The 2016 MotoGP Championship officially got underway Monday with the first test of the year at Sepang International Raceway. Twenty-one riders were on the Malaysian circuit, which hosted the first on-track event since the final Valencia test in November.And 2016 MotoGP began just as last season ended – with the Movistar Yamaha duo of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi on top.
The reigning MotoGP Champion Lorenzo battled through a slight sickness and scorching Malaysia temperatures. By the end of the first hour, Lorenzo was into fifth, and from there he moved up to first. Lorenzo held the position aboard his Yamaha YZR-M1, eventually finishing the day with a 2:00.684, 1.033 of a second ahead of his teammate, nine-time World Champion Rossi. To put Lorenzo’s time into perspective, the fastest lap at Sepang is a 1:59.791 posted by two-time MotoGP Champion Marc Marquez (Respol Honda) in 2014.Lorenzo’s first comment following day one of three at the Sepang MotoGP test was voiced towards the new Michelin tires, which replace the Bridgestone-spec tires.“I’m very happy and surprised about the feeling I had today with the Michelin tires. 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 tires.“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.”Experimenting with two different setups on his YZR-M1, Rossi spent the most time on the Sepang track than any other MotoGP rider. Despite a short break when Aprilia Racing Team’s Eugene Laverty crashed, Rossi completed a total of 55 laps, earning second with a 2:01.717.“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,” Rossi says.“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 tire 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.”Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedorsa, who 1.096 of a second off the pace. Pedrosa, along with teammate Marc Marquez who finished seventh, began by assessing two different RC213V engine specs. Throughout 2015 MotoGP, Pedrosa and Marquez struggled with an aggressive engine – something the factory Honda team is looking to respolve.Earning fourth was Octo Pramac Racing Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci, who was 1.127 of a second off Lorenzo’s pace, and 0.101 of a second ahead of Ducati factory pilot Andrea Iannone. Petrucci and Scott Redding will race the GP15 in 2016, though Iannone and Dovizoso, who finished 13th, will pilot the new GP16.Helping put three Ducatis in the top six were Avintia Racing Ducati’s Hector Barbera, who finished 1.38 of a second off the pace aboard his GP14.2. Rounding out the top 10 were Marquez, Octo Pramac Ducati’s Redding, Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro and LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow; all finished within two seconds behind Lorenzo.Sepang MotoGP testing continues Tuesday, and Ducati test rider Casey Stoner is expected to be on the track; this will be the two-time MotoGP Champions first timed session since 2012.
This week we ride two genre-departing motorcycles from the established American manufacturers. Jess McKinley gives us his thoughts on the all new Harley-Davidson Pan America Special, and Ron Lieback gives his on Indian’s latest version of the FTR 1200 S.