Photography by Gold & Goose
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez kept his perfect 2014 testing record intact on the third and final day of testing at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, the MotoGP World Champion again turning the fastest lap of the day. And for good measure he also broke the lap record.
For the most part, everyone’s fastest laps came in the cooler temperatures of the morning session and Marquez was no exception to that rule as he ripped off his 1:59.533 early – a lap that was faster than Casey Stoner’s record of 1:59.607 from 2012.
And just to prove that he wasn’t a one-lap wonder, the young Spaniard also put in a race simulation where he proceeded to click off 15 laps under the 2:01 mark.
"I'm pretty happy with how the three days here in Sepang have gone and we have started the pre-season well,” Marquez said in a team release. “It's true that 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.
“Physically I feel good, I haven't stopped over this past month and have had a packed schedule, but I have been able to continue training. I was a little weak here when I arrived, because I had the flu last week, but in the end I felt fine which is the most important thing. We can always improve and this test will help me to up my fitness."
Marquez ending the test at the top was of little surprise. But Valentino Rossi finishing second might have caught a few people off-guard. The nine-time World Champion was fast from the get-go and he ended the three days with not only the second best time but his own personal best lap of Sepang – a 1:59.727. And that mark put him ahead of his teammate Jorge Lorenzo.
“The test has been very good,” Rossi said in a team release. “I’m very happy, especially for the second position and more than that for the lap time which is the best of my career in Sepang. It’s the first time under 2:00 for me and just one tenth from Marc [Marquez] and the overall record of the track. I found a good feeling with the bike, we found some good solutions and it’s been very positive. We tried a simulation in the afternoon that was very good to understand any problems. We suffered a bit to keep a good pace, but it wasn't so bad. For the first test the balance was good.”
Lorenzo ended up third fastest, thought having to abort his race simulation after only five laps didn’t make him happy. Still, he was positive about the progress then team had made with both the new tires and the new fuel regulations (down to 20 liters, one liter less than last year). His 1:59.866 also came in the morning session – on just his second lap of the day.
“I think we improved a lot the lap time from yesterday but I didn't make a perfect lap,” Lorenzo said. “Maybe with softer tires we could make a 1:59.5 or a 1:59.6. 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. 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.”
If Rossi being second was a surprise to some, then Aleix Espargaro ending up fourth on the “Open” class NGM Forward Racing Yamaha was a shocker. The Spaniard was quick on all three days and he ended up the fourth and final rider to crack the two-minute barrier with his 1:59.998 also coming very early on day three.
LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl was fifth fastest at the end of the test - .579 of a second off Marquez’s best and unable to sneak into the 1:59s. The German had a crash in the same corner he suffered a broken ankle in October’s GP, but he escaped this one uninjured.
If Marquez’ teammate Dani Pedrosa came into the test with the feeling of some fire under his feet, he left with them blazing as he ended up sixth overall with a best of 2:00.223. The elder statesman of the Repsol Honda team also had an off-track excursion early in the day.
Andrea Dovizioso rode the factory Ducati to the seventh fastest time – his 2:00.370 a best for a Ducati at the circuit. His day three lap was a .776 of a second improvement over day two and it put him some .7 of a second faster than this new teammate Cal Crutchlow, the Brit ending up 12th best.
Class rookie Pol Espargaro ended up faster than his teammate Bradley Smith, the non-defending Moto2 World Champion finishing eighth overall and 1.122 seconds down on Marquez. Smith ended up 11th.
Another Ducati rounded out the top 10, but it was the Pramac Racing entry of Andrea Iannone and not Crutchlow. Iannone bested Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista for the 10th spot.
Drive M7 Aspar’s Nicky Hayden ended up 13th on the new RCV1000R “Open” class Honda.
The MotoGP riders will return to Sepang for more testing later in the month – February 26-28.
Sepang, Malaysia, February 5, 2014
1. Marc Marquez (Honda) 1:59.533
2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:59.727
3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:59.866
4. Aleix Espargaro (NGM Yamaha) 1:59.998
5. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 2:00.112
6. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2:00.223
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 2:00.370
8. Pol Espargaro (Yamaha) 2:00.655
9. Andrea Iannone (Ducati) 2:00.725
10. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 2:00.788
13. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 2:01.514
14. Colin Edwards (NGM Yamaha) 2:01.731