2019 MotoGP Test Results—Sepang—News. — All manufacturers had new equipment or redevelopments to test, with Ducati again leading the way among the top factories, at least in outward appearance. Aprilia had a much-changed chassis, aimed at restoring the feeling and performance of the more successful 2017 version; while KTM had a reported 17 tons of freight and pit boxes groaning with piles of new parts.
The GP19 has more power and—according to Dovizioso—better performance also in the corners thanks to chassis upgrades. Of course, he added, “you always want more” and the old problem of mid-corner speed was still something that needed more work. “In the middle of the corner, we still need something.”
Testing, he continued, “does not show the reality”. But the overall feeling was that the direction of development was good, leaving the way open to further refinement
He, factory teammate Petrucci and satellite Pramac team rider Miller exercised the GP19; second Pramac rider Francesco Bagnaia used his late-version GP18 to devastating effect. Reale Avintia riders Tito Rabat and Karel Abraham (14th and 20th) had similar late GP18s.
Apart from the six-wing fairing, the latest bikes featured a return of the drag link to the rear brake caliper (dubbed by some a “torque arm”, surely wrongly). This frees the swingarm from the torque of the rear brake.
More mysterious was a lever on the top triple clamp, operating a cable that disappeared into the headstock area. Speculation marked this down as a possible “holeshot device” that can be actuated to hold the suspension compressed on the start line. This lowers the center of gravity and helps reduce wheelies, and is an idea borrowed from motocross.
The promised cooperation between new “friendly” teammates Petrucci and Dovizioso were especially clear on day one, when the first one led, and then the other.
With its riders already having chosen between revised firing intervals at post-season 2018 tests, they were reporting better power and response, also in a generally improved package.
With Marquez still healing and Lorenzo absent, it was left to factory tester Stefan Bradl (13th) and sixth-fastest Cal Crutchlow to run through the programme on the 2019 bike.
Crutchlow was hampered by his own major leg injury at the Australian GP last year. He said, “I have to lower my expectations because I am already three months behind. The ankle doesn’t bother me on the bike. It bothers me when I stop.”
He reported general all-around improvements, saying, however, “I am not so comfortable on the bike, but that is down to finding settings that suit me better.”
LCR teammate Takaaki Nakagami rode a 2018 machine to a strong ninth overall.
Yamaha’s comments was guarded after the increasingly poor results over the past two seasons. However, the overall confidence level was palpably improved.
This showed most clearly in Vinales’s improved mood, as much as his fastest lap time on day two, and even more a 20-lap race simulation on day three that included five laps in the 1:59 bracket.
It seemed more a matter of general refinement than anything specifically new, with the balance of the bike improved, as well perhaps as the balance in the pit, after a poor relationship last year with departed crew chief Ramon Forcada (now with the satellite Petronas team).
His comments were fairly guarded, but positive, pointing to more consistent performance and steady improvement compared with last year. “The bike was really constant, and I could ride in my way,” Vinales said. He still wanted more power, but “we are more ready than last year.”
Following Hondas and Ducatis, “we were some steps behind, but now we are closer”.
Rossi—who turns 40 on February 16, pronounced himself “half-happy”, after setting a best time some half-a-second off his teammate. At least Maverick’s pace had proved the bike was good, while the Italian said, “I feel good with the bike.
“In the last two years, we were a little bit lost.”
Now some trials had been an improvement and others worse, but “now we have a direction”.
Franco Morbidelli and (rather unexpectedly) rookie Fabio Quartararo both had full-factory-spec bikes in the upgraded and newly Petronas-sponsored satellite team. Only Morbidelli is expected to be kept up to date with developments. Morbidelli was less than a second adrift in eighth; Quartararo impressive enough in 16th.
Talk of a potential switch to V4 power proved to be mere speculation.
The third Japanese bike could teach Yamaha a few lessons on steady development, with Alex Rins impressive for both speed and consistent race pace, and new boy Joan Mir making steady progress to place 15th.
A new chassis emerged on the final day, when Rins posted more 1:59 laps than anybody, although falling to 12th in the single-lap scramble.
The bike was in good race trim, he said, with his eye on potential wins.
“We tried a lot of things, and we need to analyze the data, but we have a good base,” Rins said.
This is important because his (and former teammate Andrea Iannone’s) podium successes last year mean the team no longer has concession privileges, allowing engine development and extra testing.
The acquisition of a new race-department chief—Massimo Rivola, ex-F1 Ferrari—has freed Romano Albesiano to concentrate on machine development, and the early signs were positive, with rider Aleix Espargaro saying that the 2019 bike feels “more like the 2017 version”.
This may not sound like progress, but a misdirection in both engine and chassis last year had proved a backward step, and the consolidation was welcome—as was seventh overall on lap times.
The Spaniard was glowing. “This is the bike I expected last year—a development of the 2017 bike. I can be aggressive, and run fast laps without worrying about crashing.” He was asking for more power, “but from now on we can be better.”
New teammate Andrea Iannone was at half strength and missed the last day entirely, after having been on antibiotics for more than two weeks with a dental infection widely believed to be the result of a second round of cosmetic surgery.
Test rider Bradley Smith took his place on day three and was 23rd.
With a raft of new parts—including aero bodywork—to test, and now four riders to service, the Austrian factory had plenty to do and quite a lot to feel pleased about.
After a very tentative start at the end of last year, new signing Johann Zarco was steadily getting up to speed and refining his requirements. At this stage, top of the list was more engine power. “And for my riding to get better on the corner exit,” Zarco said.
Corner entry worries had to a large extent been solved, Zarco said.
More experienced teammate Pol Espargaro was one place down in 18th. Espargaro was effusive, heralding “an amazing step in race pace.” He added, “everyone has done a bigger step.” The one-lap pace was still a problem, but the rhythm was impressive, with much-improved grip.
Class rookie Miguel Oliveira placed 19th, less than two-tenths slower, but the other rider in the ex-Yamaha KTM team, Hafizh Syahrin, was finding the transition difficult, placed 23rd, with only factory test riders behind him. Michael Scott
2019 MotoGP Test Results—Sepang, Day Three
2019 MotoGP Test Results—Sepang, Day Three.— The third and final day of the Sepang MotoGP test saw Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) scorch to a circuit record of 1:58.239 after 32 laps, but even that stunning lap was not enough to stop everyone talking about the new kid in town in Francesco Bagnaia (Alma Pramac Ducati).
The current Moto2 World Champion scorched his way around the Sepang International Circuit to second overall with a 1:58.302 on the 11th of 21 laps, finishing ahead of teammate Jack Miller, Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati) day two leader Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda). All riders in the top six went quicker than Jorge Lorenzo’s 2018 lap record of 1:58.803, set at the Sepang test in 2018.
“Today we started off on the right foot: I was supposed to try two ‘time attacks’ but one attempt, done with a medium rear tire, was enough,” said Petrucci. “When I saw the lap time on the dashboard, I was really happy. After that, we resumed our work on some new items. Unfortunately, however, I crashed while I was trying a new fairing around midday. Given the fact that I was also experiencing some issues with blisters in my hands, we decided to stop a bit ahead of schedule to recover and make sure we’re at our best in the next tests in Qatar. Overall, it’s been a really positive test.”
“I’m very happy with the work we’ve done. We’ve created a good base of settings that will help us to have a good start in Qatar,” said Bagnaia. “We still have to work on some electronic details but I have to admit that I’m really happy. The time attack was very good and the pace is not bad either. We will do the race simulation in Qatar.”
Seventh at Sepang went to Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) on the much-improved RS-GP. Following Aliex was Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT), who made his first appearance in the top 10 at the MotoGP test results sheet at Sepang, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi.
The next round of MotoGP tests will be at Qatar on February 23.
2019 MotoGP Test Results—Sepang, Day Three
2019 MotoGP Test Results—Sepang, Day Two.—Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Maverick Vinales blitzed his way to the top of the Day Two times at the 2019 Sepang MotoGP preseason test, completing 63 laps and finishing half a second clear of ECSTAR Suzuki’s Alex Rins (61 laps) and Alma Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller (49 laps).
Following a time attack run late in the day, Vinales posted a 1:58.897, under a tenth of a second outside of then-Ducati rider Jorge Lorenzo’s outright lap record set at the 2018 Sepang preseason.
“Honestly, we tried to work really hard today on the race pace,” Vinales said after Day Two. “We were always using the spec for the race. I felt good and around midday, we made good lap times especially during the race simulation when it was hot, without grip, so I’m actually really happy how we worked today. We made a good improvement on the bike, so we need to try to do this again tomorrow.”
It was a positive day all round for the factory Yamaha team, with Valentino Rossi finishing sixth, 0.728 seconds off his flying teammate.
Rins and Suzuki continue day one pace
Rins was once again runner-up, testing new fairings and various electronic settings as the Suzuki GSX-RR looks to cement its place as a front-running machine in 2019.
“My rhythm and race pace were very good, even on used tires,” Rins said. “We were able to confirm a lot of things, we still need to improve a little bit, but nothing major. Overall, I’m very happy with how it’s all going, and with my lap times too.”
Mission Winnow Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso finished the day in fourth following 60 laps, one place ahead of the impressive Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda, 53 laps), who used a thumb rear brake due to the limited movement from his still injured right ankle/talus. Crutchlow revealed at the start of the test he’d broken the talus in a staggering 17 places following his 2018 Phillip Island crash.
With Rossi sixth, Tito Rabat completed the most laps of anyone with 75, once again put the Reale Avintia Ducati in the top 10 with seventh. A subdued Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) was eighth. Marquez did not participate in a last-minute time attack, preferring instead to take extra care of his still-healing left shoulder following off-season surgery.
Marquez subdued on day two at Sepang
“Today we worked much the same as yesterday and tried a few new things, the most important ones for Honda,” said the 2018 World Champion after 37 laps. “I started the day well,” Marquez said. “But then the shoulder started to get a bit worse so we stopped to be able to run well again tomorrow. I can’t ride exactly how I’d want. Normally I’m a rider who brakes very late and deep but I can’t do that at the moment. I have to brake earlier and smoother.”
Ninth after Day Two went to Dovizioso’s teammate Danilo Petrucci on 65 laps, with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) completing the top 10 after 60 laps.
Red Bull KTM’s Johann Zarco had a much better day in 11th as the Frenchman is still trying to come to terms with his new KTM race machine.
Zarco said, “From the morning, I could start quite fast, and I did a big improvement from what I expect. We were riding on used tires and trying to find the things we want to work (on). In the afternoon it was not easy to say clear comments, but I have to work and get used to the set-up for this bike. Then, the last set of new tires we put on for the last 10 minutes, we could go under two minutes. It is giving me the smile! When you go under two minutes, it gives a big step of happiness. It’s a better improvement than I expect.”
2019 MotoGP Test Results—Sepang, Day Two
2019 MotoGP Test Results — Sepang, Day One. — The first day of the 2019 MotoGP season finished with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) once again defying the odds to go fastest. This was despite the lingering effects of shoulder surgery over the winter break.
The World Champion topped the opening session with a best time of 1:59.621. That put him 0.259 seconds faster than the impressive Alex Rins (Suzuki ECSTAR) and 0.316 seconds in front of Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Vinales.
Marquez completed 29 laps across the day of the first 2019 MotoGP test. He was less than half those of Rins on 61 laps as he tried to ease himself back into the physical demands of riding a MotoGP machine.
Marquez said, “I’m very happy to ride again after a long winter, but I was expecting to be better than I was. I still don’t have full power, for one or two laps it’s ok but I had to change my riding style to compensate. We stopped early to save myself for the rest of the test, there are still two days and we will see what the feeling is. Honda has been working really hard this winter and we tried a few things, but the list is really big. We’re trying the most important things first. The bike is already at a good point, but there’s always more to try before Qatar.”
The first 2019 MotoGP test results sheet saw fourth go to Reale Avintia Ducati’s Tito Rabat, who completed 51 laps for a best time of 1:59.983, with new Mission Winnow Ducati signing Danilo Petrucci rounding out the top five with a 2:00.051 after 54 laps.
Petrucci happy after day one of the 2019 MotoGP test in Sepang
Petrucci said, “It’s been a positive first day. Despite the fact that we didn’t try a flying lap, I was able to be quick right away this morning with medium tires. On the other hand, we still need to improve when temperatures rise and grip levels decrease, so tomorrow we’ll focus on this. Physically I don’t feel fatigued. That means I followed the right conditioning regime over the winter break. For tomorrow, we have a couple of longer runs on schedule during the hottest time of the day. We have a solid base already, which is the most important thing.”
Sixth on day one went to Vinales’ teammate Valentino Rossi on a 2:00.054 after 56 laps. He was one place ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu, 2:00.158, 55 laps), and 2018 MotoGP title runner-up Andrea Dovizioso eighth with a 2:00.197 and 49 laps on the board. HRC test rider Stefan Bradl (2:00.214, 61 laps) and Red Bull KTM’s Pol Espargaro (2:00.313, 44 laps) rounded out the top 10.
The top rookie at Sepang on day one went to Pecco Bagnaia on the Alma Pramac Ducati in 15th (2:00.694, 49 laps). Fellow rookie Joan Mir rode his Suzuki ECSTAR machine to 23rd. He was 1.8 seconds off Marquez with a 2:01.432 after 55 laps.
2019 MotoGP Test Results — Sepang, Day One
For more MotoGP news and results, click here
For more motorcycle road racing news and results, click here