Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez upped the pace as testing continued in Malaysia on Wednesday, while NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro placed an Open specification bike inside the top five for the first time.
With conditions just as good as they had been on Tuesday, it was Marquez’s teammate Dani Pedrosa who led the way for much of the first half of the day. The World Champion then smashed through the two-minute barrier shortly before his lunch break, after which there were substantially less changes in lap times. It remains to be seen as to whether Marquez can better Casey Stoner’s 2012 preseason time of 1:59.607, also registered on a Repsol Honda motorcycle.
With Repsol Honda first and second, Stefan Bradl was third for LCR Honda MotoGP (three thousandths down on Pedrosa) with Valentino Rossi fourth for Yamaha Factory Racing. Aleix Espargaro again displayed the promise of the new Open FTR-Yamaha combination, as his Forward machine was barely two tenths down on the nearest Factory Honda, with Rossi’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo sixth; the former double title winner was attempting to improve handling issues, encountered on Day One as a result of setup changes made in a bid to improve fuel consumption, as for 2014 the Factory Option bikes are limited by a further liter of fuel to just 20 across a race distance.
Bradley Smith spearheaded the Monster Yamaha Tech3 charge, with Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone in eighth position; on the leading Ducati, the Italian was some seven tenths of a second quicker than he had been on Tuesday. Alvaro Bautista was ninth for GO&FUN Honda Gresini, but his day was not without its problems; at 11:30, the Spaniard suffered a technical problem and thus took a shortcut back to the pit lane. The top 10 was completed by Smith’s teammate Pol Espargaro, while brother Aleix’s teammate Colin Edwards was the only rider to not improve his lap time today, but his best effort from Day One still leaves the American 15th on the combined timesheet.
Ducati Team bikes were locked together once again, this time filling positions 11 to 13 with Andrea Dovizioso, Cal Crutchlow and test rider Michele Pirro, with their quickest lap time some 1.3 seconds quicker than it had been 24 hours earlier. In the Honda RCV1000R ranks, the quickest rider was again Drive M7 Aspar’s Nicky Hayden as the 2006 World Champion managed to circulate 1.1 seconds faster than he had on Day One. As ever, the true pace of all bikes is difficult to gauge as fuel loads and other such details remain highly secretive. However, more clues may be available on Thursday as a selection of riders aim for race simulations; such long-run pace often serves as a better indicator, although this is only the first of four official preseason tests set to be staged prior to the season-opening Grand Prix in Qatar on March 23.
The Suzuki Test Team ended the day 20th with Randy de Puniet 3.1 seconds behind Marquez but eight tenths of a second faster than the Frenchman’s own best lap of Tuesday as they continued their journey ahead of a MotoGP return in 2015. Elsewhere, premier class rookies Scott Redding, Broc Parkes and Mike di Meglio continued adapting to their respective Honda RCV1000R, PBM and Avintia bikes for the corresponding Gresini, Paul Bird Motorsport and Avintia Racing teams.
Thursday will mark the third and final day of this week’s Sepang official MotoGP test.Aleix Espargaro, Marc Marquez, MotoGP, Repsol Honda