fastest laptime although obviously it is not entirely representative. To end up the day in first place, however, gives much satisfaction even to the team who did a brilliant job. In the afternoon I could not go fast as hoped and this remains an important goal that we will try to get tomorrow. Improvements? Yes, compared to Monday we have made progress. The confidence with the bike and the tires is growing and electronics is improving too. But we are still far from the top riders: tomorrow we’ll try to get closer.”
This early time attack by the MotoGP riders was halted after Loris Baz suffered a heavy fall on his Avintia Racing Ducati, the Frenchman falling down the main straight at 290 kilometres per hour. The cause of the crash sees the finger pointed at a Michelin rear tyre failure, the rear of his GP14.2 destroyed. Michelin suggested the rear tyre may have been under-inflated.
“The start of the day was good. We used the soft tyre to try to improve the lap times and, although the lap was not incredible, we were able to improve the lap time from yesterday. But then we had a problem with the rear tyre and I crashed out at 290 km/h and my bike was destroyed. Fortunately I was unhurt, but you always loose energy after this kind of accident, because even I you don’t have anything serious, you feel all your muscles like if you have been training during 20 hours. My mechanics made a great job to put the bike back on track for the last two hours. It was not bad, but I felt a little bit tired riding the bike and I didn’t want to push and crash again. But I matched the same lap time from yesterday testing some suspension parts that I didn’t like too much.”
Avintia Racing Ducati
“After analysing all the data of the bike, no mechanical failure was detected on his Ducati Desmosedici GP. It is now up to Michelin to analyse in detail what was the cause of this tyre failure. Avintia Racing has always followed the recommendations of the engineer assigned to the team by the French tyre manufacturer.”
Michelin and the safety committee at the track held the red flag for over an hour as an extensive assessment was made to make sure no other riders would be at risk of a similar fall. As a safety precaution the soft tyre was withdrawn for the remainder of the test. Baz was able to return to the track after his fall, but unable to better his time and ended 19th.
With riders searching for a fast time there were unfortunately several falls. Pol Espargaro, who set a 2’01.992 to end the day 15th, fell twice at Turn 5, frustrated but unhurt.
Jorge Lorenzo also suffered a fast fall at Turn 5 midway through the day, his Movistar Yamaha MotoGP machine suffering extensive damage on the left hand side. Fortunately the Spaniard escaped injury. Despite his fall Lorenzo was able to set a 2’00.155 in the closing thirty minutes of the session, improving his Monday time and ending just 0.060s slower than Petrucci.
“Today, after Baz‘s crash we couldn‘t use the soft rear anymore, so I had to adapt my riding. It‘s been a little bit difficult, but we still kept having a good feeling apart from the crash that I had with the hot track temperature and the hard front, which looks to be a little bit worse for me. In the afternoon, when we put in the softer tyre, I regained the feeling again that I had yesterday and was able to keep being the fastest rider on the track. Even with the hard tyre we could improve my time of yesterday by half a second, this is a good point. We keep having big margin over the rest and this is very encouraging.”
Tito Rabat, the only rookie in the MotoGP World Championship in 2016, suffered a harmless low side at Turn 15. Rabat improved from a 2’03.463 on Monday to a 2’02.328 as action came to a close, good enough for 17th.
The 26-year-old Spaniard set his fastest time on the softer option tyre from Michelin, before the tyre was withdrawn from the test following the crash of Loris Baz, Rabat struggled to find again the same good feeling he had with the hard tyre yesterday, with a lack of grip from the rear causing the bike to slide a lot in the turns. The former Moto2 World Champion will sit down with his crew tonight to go through the data and try to identify a solution to his traction issues ahead of the third and final day of testing tomorrow.
“We made a good start to the second day of testing, with a big improvement to my lap time on the softer option tyre, but then this was withdrawn and we had to continue for the rest of the day using the harder compound. My feeling with the bike was not as good as it was yesterday with the same tyre. In the turns I didn’t have any grip and the bike seemed to be sliding a lot. We have to use this tyre, like everyone else, so we need to find a solution to give me a better feeling for tomorrow.”
Dani Pedrosa joined Espargaro and Jorge Lorenzo in falling at Turn five, Pedrosa again walking away unhurt. It was a lacklustre 12th on Tuesday for Pedrosa, although he did improve on his Monday time but only ranked 12th on the timesheets.
“It was a difficult day, because after the crash of Loris Baz this morning, we were told not to use the softest tyre. We had to use the hardest rear and, with the temperatures as high as they were today, we had almost no grip. We tried to use the time to improve the electronics, but it was very difficult to handle that and making improvements to the bike. We tried a different weight distribution, but in the end we weren’t able to draw many conclusions. We will see if tomorrow we can turn the situation around and improve. Unfortunately I had a crash towards the end of the day – probably because the tyre was cold, as I wasn’t riding fast”
Several of the falls occurred in the closing hour of the session as riders pushed for a fast final lap.
Rounding out the top three was Hector Barbera, the Avintia Ducati rider making perfect use of the soft tyres before his teammate’s fall.
“It was a positive day and I’m really happy with the third place. The improvement with the soft tyre was incredible and my lap was 1.7sec faster than yesterday, so I think we did a great job. After the problem with Loris’ tyre, we had to use the harder compound and I’ve been basically all the day inside the garage as he bike was set up for the soft tyre and we had to change it completely. I went back on track in the last two hours and, although it was a little bit difficult to get the rhythm, but the feeling was good and I feel really strong on the bike. We are in the right way and although I know this is not my real position, I also know that nobody makes presents in this championship.”
There were also major improvements for Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, able to get within 0.750s of Petrucci’s best. Marc and Dani, today used the new evolution of the 2016 RC213V engine and worked with their engineers on the electronics and on chassis setup.
“We’ve taken a step forward on day two. Unfortunately during the day we didn’t manage to make steady progress and we tried out a lot of things, but we did make an improvement on yesterday. I think that it will be important to analyze well everything that we tested today, to see what works and what doesn’t, and tomorrow we will continue to try things because we have a lot of work to do. Today we used the same “evo” engine on both bikes in order to have the same reference for the electronics test that we are doing”.
It was another Honda rider who rounded out the top five, Cal Crutchlow setting a 2’00.899 towards the end of the day on the harder option.
“Today was a very demanding day, we had a situation that was out of our control, and out of all the riders’ control, so we made the best of it by working with the hard tyre. We only used that harder tyre all day anyway and hadn’t even tried the soft. We worked through the things we needed to work on with the electronics, as well as some small settings on the bike, then when we needed to push a little we were able to push. So overall we are a little happier than yesterday, and tonight we will be working really hard again, because the information we have gathered is important for the LCR Team and for Honda to give us a direction for the coming season. Tomorrow is going to be another interesting day, so let’s see how it goes.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi achieved his goal of getting within a second of teammate Lorenzo, ending the day in sixth.
“I‘m quite happy, it was a good day. At first it was hard, because there was a lot of work to do, but I‘m quite satisfied, especially because we improved the setting of the bike a lot. My pace and my best lap improved quite significantly, so for this reason it‘s been a good day. We have a lot of important new data that will help us decide which way we should follow. It‘s sure that we will have a lot of things to do. I tried some tyres in afternoon, some were good, some things were bad, but I think also Michelin did a good job. At the moment I‘m more on the bike that‘s more similar to the 2015 model. Tomorrow we will try them both another time and maybe we will also try the other bike at another track, like Phillip Island, and after that we‘ll decide.”
Just behind the Italian was Scott Redding; with Petrucci leading the day the satellite Ducati outfit can certainly be satisfied with their initial pace.
“The goal was to improve the feeling with the bike. We do not work yet to find the time but obviously we try to do it in the morning. With the hard tires we worked hard to look for the best position on the bike in order to increase traction. We found more stability but not enough traction. In this moment of the season it’s normal to try different set up and we’ll try again tomorrow. In the afternoon I did not go bad lapping consecutively in 2:01.8 and 2:01.9 but sincerely I hope tomorrow we can lower that half of a second that would make me competitive also on the race pace.”
Andrea Iannone was the leading factory Ducati machine, spending the entire day on the GP16 bike and achieving a best time of 2’01.052.
“Today we focused mainly on tyre testing, seeing as Michelin they provided us with different compounds for the front. For the rest we tried to make a first few steps with the settings of the Desmosedici GP, even though there was very little time remaining. In this phase it’s important to continue comparing the new Desmosedici GP with last year’s bike, but tomorrow we will focus a bit more on searching for an ideal setting for the new bike.”
Aside from the developing situation with the tyres and Baz, much of the attention was on Casey Stoner who was out on track with the rest of the MotoGP World Championship grid for the first time since 2012. The 2007 and 2011 World Champion set a credible 2’01.103 to end ninth and ahead of Andrea Dovizioso, who was 14th. Stoner will ride again on Wednesday, the final day of the three-day Sepang MotoGP Test.
“It’s been another good day today. Being on track with everybody else, with the good track conditions, gave us better indications of what we are feeling in comparison. We had a lot of different things to test, but unfortunately after Baz’s crash we had to change tyre compounds and retest everything. We went through a lot of the stack we had to do, and got some very positive input from the electronics, the engine braking, the clutch and in every aspect of the bike, together with a few things we can improve, and we gathered a lot of data to move forward from there.”
“It was a bit of a strange day, for several reasons. We had a few minor issues, which slowed us down a lot and conditioned the whole day. Unfortunately we were unable to carry out the scheduled back-to-back tests. This morning, after I had looked at some other riders, I got a better idea of the direction to take in my approach to the track with the Michelin tyres. We are still a bit off the pace, and for this reason there is still some way to go.”
A late charge from Bradley Smith saw the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 man pull himself into tenth, 0.314s clear of Maverick Viñales. The pair completed 59 laps each on Tuesday.
Meanwhile Viñales’ Team Suzuki Ecstar teammate, Aleix Espargaro, was 16th and over half a second off the pace of the 2015 MotoGP Rookie of the Year.
“To me it’s been a positive day, we tested so much with the new electronics and I also had the chance to try the new chassis. We did a positive job, although I still feel a lack of confidence from the rear. I still feel the rear tyre spinning a lot so we have to better understand this issue. We are very competitive on tracks with very grippy tarmac, but when we come to circuits like this or Austin and Argentina, where there is much less grip, we suffer this traction issue. I got very good sensations from the new engine, its power has increased, but the delivery is smooth and manageable. We improved a lot in the electronics today, but we still need to investigate, it gives us many options but we have to understand how to manage them. Apparently we won’t get soft tyres tomorrow so we will probably focus more and more to find a better confidence and set-up for the hard tyre, so that we create a consistent database of information.”
“Today has been a very complicated day, the morning went pretty fast without being able to do much work: I had issues with the engine at the very beginning of the day and then when I switched to the second machine, an accident happened and the track was red-flagged. After Baz’s crash we couldn’t use the soft tyre, therefore we focused the whole day working with the hard tyre to better understand it. Then in the afternoon we had some issues with the electronics, of course it’s pretty normal that we had to make several attempts as it is brand new. At the end of the day I can count only few clean and positive laps in the whole day, for my satisfaction I would have hoped for something better but we have to consider that this is what tests are meant for. We have to stay focused and stick to our plans, I know the team has already planned further steps for tomorrow and my desire is only to continue working with them. I could make a few laps with new chassis and swingarm at the end of the afternoon and I got some positive impressions, which I’m curious to try again tomorrow.”
Both Suzuki riders had focused mainly on supporting engineers to better set up the new electronics, while late in the afternoon introduced the brand new 2016 GSX-RR, equipped with the new chassis. Both riders reported constant improvements and appeared satisfied with the new material introduced by the Factory.
Towards the end of the day there was a small crash for Yonny Hernandez, the Colombian walking away unharmed and ending 13th.
“This morning we were able to immediately improve our best lap time from yesterday by more than a second on the soft tyre, but then we had a little setback. We think it was one of the lean angle sensors that wasn’t working but it meant that we couldn’t complete all the work we had planned. Anyway, the feeling continues to improve and tomorrow we will carry on working with the chassis to try and find more rear grip because we are getting some sliding on the hard rear tyre. We have improved the electronics a lot today, the bike is behaving much better than yesterday and it’s sweeter to ride. Traction control, anti-wheelie… we have taken a little step forward in all these areas that we only started working on yesterday.”
His teammate, Eugene Laverty, fell heavily on Monday and although initial reports suggested a broken right hand, it was later revealed to be a heavy sprain. Although he didn’t take to the track on Tuesday, Laverty is hopefully of testing his fitness on Wednesday.
“We went back to the hospital today for a CT scan just to double check everything and even though it showed up some fractures we think they are from ten years ago, when I broke my hand before. So there isn’t a new fracture in there and it feels okay that’s why I want to try and ride tomorrow. There is some pain in the hand and I won’t know exactly how it will be on the bike until I try it in the morning, but that is the plan at the moment.”
Both Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista were able to improve their Monday times, Bradl ending as the top Aprilia rider with a 2’02.372 which saw him finish 18th. Bautista ended 21st.
“Today we focused on the new electronics again and that is our main goal. We need to find a good base setting to work from and at the moment we still can’t say that we have found one. We also analysed some new front tyre choices, finding a few improvements in some phases. We are working hard. Making progress is not simple, but we are moving forward one step at a time.”
“For now things are going pretty well. Coming here to Sepang in this heat for the first tests is not easy physically, but I am always happy to be riding again after the break. We are trying to do as much testing as possible, on the electronics and tyres, in order to make progress with our work. Many of the things that we test here will be very useful for the new bike, especially in terms of the electronics where there is still a lot of room for improvement.”
The final day of testing in Sepang gets underway Wednesday at 10am Local Time.
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