Preparations for the 2014 MotoGP Championship are well underway, with the first pre-season test at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit complete. As the first test of the year, we shouldn’t take too much stock into the results, but they do provide a basis for later comparison.
Reigning World Champion Marc Marquez was the fastest rider on all three days of the Sepang test. The Repsol Honda rider set a lap time of 1:59.533 on the morning of the final day, surpassing the previous record test time at Sepang of 1:59.607 set in 2012 by Casey Stoner.
More important than setting a single fast lap time, Marquez also completed a stretch of 20 laps between pit stops to simulate race conditions, completing 15 consecutive laps with times under 2:01.000.
“I’m pretty happy with how the three days here in Sepang have gone and we have started the pre-season well,” Marquez tells MotoGP.com. “This is only the first test and we still have work to do, but we’ve already been able to do a race simulation and it has all gone well. We have tried many setups and we have gathered a lot of data, so we will be well prepared for the next test here. We still have some things to try out, so we must make the most of the days we have remaining here this preseason.”
Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo had the second and third fastest times, respectively. Rossi had a top time of 1:59.727, a personal best testing time at the Sepang circuit. Lorenzo set his best time of 1:59.866 early in the morning of the final day of testing while the track was still cool.
When the track warmed up in the afternoon, the two Yamaha factory riders also undertook a race simulation. Rossi ended the final day with a 15-lap outing with most lap times in the low 2:01-range. Lorenzo wasn’t able to complete as many laps in succession and his crew had to make adjustments.
“The goal was not to improve the one lap time but to improve the race pace which we did. When we tried a race simulation in hot conditions we found some problems where we didn’t expect it, so the pace wasn’t as good as we wanted,” says Lorenzo. “We’ve only practiced in one track though which isn’t a Yamaha track historically, so let’s see what happens at the next Malaysia test and the other tracks. The evolution and the improvement is big so I’m quite satisfied. To have a similar feeling to last year with less fuel is a big thing.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise at the test was Forward Racing‘s Aleix Espargaro who set the fourth fastest lap time on a non-Factory “Open” class FTR Yamaha. Espargaro improved his lap times on each day of the test and squeezed in a lap under the two-minute mark with a time of 1:59.998 on the final day, timing in ahead of Factory class Honda riders Stefan Bradl and Dani Pedrosa. Espargaro and teammate Colin Edwards (14th) spent the final day working on their machine’s electronics but struggled with finding traction as their tires wore.
Meanwhile in the Ducati garage, factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow along with test rider Michele Pirro were hard at work developing the Desmosedici GP14. Ducati is coming off its first podium-less MotoGP season and is desperate to turn things around. One option being considered by Ducati Corse and its General Manager Luigi Dall’Igna is whether to reclassify its riders in the Open class. Open class riders are allowed more race fuel, and a softer rear tire but are restricted to a standardized ECU. They are also allowed more engines to use through the season and unlike Factory class machines, engine development is not frozen during the season.
At the moment, the FTR Yamaha riders have the edge in the Open category with Espargaro and Edwards. Nicky Hayden finished 13th overall while his Aspar teammate Hiroshi Aoyama was 16th but Scott Redding and Karel Abraham were both near the bottom of the timesheet while also riding the Honda RCV1000R Open class machine.
Also noteworthy were Suzuki‘s test riders Randy de Puniet (17th) and Nobuastu Aoki (26th). Both riders were helping Suzuki develop its prototype for its return to the series in 2015.
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||Honda||1:59.533|
|2||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||1:59.727|
|3||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha Factory Racing||Yamaha||1:59.866|
|4||Aleix Espargaro||MGM Mobile Forward Racing||FTR Yamaha*||1:59.998|
|5||Stefan Bradl||LCR Honda||Honda||2:00.112|
|6||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||Honda||2:00.223|
|8||Pol Espargaro||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||2:00.655|
|9||Andrea Iannone||Pramac Racing||Ducati||2:00.725|
|10||Alvaro Bautista||GO&Fun Honda Gresini||Honda||2:00.788|
|11||Bradley Smith||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||2:00.896|
|13||Nicky Hayden||Drive M7 Aspar||Honda*||2:01.514|
|14||Colin Edwards||MGM Mobile Forward Racing||FTR Yamaha*||2:01.731|
|15||Michele Pirro||Ducati Test Team||Ducati||2:01.782|
|16||Hiroshi Aoyama||Drive M7 Aspar||Honda*||2:02.383|
|17||Randy de Puniet||Suzuki Test Team||Suzuki||2:02.486|
|18||Yonny Hernandez||Energy T.I. Pramac Racing||Ducati*||2:02.556|
|19||Kosuke Akiyoshi||HRC Test Team||Honda||2:02.6169|
|20||Katsuki Nakasuga||Yamaha Test Team||Yamaha||2:02.788|
|21||Scott Redding||Go&Fun Honda Gresini||Honda*||2:02.833|
|22||Michael Laverty||Paul Bird Motorsport||PBM Aprilia*||2:03.187|
|23||Hector Barbera||Avintia Racing||Avintia*||2:03.204|
|24||Broc Parkes||Paul Bird Motorsport||PBM Aprilia*||2:03.402|
|25||Mike Di Meglio||Avintia Racing||Avintia*||2:04.516|
|26||Nobuatsu Aoki||Suzuki Test Team||Suzuki||2:05.686|
|27||Karel Abraham||Cardio AB||Honda*||2:05.974|