Marquez Quickens Pace at Sepang I MotoGP Test

Marquez Quickens Pace at Sepang I MotoGP Test
Honda's Marc Marquez

For many of the 14 teams participating in the first official preseason test of 2015 MotoGP at Sepang International Circuit, Friday was the third and final day of testing.

A few teams will remain for some evaluation of Michelin tires on Saturday – the manufacturer that replaces Bridgestone as the MotoGP spec-tire manufacturer in 2016. But on Friday, a bulk of the teams completed race simulation before departing from the Malaysian circuit.

And the fastest rider once again was Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez. With fresh rubber on the track and cool temperatures, the 21-year-old Spaniard, who led Wednesday’s opening day, posted a 1:58.867 around Sepang.

On Thursday’s second-day of testing, only the leader posted under the 2:00 mark – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo. But on Friday, the top-seven riders posted under the 2:00 mark.

Two-time MotoGP Champion Marquez wasted no time Friday, and set his top time in the morning on lap 8 of 52. This time – the quickest unofficial lap at Sepang – beat his previous record of 1:59.533 set during the 2014 winter test there.

“The truth is that when I saw the time I was surprised, just like everyone else! In any case, I must say that today the track was fast, as we all rode faster than before. I’m glad I was able to set a good lap, but more important is the fact that I felt very comfortable, right from the start,” Marquez says.

“We did a race simulation later on, which also went very well and was perhaps even more important than a single lap. During the race simulation we tested different mapping and in every part we tried different things. The positive is that with the new bike we are already at the same level as in 2014, and there is still plenty of room for improvement. Now I can’t wait for the second test and to see what progress we can make.”

Later in the session, Marquez and his teammate Dani Pedrosa performed some race-simulation scenarios, both riders stringing together 20-consecutive laps. It was no surprise that the RC213V was the powerhouse; Pedrosa finished Friday’s session in second, 0.139 of a second behind.

The next closest prototype was the Ducati Team GP14.3 piloted by Andrea Iannone, who was 0.521 of a second behind Marquez. His teammate Andrea Dovizioso finished seventh overall, 1.007 of a second behind Marquez. Dovi was the final rider to post under the 2:00 mark, and he and Iannone will participate in the upcoming Sepang 2 test (February 23-25).

The top Yamaha rider Friday was nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi aboard the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP YZR-M1, who finished fourth 0.534 of a second behind Marquez. Lorenzo finished fifth, 0.757 of a second off the pace. The Spaniard – a two-time MotoGP Champion – also completed a successful race simulation, but admitted how impressed he was by the progress of his Honda rivals.

Rossi also completed some race-stimulation laps, also could not keep up with the Repsol Honda boys. During his testing, Rossi experimented with a new swingarm and tweaked electronics, the Italian adjusting engine mapping during the simulation.

Except for Monster Yamaha’s Pol Espargaro in sixth – 0.984 of a second behind – the top-seven riders were all factory-backed riders. But all teams progressed tremendously during the Sepang I MotoGP test.

Following is from the official MotoGP report:

Espargaro’s teammate Bradley Smith has been riding with an ankle injury sustained recently in private training and the Englishman was ninth fastest on the timesheet, 1.517s behind Marquez.

Stefan Bradl (Forward Racing Team) finished as the top Open equipped rider in eighth and will be pleased with his performance at this test, with an engine upgrade still to come before the season starts.

The Sepang 1 test saw good progression for the Team Suzuki MotoGP pair of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales. The Japanese brand are working on reliability and top end power and also developing their chassis as they return to premier class racing this year, with Espargaro ending the test in 10th place overall.

The Spaniard improved by just under two seconds from day one to day three, simultaneously dropping his gap to the top of the time sheets from 1.963s to 1.619s and ending up tenth. His impressive new rookie colleague Maverick Viñales gained confidence and pace on the GSX-RRs over the three days improving by well over two seconds and closing the gap on his teammate.

CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow was 11th best as he continued to put in the laps on his RC213V, with Estrella Galicia 0.0 Marc VDS rider Scott Redding 0.7s behind his compatriot on the same machine.

Drive M7 Aspar’s Nicky Hayden was the fastest rider on the Open spec RC213V-RS package +2.641s down on Marquez in 18th place, with CWM LCR Honda rookie Jack Miller (+3.028s) behind the American in 20th on the same spec bike.

Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri will aim to cut the gap to the top riders at Sepang 2 in less than two weeks having finished the test down the timesheets in 21st and 28th places respectively.

There will be further action at Sepang on Saturday with a small group of riders remaining in Malaysia to test Michelin material.

2015 Sepang I MotoGP Test Results, Friday:

Pos Rider Team Fastest lap Lead. Gap Prev. Gap Laps Last lap
1 MARQUEZ, Marc Repsol Honda Team 1:58.867 8 / 52
2 PEDROSA, Dani Repsol Honda Team 1:59.006 0.139 0.139 11 / 41
3 IANNONE, Andrea Ducati Team 1:59.388 0.521 0.382 11 / 47
4 ROSSI, Valentino Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1:59.401 0.534 0.013 11 / 49
5 LORENZO, Jorge Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1:59.624 0.757 0.223 12 / 55
6 ESPARGARO, Pol Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1:59.851 0.984 0.227 8 / 50
7 DOVIZIOSO, Andrea Ducati Team 1:59.874 1.007 0.023 5 / 33
8 BRADL, Stefan Forward Racing Team 2:00.294 1.427 0.420 10 / 49
9 SMITH, Bradley Monster Yamaha Tech 3 2:00.384 1.517 0.090 26 / 50
10 ESPARGARO, Aleix Team Suzuki MotoGP 2:00.486 1.619 0.102 13 / 36
11 CRUTCHLOW, Cal CWM LCR Honda 2:00.536 1.669 0.050 19 / 67
12 VIÑALES, Maverick Team Suzuki MotoGP 2:00.964 2.097 0.428 12 / 51
13 PETRUCCI, Danilo Pramac Racing 2:00.970 2.103 0.006 11 / 48
14 AOYAMA, Hiroshi HRC 2:01.029 2.162 0.059 6 / 46
15 BARBERA, Hector Avintia Racing 2:01.183 2.316 0.154 27 / 57
16 PIRRO, Michele Pramac Racing 2:01.232 2.365 0.049 10 / 56
17 REDDING, Scott Estrella Galicia 0.0 Marc VDS 2:01.263 2.396 0.031 65 / 67
18 HAYDEN, Nicky Drive M7 Aspar 2:01.508 2.641 0.245 13 / 52
19 BAZ, Loris Forward Racing Team 2:01.624 2.757 0.116 6 / 46
20 MILLER, Jack CWM LCR Honda 2:01.895 3.028 0.271 3 / 50
21 BAUTISTA, Alvaro Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 2:01.924 3.057 0.029 60 / 63
22 DI MEGLIO, Mike Avintia Racing 2:02.128 3.261 0.204 48 / 49
23 ABRAHAM, Karel AB Motoracing 2:02.297 3.430 0.169 18 / 43
24 LAVERTY, Eugene Drive M7 Aspar 2:02.334 3.467 0.037 55 / 57
25 NAKASUGA, Katsuyuki Yamaha Factory Test Team 2:02.363 3.496 0.029 3 / 22
26 TAKAHASHI, Takumi HRC 2:03.113 4.246 0.750 11 / 64
27 DE ANGELIS, Alex Octo Ioda Racing Team 2:03.471 4.604 0.358 22 / 32
28 MELANDRI, Marco Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 2:03.641 4.774 0.170 61 / 61