Vinales tops Sepang MotoGP Test Day Three and Overall
First it was Ducati test rider Casey Stoner, then Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Andrea Iannone – but it was the fastest man from the Valencia test, Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), who hit back on Day 3 to head the timesheets. Fastest in the session and setting the quickest lap on combined times over the three days of testing, Viñales put in a 1:59.368 to go P1 from Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez. Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso was third.
Despite a small shower in the latter half of the session setting back track action, the final day of testing at Sepang International Circuit was a productive one, averaging the most laps set by rider – although the rain did put paid to most attempts at a race simulation.
One high profile crasher was Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – who went fastest on Day 2, rider ok – as well as Hector Barbera (Reale Esponsorama Racing) and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) also suffering incidents on the third and final day.
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller declared himself satisfied after significantly improving his lap time on the third and final day of testing. Alongside tyre testing for Michelin, Miller and his crew used the track time available over the three days to focus on improving the 22-year-old Australian’s confidence in the front of his Honda RC213V.
Limited confidence in the front-end, especially mid-corner during the transition from releasing the brakes to opening the gas, is an issue that has dogged Miller since he stepped up to the premier class in 2015, but the Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider made a big step forward in Sepang. Changes to the set up of his Honda RC213V combined with a revised front fork from Öhlins brought a significant improvement, allowing Miller to improve his lap time by over one second today.
Despite a brief rain shower shortly after the lunch break, which left damp patches on the circuit from Turn 7 through to Turn 13, Miller managed to complete a total of 70 laps today. Miller now heads home to Australia with his confidence restored and looking forward to making further improvements during the next MotoGP test at Phillip Island, which gets underway on 15th February. Teammate Tito Rabat did not take part having flown back to Europe overnight for treatment from injuries suffered on Day 2.
“It’s been a good three days here at Sepang for me. We’ve made more positive steps in terms of front-end feeling than we managed in the previous two years and, step-by-step, I was getting faster. We had a small problem with the bike during the long run, which was a real shame as I’m confident I could have improved my time by a significant amount with the soft tyres we’d kept back for the end of the day. But, overall, I’m happy with the new chassis and how the bike is working. Yes, we could have gone faster but the feeling is good and I’m looking forward to picking up where we left off here when we get to Phillip Island.”
Maverick Viñales, who went fastest once again after topping the timesheets first time out on his Yamaha in Valencia, put in a mammoth 72 laps on Day 3, setting his best time on his 40th circulation of the track, showing once again that his riding style matches perfectly with the YZR-M1’s nimble character. He dropped various hot laps before posting his fastest time of the day, a 1’59.368s on lap 40, to slot into first place in the rankings. With a margin of 0.138s ahead of his closest rival, he comfortably held his position until the end of the session after shifting his attention to the last details of his bike’s setting.
“Today again, like yesterday, we worked mainly on the race pace. We improved the pace a lot. I am quite surprised I could attain a 1’59 and I am really happy, because it was very fast and the bike was going well. We tried many things during this week, so I think we can have a better package for the next test in Australia. We will bring many good things to Phillip Island. At the moment it is difficult to say which aspect of the bike surprised me most. We are developing the bike, trying to better the package that we have, and I think for sure we have the best bike at the moment for one lap and on race distance. Step by step we are choosing the best things.”
Teammate Valentino Rossi, after debuting Yamaha’s new fairing featuring “internal winglets” yesterday, ended the day in P5 and just over two tenths of a second in arrears. The Italian legend put in 62 laps, with a best of 1:59.589.
“I’m quite happy, it was a good test, because my lap times were OK and 1’59.589 is not so bad and we are all very close at the top. In general, the feeling with the bike is positive and today we also found something interesting to further improve the bike. At the end it was a challenging test but we found something positive”
Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“This morning we knew it would be important to make the most of the dry and cooler track conditions so we started testing as soon as we could. We are satisfied about the way that the development proceeded over the last three days. We have been able to evaluate many items without facing any difficulties. We have been testing the frame, fairing, electronics, mapping and the tyres and we’ve collected a lot of data but, even more importantly, we have already been able to make some decisions for the 2017 season. We also received good feedback on the tyre life, which is one of the topics we focused on most during this test and this allowed us to not only to be quicker but also increase our consistency. Leaving Sepang with the fastest lap time to our name, we are now looking forward to head to Phillip Island where we will continue the development of our bike. Maverick, Valentino, the team and the Japanese engineers all did an excellent job and we are feeling confident about the next test.”
Reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was the man closest to Viñales on the timesheets. After spending much of the Sepang test in the latter half of the top ten, the Spaniard shot up the timesheets on Day 3 and closed out the action in P2. Marquez did the most laps of any rider – 85 – with a best of 1:59.506.
“I’m much happier with my position today, even if the rhythm is really more important. We did a lot of laps, aiming to do as much work as possible, and indeed we did a good job; we completed much of our work schedule, though not everything. We need to make further improvements in some areas where I’m not yet totally comfortable, but even so, I’m happy that we got better and better over the three days, which is the most important thing. Today we again worked a lot on the electronics and also on the bike setup. In the last hour I did a mini-long run of 11 laps, sacrificing the time-attack a bit, but for us it was more important to work on the pace. I’m generally very happy with how the three days went.”
Teammate Dani Pedrosa similarly catapulted himself up the timesheets late in the test, with the three-time World Champion setting a 1:59.578 to take P4 – only hundredths off Marquez’ best. The Repsol Honda riders will now fly to Jakarta, Indonesia, for the official Team Launch on 3 February.
“We were lucky with the weather today. We managed to complete a full day and were able to do many laps and work a lot. Obviously it was the final of three days in very hot conditions, and one already feels a bit tired being this is the first test of the year. Anyway, I may say it was a positive enough day because we made several steps forward. We struggled a bit at the beginning, but as the day went on we were able to fix several things and get quicker. We’re still not 100% but we were a lot faster than the first day, which gives a positive general picture to this first winter test.”
Splitting the Repsol Hondas was Ducati Team rider Andrea Dovizioso. ‘DesmoDovi’ has been a key presence on the timesheets for much of the Sepang test and did 56 laps on Day 3. The Italian, who won the Malaysian GP in 2016, was the fastest race rider on Day 1 of testing and ended the third day in third. After 56 laps, Dovizioso’s best was a 1:59.553.
“I’m very satisfied with the work we have done in these tests, because despite the weather conditions, we were able to do all the scheduled tests and checks and gather important information for our development. I have a good feeling with my bike, better than last year, something I really didn’t expect, but back in the factory the engineers have really done a good job. We have a good base, but we still have to improve some of our characteristics, even though I am leaving Malaysia very happy. In a few days’ time there will be an important test at Phillip Island, which is a completely different circuit to Sepang, and our aim will be to also be competitive on that track.”
New teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who had a difficult day one as he adjusts to the Ducati, maintained his impressive progress on the third day. Shaving off a lot of time on Day 2, the ‘Spartan’ got down to a 1:59.766 on Day 3, and got in another 66 laps of experience.
“I’m happy because we managed to make a lot of progress and day after day I am getting to know the bike even better. Today I was able to take seven-tenths of a second off the time I set yesterday and on every exit I’m getting closer and closer to my potential, even though I’m still missing something. The whole team is really motivated, and we are working well together. In the last three days we accumulated a lot of useful information to further improve the Desmosedici and we are becoming more and more competitive.”
Today also saw another day of activity for Casey Stoner, who had already taken part in the first day of testing on January 30th. The Australian rider continued with development work on the 2017 Desmosedici GP together with Ducati Test Team technicians and he finished the day in seventh place, with a time of 1’59.639 (eighth in the combined standings).
“Today was another fairly positive day, we got quite a few things tested before a little bit of rain disrupted us but we still got some good track time towards the end of the day as well. We got to do a lot of configurations between chassis, swing-arms, engine mappings and different things like this, so all in all it was quite positive and hopefully we got some good things to take away from this test.”
Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) was again a key presence on Day 3, and top Independent Team rider. After ending the second day of action in the top three, Bautista maintained his pace to close Day 3 in sixth. The Spaniard put in a best of 1:59.628 after 64 laps – a tiny margin ahead of Ducati test rider Casey Stoner in seventh, who did a 1:59.639 and 46 laps.
“It is like the winter never existed for me, it feels like I just got off the bike after the last test. We’ll see in Australia if the base we have now allows us to be almost at the limit from the very beginning. It is not easy to get under the two-minute mark here, especially on such a new bike for me, with so many improvements still to be made. We have worked hard over the last three days on my rhythm, on trying to be consistent and learning the bike This morning I wanted to push a little harder and I did a bunch of laps under two minutes so I am very happy. I felt good and felt comfortable from the first lap on the first day. Even though the lap times are good I think I still need to work on some details to ride this bike the way it needs to be ridden.”
For the LCR Honda Team and their British rider Cal Crutchlow it was a chance to help Honda evaluate the 2017 version of the RC213V, with still seven weeks to go before the start of the world championship in Qatar. The final day of testing was a busy one for the squad, with Crutchlow completing a mammoth 71 laps of the sweltering 5.543km circuit. He clocked a best lap time of 1’59.728, the eighth fastest lap of the day, and the ninth fastest time of the three-day test.
“We had a positive day today with the bike, and we are still evaluating the different engine configurations for Honda. We worked hard and worked well as a team again. I do believe we could have picked up a little bit more in terms of lap time in some areas, but this was just a slight problem we had and we are happy enough with what has been a positive outcome during the test. There is still a lot of work to be done, but we know that Honda will be going back to the factory with everything that has been fed back to them at this test. They work very hard for us all and when we get back onto the track hopefully that means will have another good test in Australia.”
Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was again the fastest rookie on Day 3, continuing his impressive performance after the second day of testing. The Frenchman did a 1:59.772 as the last man below the two minute barrier, completing the top ten, with a lap that was impressively only 0.404 back from first place.
“We closed the test in a positive way and I am happy about what we managed to accomplish in Malaysia, even if it was necessary to rest my body a bit today because of the energy that I had spent in the past two days. In the morning we just tried to ride some good times in the low temperature and then afterwards, the plan was to run a series of constant laps in a race simulation, but even if I didn’t fully achieve this, I came close. During that time, I relaxed more on the bike but then I waited until the afternoon because of the tyre limit and I didn’t want to push too much on the used rubber and risk anything. When we put the last new tyre in at almost the end of the day, I was able to get under the two-minute lap mark which I am happy about because it was a target for me. We can see that many riders did this also but I am one of them so I am certainly pleased and now I am eager to see what we can do at Phillip Island.”
Jonas Folger determinedly carried on his learning process as he gathered valuable experience by running a full race simulation, and his personal best left him 0.944 from the head of the pack as he closed the test solidly on P15 with a 2:00.312.
“I feel positive about today and once again I learnt a lot of very important information. The Tech3 team and I focused on running a race simulation and we ran used tyres on the Yamaha with a heavy full load. We were more than satisfied with the outcome because I was really consistent and able to set similar times even when the tyre dropped. I gained a lot of knowledge from this long run, especially with regards to the engine mapping and how each different option works. Now we have a lot of significant data that we can use at the next MotoGP test in Australia, which I am really looking forward to. Also, I have to say thanks to the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team for their great work over these three days.”
Andrea Iannone ended the third day in 11th following his off-track excursion, unable to better his previous times and setting a 2:00.045, and with the Factory GSX-RR not completely renewed for 2017, the Suzuki Factory engineers have focused on small improvements to capitalise on the already-proven points of strength and have more options in configurations that can fix any small weaknesses.
“The day was positive and my feeling is good. Today we tried to focus on the race pace, finding a good balance of the bike and consistency in performance, and we improved session by session, which is positive. Also, the settings got some improvements, especially on the front; yesterday we experienced some vibrations in braking and slow corners and today we managed to find a good solution. Overall I am very satisfied with these three-days, we worked very well with my team and the feeling with the GSX-RR is very positive. Of course, we have many areas we can improve upon, but now our engineers have much data to work on and for sure we will be able to make further steps forward.”
Teammate Alex Rins was the second fastest rookie on Day 3 – just behind his experienced teammate in P12 – and finished his Sepang track action with an impressive 2:00.057.
“My feelings are very positive, I felt very confident on the bike and also the back is ok. In these three days we worked hard mainly to find the feeling with the bike, to adapt my riding style properly and also be more effective onboard. Today we could also work on the geometry of the bike and the outcomes were positive. I will need more and more kilometres, I need to better-understand the machine and grow myself. It’s mainly a matter of experience, because already today I saw that as the more experience I get, the better the times become.”
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) completed the top 15, in P13 and P14 respectively.
Espargarò had good sensations, immediately liking the new version of the RS-GP. In spite of the fact that the priority was to complete a packed schedule of testing to be done, from tyre tests to starting strategies, the Spanish rider did his best lap at 2’00.108, which places him in thirteenth place at the end of the day, just over 7 tenths of a second behind the leader. With two more test sessions scheduled, in Australia and Qatar, Aleix is optimistic about the race début, given the good responses achieved both in terms of times and his technical feeling with the new bike.
“I am satisfied with these tests. I liked the 2017 bike and it has some improvements compared with the one I tested in Valencia and Jerez. The new engine specification is an important step, although from that standpoint we still need to gain something with respect to the fastest bikes, and the frame has maintained its strong points. The guys at Aprilia have worked very well and we need to continue on this path for the next tests. In the afternoon of the third day I crashed during race simulation, but until that point my pace was good – very close to the best. We obviously need to improve in many areas, especially in terms of power distribution and stability in acceleration, but overall our situation is positive.”
Petrucci gave the feeling of having made a step forward with his Ducati Desmosedici GP 2017, having had to deal with some technical issues which have slowed him down in the morning, Petrux went back on track in the afternoon finding a good race pace.
“There were some small issues with the bike but this is a normal thing. We knew to come to Malaysia to do as much development work. I thank the team for the great job done by solving every problem. I wish I had the chance to try a time-attack this morning but it is not so important. I’m happy because I lapped consistently at mid day in difficult conditions and I had positive sensations. I can not wait to be at Philip Island hour.”
Héctor Barberá had a crash with one hour to go and was left without a chance for a final time attack to improve his lap time. The Valencian rider lost the front on turn 5 at more than 170 km/h, but fortunately he walked away without injuries. The front end was a critical point on his Ducati Desmosedici GP16 over the three days of testing and he needs to continue to work before the first in race in Qatar on March 26th. He was P18 for Day Three and P16 overall with a 2:00.352.
“I don’t have enough feedback from the front of the bike and at the moment I don’t have the feeling that I would like. That’s the biggest limit I have right now. We’ve been trying many things and I’ve tried to push at the maximum, but at the end I crashed. I normally don’t crash often, but things are different with this bike. I also crashed when I raced it with the Ducati Team last season, I lost the front in both races and today it was the same again. We have to work to improve the feeling with the front. We are trying to work like last year, but this is a completely different bike and we have to reset for the next test in Australia. As far as lap times go, we are just a second behind the fastest rider, which is not so bad. Now we have to find the right direction at Phillip Island and keep improving to be ready for the first race.”
Scott Redding lapped throughout the day carrying out the intensive set-up work but found it a bit more difficult in the lap-times. On the last day of activity in Malaysia, the British rider completed 55 laps with his Ducati Desmosedici GP 2016 to end the day in P15 with a 2:00.645, that left him P19 overall for the three days.
“We worked hard and we managed to improve the feeling with the front after the problems experienced the first two days. I still have problems of chattering, especially with the new tire and this prevented me to be incisive in the lap-time. With used tires instead, we have made great progress. It was a positive test because it gave us much data to work with in Australia”
Loris Baz improved on the last day and finished just 1.5s behind Maverick Viñales, the fastest rider in Sepang. Baz also has work left to do in Australia, but his first impressions of the Ducati Desmosedici GP15 were good. He was P20 on Day 3 and Overall setting a 2:00.873
“Overall the test was good. Yesterday we tried several things that were not going as we expected, but today everything went much better and I am happy. I improved my lap times with a tyre that had more than ten laps. It also was at midday when it was very hot, so I think our result is positive. We are not far away and except from the second day, the feeling with the bike was very good. Now we’ll see how things develop in Australia. Phillip Island is my favourite circuit and we still have a lot of things to try, but I’m leaving Sepang, a track that is one of the most difficult for me, quite happy. We still have to continue working on my riding style to be smoother, and we also have to work with the bike to be faster with a full tank, which at the moment it still a little bit difficult.”
For Sam Lowes, his consistency and the final result are an encouraging sign of progress. Astride the 2016 RS-GP, the English rookie continued his apprenticeship. Not too many changes for him, but a lot of laps done in an effort to increase his confidence with a technical package that is decidedly different than the one he used last year.
At the end of the three days, Sam expressed satisfaction with the progress made on the various fronts, from riding position to braking. This is progress that the times confirm: an improvement of almost two seconds between the first and third day and the session concluded with a nice 2’01.341.
“Over the three days we reduced the gap behind the leaders significantly and that is important. We are working in the right direction. Everything is new for me, so I learn something new every lap! Among other things, I also did a race simulation, discovering how mentally and physically demanding it is to ride a MotoGP bike here at Sepang, but I am pleased with how it went. These tests were fundamental for me. We did not focus on our final position because that is certainly not our goal. We still have six days of testing before the race in Qatar and I think that if we maintain these levels of growth and concentration we will be ready.”
Red Bull KTM Factory racing pair Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith continued their long program of work on the third and final day of testing, setting a combined total of 129 laps despite Espargaro’s crash. The Austrian factory line up full time for the first time in 2017.
Karel Abraham posted a 2’00.445 on his eleventh lap on track, improving his previous best from yesterday by half a second. The Czech rider continues to adapt to his new machine and heads home happy after finishing this test as the third fastest Independent Ducati.
“The overall summary of the three days is very positive. I have improved my lap time every day and today we managed a 2’00.445, which I think is faster than we could have expected before we arrived here in Malaysia. It has been three very productive days. We have tested a lot of things and it seems like they have worked, which is a very good feeling. I can head home from Malaysia feeling very happy and looking forwards to continuing my physical training programme now in readiness for the next test.”
Next up? Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Australia as testing continues, and the clock continues its countdown to the first race of the year in Qatar. The MotoGP test at Phillip Island gets underway on 15th February.
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