One thing became clear straight away in the opening day of the second three-day MotoGP test in Malaysia: The track was green and the lap times would be slower, at least initially, than they were at the test two weeks ago.
With the slower lap times came some surprises, including the name at the top of the timesheets on day one at Sepang - Team Go & Fun’s Alvaro Bautista, the Spaniard lapping at a best of 2:00.848, which was close to his best from the previous test here. Bautista ended that test at the Sepang International Circuit with the 11th fastest time – a 2:00.788. Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, who is at home in Spain healing his broken right leg, led the previous test with a 1:59.533.
“It's been a very positive first day of testing,” Bautista said in a team release. “We worked very well on the rear end, an area that earlier this month gave us some problems, getting excellent results. Showa has developed a new shock absorber somewhat different compared to the one we used so far, which is suitable for our needs. In addition to the good lap times, even though the track was worst than the first test, I am especially pleased because my feeling with the new Bridgestone tires has improved so much and now I feel comfortable when riding. We are on the right path. Tomorrow morning we will continue to work hard, focusing also on the front end, while in the afternoon if we get the chance we would like to try a first long run.”
If Bautista was a surprise leader of day one, second place was not so much. That spot went to Aleix Espargaro, the NGM Forward Mobile rider lapping at 2:00.900 on the “Open” class Yamaha. Any surprise that came from the older if the two Espargaro brothers had come at the previous Sepang test when he put in the fourth fastest time.
“I’m happy of today’s result,” Espargaro said. “It was important to work on the set up of the second bike and we did it. During the morning session I did only few laps because I couldn’t push as I wanted. We worked also on the electronics and things improved in the afternoon. This is just the first day, tomorrow we will continue working on the second bike.”
Third fastest on the opening day of the test was Espargaro’s younger brother Pol, the 2013 Moto2 World Champion riding the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha. Pol Espargaro clocked a 2:00.999 - .344 off his best from the earlier test when he ended up ninth fastest.
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso put in the fourth best time on day one, the Italian lapping at 2:01.029 -.659 of a second slower than the last test.
“We started the day when the grip on the track was not particularly good,” Dovizioso said. “We did some laps in the morning, but then worked better in the afternoon when the track improved. The first day was positive, because with what we tested we were able to improve the bike, both in the electronics and in set-up. Today we didn’t have much new stuff to try, just different set-ups that seemed to work well. I had a really good feeling towards the end of the day, when I put on a good tire on my final exit and managed to set a good time. Even though the times are not to be considered a reference point, I’m still pretty pleased with the improvement we made today.”
Jorge Lorenzo put the factory Yamaha fifth on the opening day, the Spaniard not happy with the grip levels of the new Bridgestone tires.
“The new rear tires, both the soft and the hard, are not working properly on our M1,” Lorenzo said. “We tried many things, but for the moment we haven’t found any solutions. Tomorrow we are going to try something different with the electronics that worked last year to try to improve a little bit because we are not so good today. The tires don't give me any confidence in the corner entry, in the middle of the corner and on acceleration. It seems Bridgestone will not be providing different tires this year so we have to adapt to the situation.”
He wasn’t alone in his critique of the tires as his teammate Valentino Rossi also complained after ending up seventh fastest on the day.
“The track is not fantastic,” Rossi said. “Especially if you compare it to the first test where it was very good. A lot of cars have used the track and there is some oil in some places, the track is very dirty so it is more difficult to get to a good lap time. In the end we were coming better though. We worked a lot on all aspects; we tried to find a right balance, concentrating on the braking. Especially we tried to make the best setting for the new tires because in the first test we used old tires from 2013 that were good for the M1. We have a problem with the 2014 ones so we have to concentrate to take the maximum benefit from them, but already at the end of today it was not so bad.”
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa split the two factory Yamahas in sixth place, the Spaniard complaining of jet lag.
“Today was not the best day for testing – the track was dirtier than ever and there was no grip,” Pedrosa said. “It was difficult to find a good feeling with the bike, which we only really got at the end of the day. I also had a few problems with jet lag and I haven’t been able to sleep much over the last few days, so I’m not feeling perfect physically. As I say, at the end of the day we managed to go a little better. We’ll see if I can sleep better tonight and we will continue working hard tomorrow.”
LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith and Drive M4 Aspar Honda’s Nicky Hayden rounded out the top 10 from day one.
Sepang Test Day One Results
1. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 2:00.848
2. Aleix Espargaro (Yamaha) 200.900
3. Pol Espargaro (Yamaha) 2:00.999
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 2:01.029
5. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2:01.158
6. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2:01.160
7. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 2:01.349
8. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 2:01.491
9. Bradley Smith (Yamaha) 2:01.644
10. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 2:002.227