The first day of MotoGP testing on the second preseason visit to the Sepang International Circuit saw GO&FUN Honda Gresini man Alvaro Bautista register the quickest lap time, with track conditions not as favorable as they were earlier in February.
Bautista’s best lap time of 2’00.848 was 1.3s slower than the marker set down by World Champion Marc Marquez in the previous Sepang test. Of course Marquez is absent from this Malaysian outing due to a leg injury sustained in training last week.
The track surface at Sepang has been described variously as dirty, slippery and lacking in grip compared to the 4th-6th February session due to recent weather conditions.
Nonetheless the riders and teams carried out crucial development and data gathering exercises on Wednesday in the tropical heat, with pace man Bautista working heavily with the rear of his GO&FUN Honda Gresini bike. He aims to dial in the new hard rear Bridgestone tire to his package – examining shock, swingarm and linkage configuration this week.
Another solid day of work from Aleix Espargaro left him in second, just 0.052s from his compatriot Bautista, having featured at the top for several spells late in the day. Espargaro and his fellow riders on ‘Open’ class machines have a softer specification rear tire available, so having demonstrated his sheer pace and the potential of his Forward Yamaha over shorter runs the challenge for the rider from Barcelona is now to prepare for racing.
Tire durability and engine performance over race distance will be crucial to converting fast times in testing into World Championship points once the season starts.
Espargaro’s brother Pol also impressed, slotting the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 bike up into third with a late best time 0.15s off Bautista’s pace. The younger Espargaro worked with on electronics, tried different a wheel size and tested small engine parts. His teammate Bradley Smith was ninth.
Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso was again the fastest representative of the Italian factory on track, concluding the afternoon in fourth, undertaking development work on the GP14 from the base setting put in place at Sepang 1.
Dovizioso and incoming colleague Cal Crutchlow – 11th today – are working on overall set-up and engine characteristics at the test, whilst Ducati are set to define whether they will run ‘Open’ class or ‘MSMA’ entries in 2014 before they depart from Malaysia.
Double MotoGP title winner Jorge Lorenzo ended the day fifth, with the Yamaha Factory Racing team focusing on refining set-up for the new harder rear tire option. The team believe that the 20 litre fuel limit for ‘MSMA’ entries this year will not cause them fuel consumption issues, as has been speculated, though they need to verify those findings in this test after some positive results last time out.
Dani Pedrosa had a somewhat anonymous visit to Sepang last time and he has added responsibility this week as the only Repsol Honda rider present. He was sixth on day one, with his main task at this test being confirmation of which chassis works best for him, with RC213V evolution well underway for 2014.
Valentino Rossi was second overall at ‘Sepang1’ but he ended Wednesday in seventh spot, continuing his preparations for his 15th season in the premier class. He was 0.5s off the pace at the end of the day, with 65 laps undertaken.
LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl completed the day in eighth place, working on braking stability by modifying suspension, geometry and electronics. The German rider has some small parts from HRC to test in the absence of fellow Honda man Marquez.
Andrea Iannone was ninth on the Pramac Ducati, whilst in 15th spot Energy T.I. Pramac Racing’s Yonny Hernandez carried out additional crucial data gathering with the new Magneti Marelli software.
It was a mixed day for the DRIVE M7 Aspar team, with the key point for their riders being new suspension settings, as this is the first time they have properly tested the softer option rear tire for the ‘Open’ class. Nicky Hayden was tenth and Hiroshi Aoyama was ‘unlucky’ 13th as he suffered a light crash early in the day.
Team Suzuki MotoGP are again present at this test, with Randy de Puniet and Nobuatsu Aoki in attendance. De Puniet carried out an epic 73 lap workload on Wednesday for the manufacturer who have an eye on returning to MotoGP racing in 2015.
Click here for full results from day one at the Sepang 2 test.