#ThaiTest Day One

Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) topped the first day of testing at Chang International Circuit, taking over from reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) later in the session to set a 1:30.797.

Despite setting the fastest lap so far by a MotoGP rider at the new venue, the Brit was nevertheless only 0.012 ahead of a late charge from Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) by the end of action. Marquez was third, just 0.033 ahead of 2017 Championship rival Andrea Dovizioso.

Weather was hot and edging 40 degrees for some time on Day 1 – with few riders putting in truly “long” runs. But the workload was far from light, with Crutchlow putting in 70 laps despite a crash and that number representative for many on the grid. The Brit was joining third fastest Marquez and his teammate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) – also a crasher on Friday – on HRC test duty, and all three men were in the top five, which was covered by only two tenths.

 Cal Crutchlow – P1 

“It’s nice to finally come and ride at the Buriram circuit, and it was really good to see so many people come down and watch the test. We’ve managed to learn the circuit very well, and as we said in the last test, Honda have done a great job this winter. I feel very good with the bike at the moment – the fundamental feeling is the same as last year, but we have some other positive points on the machine compared to last year. It’s good be able to take advantage of that.”

 

 Marc Marquez – P3 

“I’m very happy with how we started the test here in Buriram. I felt quite good from the beginning, so at first we just tried to get to know the track well. Then when we got the rhythm, we started trying some different things on the bike. We focused a little bit more on the electronic side. As the day progressed, many riders were at the front, so we need to wait until the final day before we’ll be able to really understand what the rhythm of each rider is. I think everyone will improve a lot tomorrow. Regarding the track layout, it seemed quite fast to me when I lapped it on a scooter yesterday, but today riding my bike, I realized it was slower that I was expecting, with many second- or third-gear corners. Still, there are some hard acceleration and braking points, and it will probably be challenging to manage tyre life, so we’ll work on that as well. So far we’re very happy with how it went today.”

Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez

 Dani Pedrosa – P5 

“I think today went well, even considering that the first time at a new track is always demanding because you need to learn a lot. The circuit is quite narrow, so it’s important to use the right lines and carry speed. We’re working to find the best balance in order to be quick in both the fast sectors and the more twisty ones. We lost the direction a bit in the middle of the day, and I also had a small crash when I touched the bumps in the final corner, but that can happen when you’re still trying to understand a new track. As the day went on we got back in the right path, and in the end we did a good job. So the feeling is positive, and now we’ll analyse everything and prepare for tomorrow, when we’ll work with the tyres and continue working to find the best setting.”

Dani Pedrosa
Dani Pedrosa

Rins’ second place was equally impressive. The Spaniard, going into only his second season and having suffered some problems with injury last year, had good pace throughout most of the day and his late charge looked set to see him take over at the top until his final sector. But it was only 0.012 off Crutchlow, and teammate Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) made it double delight for Suzuki in the top ten, ninth quickest as the Hamamatsu factory tested, amongst other things, a new exhaust – as well as continuing their work on engine configurations.

 Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager 

“Today has been a positive day for us because we were able to do a good job. First of all to try to understand the new track and the set-up, gearing, and other settings. We progressed step-by-step and we could compare different options. So we’re happy with the information we collected today. Of course, to see Alex so close to the top and Andrea, even with the old tyre, keeping a good pace is nice. But it’s important to focus on testing everything properly and creating our best package. We are continuing the job we’ve started in Sepang, we have different options for the chassis and also for the engine, which must be evaluated and finally decided. Also we will be able to try a new fairing, hopefully tomorrow, which could give us some more information on how to proceed with the development.”

Alex Rins
Alex Rins

 Alex Rins – P2 

“This is a new track for everybody, but from the beginning I understood it well and I enjoyed this Chang Circuit. We didn’t try many things today, we’re just keeping focused on the set-up of the bike. We have had a good first day, tomorrow we will try some new things, and I hope to continue in a good way. The key here is consistency and a good rhythm, and this layout suits the Suzuki.”

Alex Rins
Alex Rins

 Andrea Iannone – P9 

“I’m pretty satisfied for today. We have some different settings available and we are working to understand which one makes me more comfortable. The most positive thing at the moment is that I can be consistent, especially with a used tyre. In fact, I did my best lap with a worn tyre. I liked the track, it’s short but it doesn’t have a lot of hard braking, which is a configuration that works well for our GSX-RR. On tracks like this where I can let the bike roll and exploit the corner speed we can express our potential. Today I also worked hard to give feedback to the engineers, which is another important part of testing.”

Andrea Iannone
Andrea Iannone

Dovizioso, meanwhile, took back the honour of top Ducati on Day 1 in Thailand, and was only 0.033 off Marquez. The two men were locked together at the top for some time, before aero began to steal the headlines away from the timesheets.

 Andrea Dovizioso – P4 

“The Buriram track is very unusual and it wasn’t easy to get used to its layout. There are three corners which are virtually hairpins and then the rest is quite a pretty straightforward run. It’s quite a slow track for our bike, but it’s always interesting to try new circuits. I’m happy with the feeling with the bike, we went well right from the start and then we focussed on doing different tests, especially with the new fairings, but tomorrow we should be able to get some more detailed feedback about these new components.”

Andrea Dovizioso
Andrea Dovizioso

Ducati are expected to have three new aero fairings at Buriram, and Dovizioso tried two of them on Day 1. Chassis updates could also be on the cards for the Borgo Panigale factory in Thailand, aimed at mid-corner improvements– something that would aid Sepang’s fastest Jorge Lorenzo even more. At Buriram on Friday, the five-time Champion was tenth fastest, just over four tenths off Crutchlow.

 Jorge Lorenzo – P10 

“Today I had a bit of difficulty on this track and I wasn’t really able to be very quick. In the next two days we will have to find a way to improve the feeling with the bike, so that I can push really hard. At the end of the day we tried a new aerodynamic package, but it’s too early to draw conclusions, especially because we are still quite far off the potential that we can express on this circuit.”

Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo

Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) was another Ducati presence in the top ten as he took P6 on the GP18 on test duty, just ahead of his new teammate Jack Miller. Miller was again a force to be reckoned with and looked settled in – only 0.041 off the Italian ahead of him.

 Danilo Petrucci – P6 

“I liked the track right away. We were expecting to find a circuit with a lot of aggressive braking but many curves turned out to be fast. The bike behaved very well: we are competitive. In the afternoon we also worked on the set up. The good thing is that we focused on the 2018 bike and things went well. I have to admit that it is very hot but we are preparing for what will be the conditions of the race”.

 Jack Miller – P7 

“The layout of the circuit is fascinating. I expected it to be more dirty, especially in the morning, but I had the feeling of having a good grip right away. It’s a fast track and it’s nice to race here. The important thing is to be patience and stay focused lap by lap because you risk underestimating the pitfalls. I’m satisfied with the lap-time even though we are all very close. Tomorrow will be a very interesting day”.

There was also an Italian behind him – Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). On his 39th birthday, the ‘Doctor’ took eighth and was the quickest Yamaha, putting in an impressive 74 laps and topping the lap counter for the Iwata marque. Teammate Maverick Viñales was P11, but only a tenth further back – with the timesheets incredibly close.

 Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Director 

“We’ve been very impressed with the track and the facilities of the Buriram circuit, it’s very different from what we imagined it to be. Trying a new track for the first time is always exciting. We had quite an intense programme ahead of us, but we didn’t have the start we hoped for. We weren’t expecting to have such a difficult day, because it looks like this track should suit us well. The riders were suffering from different problems and this doesn’t help us find a common solution. Nevertheless, we have two more working days to fix the issues and make the riders feel more comfortable.”

Valentino Rossi
Valentino Rossi

 Valentino Rossi – P8 

“The last three or four years, I think I always rode the M1 on my birthday. From one point of view it’s a bit difficult, because you have to work, but from another point of view this is the best way to spend my birthday, riding the M1. It’s hard work, as always, especially as at this track we’re very close. The first impression is not so bad, especially with the track I expected maybe worse, but it’s quite good. We have to work a lot, especially on acceleration.”

Valentino Rossi
Valentino Rossi

 Maverick Viñales – P11 

“We’ve been trying a lot of things with the bike all day long, like we did in Malaysia. We haven’t found the right way yet, but anyway we have still time to work hard and find the best direction to work in. I like the track a lot, it fits my riding style quite well with these flowing corners. Like I said, we have to continue working, so I couldn’t push, but I think that on the first day we have to be relaxed, try to work and find out some things to try for tomorrow.”

Maverick Viñales
Maverick Viñales

Incredibly close was also apt for Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), who was 0.011 off Viñales to take twelfth – and also confirmed that he will be using the 2016 chassis this season.

 Johann Zarco – P12 

“I’m really happy about the new track. The layout is nice and better than I expected. The position doesn’t look perfect in the end, but it’s only five tenths from the top guys. The gap between all of us where incredibly tight. I didn’t give my all to do in a fast lap time, because I know I have five days to do that. With a used tyre on the last outing I had a good feeling and we already found a comfortable base. We worked truly well today and I know that I can still improve.”

Johann Zarco
Johann Zarco

His new teammate for the Thai test was a new face in the premier class: Hafizh Syahrin, who is riding with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 during the event with a view to replacing Jonas Folger full time in 2018. Syahrin, the first Malaysian in MotoGP, was within half a second of fellow rookies Xavier Simeon (Reale Avintia Racing) and the slightly faster – despite sitting out the Valencia test last year – Tom Lüthi (EG 0,0 Marc VDS).

 Hafizh Syahrin – P24 

“Today was my first day in MotoGP and we did an amazing job together with the team. I feel really good, with the bike, with my guys, who they work. I have an absolutely positive first impression. Which each time, we went out on track, we were able to improve the lap time, which is very important to me. I try to keep going like this, gaining more confidence with the bike. Today we did many laps and some start practices. Thereby, it was interesting to find out how the launch control and the traction control works, but for sure I still need more confidence with it.”

Hafizh Syahrin
Hafizh Syahrin

 Tom Lüthi – P21 

“Not too bad overall today, but I still have so much to learn. When I jumped on the bike this morning it was still all new to me, despite this being my second test. The track is new, the bike still feels new, so I really needed to do as many laps as possible today. Lap by lap the feeling was coming better but I still have to remind myself to be patient as I learn the bike, as this is something you can’t do overnight but have to do step by step. Sometimes it’s difficult to be so patient, but this is definitely the right way to work with the MotoGP bike.”

Tom Lüthi
Tom Lüthi

 Xavier Simeon – P22 

“The first day here in Thailand went very well until I crashed at turn 10 when I lost the front. The crash was a little strange, I just made a small mistake… but afterwards we lost a lot of time because the bike was quite damaged. In the end I went out again and I could do five laps to try to improve my lap times. Even though I was not able to improve, I was able to match my previous lap times quite easy, which was positive. Tomorrow, we’ll start from where we finished today and we’ll try to improve more. We are not far away, but we have to avoid these little mistakes. The standings are very tight and you have to make the most of the time on the track”.

Xavier Simeon
Xavier Simeon

The quickest rookie, however, was Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) once again. The Japanese rider was P17 overall but within nine tenths of the top, with reigning Moto2 World Champion Franco Morbidelli close behind in P19 but only half a tenth further back. With 20 riders within a second, half a tenth makes its mark.

 Taka Nakagami – P17 

“It was quite a good day for us. Just like in Sepang last month we are improving every time we go out on the track and understanding more. This circuit isn’t that difficult, but in some areas – particularly sector one – I still have to work out where I am losing time. Also, at some points I still have to understand better how to pick up the bike better out of the corner. For the first day it’s quite good though, and I am less than one second behind Cal so we just need to keep working hard for the rest of the test.”

 Franco Morbidelli – P19 

“Our first day here in Buriram went well. We are still trying to adapt, making changes on the bike to suit better this circuit and, already, we are seeing some improvements. I am just 0.9s off the top, which isn’t too much and it’s the closest we’ve been to the frontrunners so far, which is also good. Now we have to keep improving and working to better understand that bike. I like the track here in Thailand; not so many corners but quite tricky to master. The only downside today was a low speed crash at turn seven when I was heading out for the practice starts. I’m not sure exactly what caused the crash, but we will check the data tonight to see if that reveals anything.”

Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) was P13 on Day 1 and only 0.002 ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) as the two Independent Team Ducati riders just edged ahead of the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini riders. Aleix Espargaro was P15 for Noale factory Aprilia, and teammate Scott Redding was right behind him and both within nine tenths.

 Tito Rabat – P13 

“I like the circuit and I had a lot fun. It has several parts that reminded me of Qatar, others of Texas… it has some long straights and the asphalt is okay, although at the beginning of the day it was a little bit dirty. But the first impression was very good. The only negative thing to report is my crash and, as in Malaysia, we do not know why. Despite this setback, it seems that we are finding the right way, which is important because we need to know our limit in order to finish the races. We focused on improving the feeling with the front and with some changes to the set-up, I had a better feeling. The team worked very well and everything is very tight with 20 riders within just one second. Now we need to improve further. We always finish 0.7s behind, so it would be great if we could leave Thailand with a gap of only half a second”.

Tito Rabat
Tito Rabat

 Álvaro Bautista – P14 

“It’s a track that has a couple of good points like Turn 4, where you go into it very fast and you have to go down a couple of gears and enter quickly. The circuit reminds me a little of Austria; it’s varied and fun. I thought it looked easier, on paper, but riding a MotoGP bike complicates everything a bit more. The last two sectors are critical; they are narrow and you have to clearly choose the line because otherwise you can lose a lot of time. I enjoyed the opening laps. At the moment we have not been working on anything big, other than getting used to the track and making small changes to the gearing or electronics. The positive thing is that we now have our two bikes and everything is much more fluid. Today we verified that everything was good with the second bike, but we have also started work with the first, bike focusing on the setup.”

Álvaro Bautista
Álvaro Bautista

 Aleix Espargaro’ – P15 

“To be honest, the track surprised me. I had more fun than I thought I would. The first part is not particularly interesting with all the straights connected by braking sections, but overall it is a nice track. It is precisely in the first part where we need to work, because we are losing a few tenths in acceleration from low speed. On the flowing parts, on the other hand, we are very competitive. At the end of the day today I got back on the 2017 bike and I was able to reconfirm just how much the 2018 has improved in that area. It is lighter, more reactive and it performs better on corners, so I think continuing work on the new RS-GP is the right way to go.”

Aleix Espargaro'
Aleix Espargaro’

 Scott Redding – P16 

“I must say that the circuit is more technical than it looks; for example, on the second turn, when you have to brake after a long straight without any braking point of reference. Overall I liked it. It’s better than I had expected it to be. This morning we had a problem with the 2018 bike, so I used the 2017. It did not slow us down, because part of our schedule included tests on last year’s bike, so we simply did that type of testing first. We continued working in the afternoon with the 2018 bike, trying various things including the handlebar mounted rear brake because, since I am quite tall and have a rather bulky boot, I struggle to use the foot brake.”

Scott Redding
Scott Redding

Teammate Karel Abraham closed the first day little more than a tenth of a second slower, although he experienced difficulties. After completing a very good first part of the day, in the second he had problems with the front end of his bike, so he and his team will work to improve this aspect of the setup for tomorrow.

 Karel Abraham – P18 

“Today we had a good day, especially in the first part, in which everything was going well. In the afternoon we were going fast, but we noticed problems with the front end and we were not able to solve them completely. We have work to do, especially the team, to find a better setup in order to feel more comfortable with the front tyre.”

Karel Abraham
Karel Abraham

The final rider within a second of the top was Bradley Smith at Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, and the Brit did 67 laps as the Austrian factory get their first glimpse of the newest venue on the calendar. Mika Kallio, KTM test rider, added another 48 despite a crash and brief trip to the Medical Center – rider ok. KTM will only be able to field the two men at the #ThaiTest, with Pol Espargaro sidelined through injury but on the road to recovery.

Saturday brings more track time in Thailand and with a day of learning and familiarisation under their belts, another chance for the order to get another big shake up. Who will pencil their name in as favourite for when MotoGP returns to Thailand to race in October? The second session begins from 1330 AEDT, ending at 2130 before a final quarter of an hour on Saturday is set aside for practice starts.

MotoGP Test – Thailand 2018 – Day One Results
PosRiderTeamFastest lapLead. GapLaps
1CRUTCHLOW, CalLCR Honda CASTROL1:30.797 57 / 70
2RINS, AlexTeam SUZUKI ECSTAR1:30.8090.01266 / 70
3MARQUEZ, MarcRepsol Honda Team1:30.9120.11530 / 78
4DOVIZIOSO, AndreaDucati Team1:30.9450.14830 / 60
5PEDROSA, DaniRepsol Honda Team1:30.9600.16370 / 75
6PETRUCCI, DaniloAlma Pramac Racing1:31.0030.20670 / 74
7MILLER, JackAlma Pramac Racing1:31.0440.24778 / 83
8ROSSI, ValentinoMovistar Yamaha MotoGP1:31.1890.39268 / 74
9IANNONE, AndreaTeam SUZUKI ECSTAR1:31.2350.43870 / 78
10LORENZO, JorgeDucati Team1:31.2460.44960 / 64
11VIÑALES, MaverickMovistar Yamaha MotoGP1:31.2940.49767 / 70
12ZARCO, JohannMonster Yamaha Tech 31:31.3050.50835 / 67
13RABAT, TitoReale Avintia Racing1:31.5230.72670 / 85
14BAUTISTA, AlvaroÁngel Nieto Team1:31.5250.72876 / 84
15ESPARGARO, AleixAprilia Racing Team Gresini1:31.6620.86557 / 62
16REDDING, ScottAprilia Racing Team Gresini1:31.6850.88855 / 59
17NAKAGAMI, TakaakiLCR Honda IDEMITSU1:31.6920.89555 / 87
18ABRAHAM, KarelÁngel Nieto Team1:31.6980.90175 / 82
19MORBIDELLI, FrancoEG 0,0 Marc VDS1:31.7290.93267 / 72
20SMITH, BradleyRed Bull KTM Factory Racing1:31.7410.94458 / 67
21LUTHI, ThomasEG 0,0 Marc VDS1:32.7161.91973 / 79
22SIMEON, XavierReale Avintia Racing1:32.7201.92347 / 50
23KALLIO, MikaRed Bull KTM Factory Racing1:32.7491.95221 / 48
24SYAHRIN, HafizhMonster Yamaha Tech 31:33.1652.36863 / 70