MotoGP riders rolled into 2016 at Sepang in Malaysia for the first of three days of testing ahead of the start of the season in March. At the end of the opening session, 2015 World Champion Jorge Lorenzo of Movistar Yamaha led the way on the timesheet, logging his best effort late in the day. Lorenzo’s teammate, Valentino Rossi, also clocked his best time just before the session concluded. And while The Doctor finished second-fastest, he was over one second adrift of Lorenzo. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa ended in third.
It’s been more than two months since competitors turned laps in the final race of 2015 at Valencia. The first official 2016 preseason test marks the first time riders were outfitted with the spec electronics and Michelin tires together. Lorenzo’s new YZR-M1 proved potent as ever, even with Lorenzo suffering jetlag fatigue and a slight illness which required him to start taking antibiotics. His best lap was only 0.078 below his fastest lap in the 2015 race at Sepang. After getting up to speed he was extremely consistent as well, notching seven laps below the 2’02 mark, and three laps inside the 2’00 range. He was the only rider during the day to dip into the 2’00s.
“I‘m very happy and surprised about the feeling I had today with the Michelin tires,” said Lorenzo in a team press release. “The lap times were relatively easy to achieve and every time we exited pit lane we improved something on the bike to understand the electronics better and they adapted very well to the Michelin tires. I‘m very happy with the change, because Sepang, for me, is always difficult.”
Rossi was pleased with the improvement in the front end and satisfied with the performance of the electronics, which he is quoted as saying “already work quite well.” This all equated to a bike which felt much more like his machine in 2015.
Pedrosa, and his teammate Marc Marquez, were charged with evaluating Honda’s engine updates, riding early in the session on the kit used previously at Jerez and then moving to the new engine spec later in the day. It’s still very much a work in progress, especially when teamed with the new tires and electronics.
“Today we had to work very hard on several things but the positive part is that Honda know this and are working on things in Japan,” said Pedrosa in a Repsol release. “Using my experience I am giving my all to try to provide them with as much information as possible, and advance in every area possible. We shall see if we can finish the test with a better feeling than when we started. We also have to continue testing the Michelins and putting in more kilometers with them. They have made some positive changes, although we still need to work more to improve the feeling. We will continue working and evolving throughout this test.”
Octo Pramac Yakhnich’s Danilo Petrucci finished in fourth position, feeling immediately comfortable on the Desmosedici GP15. Ducati’s Andrea Iannone got back to speed on his GP15 as well, but later switched to the 2016 version for an initial shakedown at the track. He finished the day fifth-fastest. Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera trailed in sixth on the Ducati Desmosedici GP14.2 followed by Marquez in seventh and Petrucci’s teammate, Scott Redding, in eighth.
Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro posted the ninth-fastest lap in what was an extremely busy day. He and teammate Maverick Vinales, 11th fastest, were presented with numerous new parts for the GSX-RR, including an updated engine spec, new frame and seamless gearbox among others. Both riders had three bikes at their disposal, a 2015 version and two 2016 editions. Focus was primarily on developing a direction in terms of electronics, but both riders had a chance to test the new engine and transmission, both of which received positive remarks from the riders. Espargaro did suffer an engine failure during the day, but it was on his 2015 machine.
“Today we started our job and tried a couple of things and to me it seems we have a good potential,” said Espargaro in Suzuki team press. “The first thing I tried was the seamless gearbox, I wanted to try it because in November I couldn’t be here because of the accident I had; we still have some work to finalize it, we need to find some fine-tuning in its set-up, but the improvement from the standard transmission is very important. I also like the engine with the new specs; to me it looks to have gained a good power distributed over all the curve, which is good for the riding feeling. As a matter of fact we verified this feeling lapping without the traction control for many runs and my impression is that this new spec is very positive.”
LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow split the Suzuki teammates with the 10th fastest time aboard an HRC factory chassis with a version of the 2015 RC213V engine.
Further down the line, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista brought up the rear in 20th and 21st, the two riders turning laps on last year’s machine in search of a base set-up that can be transferred to the 2016 prototype, due to be debuted later in the year.
New Ducati test rider Casey Stoner will join the field during Tuesday’s session, making his first appearance on track with the GP grid since 2012. He made his debut on the new Ducati a few days earlier at Sepang and was cited as logging a 2’02.1 lap time, which would have placed him seventh ahead of Marquez in the times set on Monday.
2016 MotoGP Sepang Test Day 1 Results
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2’00:684
2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 2’01.717
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2’01.780
4. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) 2’01.811
5. Andrea Iannone (Ducati) 2’01.912
6. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 2’02.002
7. Marc Marquez (Honda) 2’02.278
8. Scott Redding (Ducati) 2’02.338
9. Aleix Espargaro (Suzuki) 2’02.539
10. Cal Crutchlow (Honda) 2’02.586
11. Maverick Vinales (Suzuki) 2’02.645
12. Pol Espargaro (Yamaha) 2’02.646
13. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 2’02.650
14. Yonny Hernandez (Ducati) 2’02.916
15. Bradley Smith (Yamaha) 2’03.026
16. Michele Pirro (Ducati) 2’03.203
17. Loris Baz (Ducati) 2’03.204
18. Tito Rabat (Honda) 2’03.463
19. Eugene Laverty (Ducati) 2’03.565
20. Stefan Bradl (Aprilia) 2’03.978
21. Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) 2’04.075