Rossi and Pedrosa in front at Sepang as Ducati confirms ¡Open¢ entry
The overall pace was not as quick at Sepang this week, with Rossi and Pedrosa¢s best laps today being 0.466s slower than the best circulation set last time out by World Champion Marc Marquez – who missed this test due to injury. The Doctor demonstrated his pace once again on Friday as he prepares for a 15th premier class campaign, setting a quickest time on his 13th lap, in spite of some struggles with the 2014 tyres being experienced by the Yamaha factory team.
Thursday¢s fastest rider Dani Pedrosa was also on the pace, his sharpest time coming on the 47th of his 50 laps, as temperatures dropped slightly – following a 64°C (147°F) track temperature peak at 4pm. Pedrosa undertook an impressive 19-lap race simulation in the afternoon with every lap under the 2¢02.000s mark, and a best time of 2'00.985 coming on lap 15. On the other side of the Yamaha garage to Rossi, seventh placed Jorge Lorenzo¢s frustrations continued as he was +0.75s slower than at the previous test - where track conditions were better and the riders still had access to a 2013 specification tyre.
The Ducati GP14 is showing signs of real improvement and Andrea Dovizioso ended the test 0.068s off the top pace in third, with a lap time 0.3s better than at Sepang1. With the data gathered by him and his fellow Ducati riders the Italian factory made the decision that they will opt for ¡Open¢ class participation this season. Aleix Espargaro was once again quick, his best time of 2¢00.101s leaving him fourth best overall and with a decent race simulation performed for the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team on their ¡Open¢ Yamaha. Stefan Bradl wrapped up early having had a solid week, the LCR Honda rider satisfied with his consistently quick times as he found good rhythm on longer runs and ended up fifth overall (+0.165). The fastest rider on the first day Alvaro Bautista was 0.5s off the pace on the final day in sixth and is happy with progress made with a new rear shock this week.
The Ducati, Honda and Yamaha factory teams now head to Phillip Island for a tyre safety test from 3rd-5th March, though MotoGP title holder Marquez will again miss the trip as his recovery from a fibula fracture continues.
Dani Pedrosa ended the second day of February¢s second Sepang test at the top of the pile, with track conditions somewhat better than on Wednesday In the continued absence of his injured World Champion teammate Marc Marquez, who will not return to testing before the season opener at Qatar, Pedrosa shoulders the responsibility in finalising Repsol Honda¢s preparations for the 2014 season. He stepped up to the plate late on Thursday with a 2¢00.039s best effort as the track cooled in the early evening. Pedrosa had struggled with jet lag on arrival in Malaysia but the best time of the week so far put him ahead of Aleix Espargaro who impressed again with his sheer pace to end the day 0.281s off the top – having led for much of the afternoon.
motoGP testing continues without World Champion Marc Marquez
Wednesday to Friday will be a critical three days as MotoGP pre-season testing continues at Malaysia¢s Sepang International Circuit. Immediately after Sepang, the Official riders of Repsol Honda, Yamaha Factory Racing and Ducati Team are set to travel directly to Phillip Island for their next test before the rest of the teams regroup for the Qatar test that same week.
Some early lap times today
2014/2/27Pedrosa moves ahead as track conditions improve
Like many of the riders Espargaro¢s focus switched to race simulation in the afternoon and those longer runs will continue on Friday before the test concludes. Wednesday¢s top man Alvaro Bautista was third, finishing with a 2¢00.500s best time as he again made good use of his new Showa rear shock.
Fourth on the timesheet was Valentino Rossi (+0.566s) who appears to be more comfortable with the new 2014 Bridgestone compounds than his Yamaha Factory Racing colleague Jorge Lorenzo (+1.010s) who was ninth. Lorenzo¢s issue is with edge grip which affects corner speed, previously a strong point and something he will look to improve before Qatar. Andrea Dovizioso repeated his impressive recent pace in fifth (0.748s) with the GP14 showing real signs of improvement. Dovizioso¢s colleague Cal Crutchlow made a late jump to seventh and was less than 0.2s behind the Italian knowing that his teammate is his immediate benchmark – whilst Andrea Iannone was 11th on the Pramac Racing Ducati (1.134s).
Stefan Bradl put in a solid and consistent run for LCR Honda, following another long run he did on Wednesday. His best time was half a second better today and he finished sixth. The new seamless gearbox was well received by Monster Yamaha Tech 3 pair Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith on Wednesday – and a second day of ultra-smooth upshifts for those two saw them finish eighth and tenth respectively. The younger Espargaro was the only top ten rider not to improve on his day one time.
The ¡Sepang2¢ test concludes on Friday, before Ducati Team, Repsol Honda and Yamaha Factory Racing head to Phillip Island for a three day test starting on Monday.
Bautista on top in Sepang and Marquez to miss Phillip Island Test
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 favourable 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 tyre 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 tyre available. Tyre 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 tyre 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 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.
After a check-up on Wednesday afternoon with Dr. Mir in Barcelona, it was advised that Marquez takes this opportunity to rest, rather than risk further injury, in order to prepare for the Qatar GP, which will begin in just three weeks.
"I¢m obviously disappointed that I¢m not in Sepang at the moment and to miss Phillip Island is also unfortunate, but we believe it is the best decision," declared Marquez. "After my meeting today with Dr. Mir, although he was happy with the general situation of my leg after only seven days since the accident, he advised against taking unnecessary risk. So I will take time to rest and get myself as fit as possible to return to Qatar for the first race in the best shape possible."
The first off-track surprise has already come. World Champion Marc Marquez will be absent from the Malaysian gathering, having broken his right fibula in a dirt track crash a week ago. The 21-year-old will now be resting for two weeks and could also miss the Phillip Island test, there should be an announcement today. His chief priority will be to return to full fitness before the season-opening Qatar GP on Sunday 23 March.
Perhaps Marquez¢s unfortunate incident will work in the favour of team-mate Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha duo Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, who will crucially be capable of continuing with their testing programmes while Marquez is out of action.
Ducati Team, on the other hand, has a big decision to make and the outcome could well be revealed at Sepang: will the Factory be switching all of its bikes to Open specification? Since the earlier Malaysian test, the Italian outfit has been heavily analysing all of the data collected from the Open Pramac Racing machine of Yonny Hernandez. Should it decide to go Open, Ducati – now under the technical leadership of Gigi Dall¢Igna – would be able to make numerous modifications to its engines during the World Championship season, unlike the Factory Option-entered runners.
Elsewhere in the Open ranks, those riding the new customer Honda RCV1000R will be more than keen to reduce the gap to the front – not least Drive M7 Aspar¢s Nicky Hayden, who was particularly vocal last time out with regards to a lack of power. Testing will take place from 10am-6pm local time (GMT +8) between today and Friday 28 February. Some early lap times are provided below