MotoGP returns to Kuala Lumpur on Monday for the penultimate 3-day test (Sepang 2), ahead of the season’s opening race in Qatar on the March 29.
With early forecasts predicting some rain on the Monday and Tuesday, it may not all be plain sailing but, as always, the time sheets should give us a great indication of who will be where when the lights go out at Losail.
With the riders and teams having completed the first test on the challenging 3.4-mile circuit in Malaysia just over two weeks ago, they have all identified areas that they want to work on.
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For Honda, Marc Marquez was on record breaking form at Sepang 1, leading the time sheets with the fastest ever lap around the circuit, a 1:58.867, almost a second quicker than his pole time last year. The World Champion cites grip when exiting a corner as a key area the HRC team will be working on to improve. His teammate Pedrosa finished 2nd overall, just 0.139s slower, and will be looking to build on an impressive race simulation in which he managed 10 laps in a row under the 2:01 mark.
Sepang 2 marks the debut appearance of the recently-launched Ducati GP15, and teammates Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso must be rubbing their hands together with glee at the prospect of getting their hands on the bike after being on the GP14.3 version of the bike at the first test, with Iannone ending up third fastest overall.
The much-anticipated bike will make its appearance on Monday, for a shakedown by Ducati test rider Michele Pirro. Then on Tuesday it will be handed over to Dovizioso and Iannone to ride for the first time in anger.
Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo will be looking forward to making the return to the Malaysian circuit, after both having set their fastest ever lap times at Sepang during the first test. Rossi was particularly happy with his race simulation after the three days, but was slightly concerned with the pace of Marquez and Pedrosa. Lorenzo & Lin Jarvis have both hinted that Yamaha have may debut their “full” seamless shifts gearbox for the first time at the test, which Yamaha believe will improve the bikes corner entry and braking stability.
CWM-LCR Honda will hope that both its riders, Cal Crutchlow and MotoGP rookie Jack Miller, use the time to get more comfortable with their respective Honda bikes, who both are making their debut on this year. Crutchlow, on the Factory spec RC213V machine, put in more laps than anyone else at Sepang 1, and showed great pace on older tires, although he admits he will be looking at how they can improve their times on fresh rubber in this test. Miller, on his RC213V-RS, will be looking to build on the fact he finished just 0.4 seconds off Nicky Hayden on the same “Open” spec bike in the first test.
Suzuki will be looking to continue their impressive form on their return to MotoGP, which saw Aleix Espargaro finish 10th overall at Sepang 1. After finishing 12th overall in the first test, his teammate, and class rookie, Maverick Vinales feels that Suzuki have got the chassis of their machine spot on. Both riders have recently spent some time in Japan at Suzuki HQ, working on the bikes aerodynamics, and expect to have some new parts to test in Malaysia.
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team will be hoping that Pol Espargaro can continue the excellent form he showed in the first Malaysian test, by finishing the fastest of the “Satellite” riders, ending the test in sixth place. While Bradley Smith will hope to continue his return to full fitness after an ankle injury hampered him at Sepang 1. Despite this, he still managed to test out a new swingarm and front forks, while still improving his time by 0.7 seconds each day.
Scott Redding spent most of Sepang 1 on old tires and with his electronic rider aids turned down; to allow him to make the transition from the Honda RCV1000R he rode last year to his factory spec RCV213V for 2015. He is looking forward to returning to the circuit with a lot more confidence, and is looking forward to making more progress with Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Racing Team.
Forward Racing’s Stefan Bradl is hoping that history will repeat itself at Sepang after ending the first test as the fastest of the “Open” class riders, managing to break into the top 10 in the process. Loris Baz, who completes the all new rider line up for the Italian team, will be looking to build on his 19th overall position as he continues his progress after making the step up from WorldSBK, with both riders looking forward to an engine upgrade before the season starts.
The Aprilia Racing Team Gresini have stated that they will be looking to see the true competitiveness of their bikes with Alvaro Bautista and Marco Melandri on board, after not focusing at all on lap times in the first test, but instead just spending the time trying out new setups.
The Drive M7 Aspar team will be looking to continue the good progress made at Sepang 1, with both Nicky Hayden and new rider Eugene Laverty improving by over 0.7 seconds over the three days at Sepang 1.
Pramac Ducati will welcome the return of Yonny Hernandez after he was forced to miss Sepang 1 with a dislocated shoulder, while his teammate Danilo Petrucci said he is hoping to use the time to get used to the power of his Ducati, after struggling with grip last time out.
Avintia Ducati’s Hector Barbera and Mike Di Meglio will aim to continue adjusting to the new electronics on their bikes, while Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham will be hoping to show a more competitive pace, and finally Octo IodaRacing Team’s Alex De Angelis is going to be switching to the Factory Aprilia ECU on his ART machine for the test.
The Sepang 2 test kicks off on Monday, 10 a.m. Local Time with live timing at motogp.com.