The MotoGP elite got its first taste of the all-new Circuit of the Americas as Honda and Yamaha opened a three-day private test. Repsol Honda rookie Marc Marquez topped the timesheet ahead of teammate Dani Pedrosa and LCR Honda satellite rider Stefan Bradl. Honda trio led the Factory Yamaha team of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, who were more than a second off the leader at the conclusion of Day 1.
Riders settled in to learn the COTA layout, which will host Round 2 of the 2013 season on April 21 – the first of three USGP rounds this year. The Texas track circuit, located near Austin, is notable for its elevation changes and, at 3.426-miles, as the third-longest on the schedule – behind Sepang (3.447 miles) and Silverstone (3.666 miles).
Marquez reported positively about his first-ever visit to COTA, stating in a Repsol press release: “The first day in Austin went pretty well. It is a fun circuit, because there's not a single bump on the track. There was no grip at the start and we were sliding around a lot, but gradually the lines were cleaned up and we could tackle it better. In the first part of the track, where the flowing chicanes are all linked up, it is a very tricky section. It is a physically demanding part of the circuit where you have to use a lot of strength to change direction quickly. It is definitely a key point of the track.
"There are three right-handers later on, all linked together, making it hard to find the ideal line. We are finding our way steadily though. Today was all about learning those lines, rather than trying out too many things with the bike. Tomorrow we will start to adapt the gearing and the electronics, as we have a lot of work ahead of us."
HRC factory Honda teammate Pedrosa said: "It is a new circuit –and a very different one at that. This makes it important to put in plenty of laps, to get your reference points established: Braking markers, gear changes, finding out whether you are best off in second or third gear -things like that. It was good to ride a lot of laps today, and also to see how the tires faired.
"The track has a lot of tight corners –above all Turn 1– but there are also flowing chicanes and some long straights. The pace and direction changes from section to section, which is a little strange at first. However, after so many laps, you get the hang of the track. Even if the grip levels aren't especially good, the overall feeling is positive."
The Factory Yamaha team press release stated its riders’ early opinion of the new circuit. Defending MotoGP champ Jorge Lorenzo said: “I think it’s very important to come here and learn the track. I haven’t learnt 100% of it, I need more laps to learn my lines, but for the moment it’s a very beautiful track which is very complete with every kind of corner.
"In the beginning it was difficult to understand the lines but I have improved 3 seconds from the first lap today, that means it's a hard track to learn and a difficult track to go to the maximum on. I think it helps more than some other places to have this extra time. I think three or four practices before the race will not be enough to understand it so some of the riders who didn’t come here will have a little disadvantage.
"The wind has been a little bit of a problem, especially on the longer straight where you arrive over 340km/h, you feel a lot of unstable feelings. Almost all the track is tricky, there’s some very hard braking and also tight hairpins. The first sector is flowing but it is very hard to find a good line because it’s blind.
"We’re getting used to the track but also trying to solve a problem at maximum lean where we don’t have full confidence. We have to change the setting a bit to make it better. The tarmac is not perfect with only four bikes on it to clean it so it’s difficult to understand if it’s very grippy or not. It’s hard to know if it will be much better at the race weekend or just a little bit.”
Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi said: “I really like the track, my first impression is that it is beautiful. It’s very flowing with a lot of fast corners and a lot of change of direction; it is fun on the bike! There are three hairpins that are very tight; this is better for Formula 1 overtaking, but for us they are a bit slow. In general the track is good. There is some downhill and uphill and first braking zone is very good.
"We have to understand which tire to use, but the asphalt surface doesn't have any rubber on it at the moment so there is not so much grip at the moment. The uphill at turn one helps to stop the bike, which is beautiful. For me turn two is the best though and after you enter into the chicane which is very similar to Silverstone. The straight is very long, which is maybe good for overtaking.
"The city is great, the atmosphere is very good so I think it is a very good place for a race. It's very important to have this time as the track is so difficult, there are a lot of blind corners where you have to understand where to brake.
"We will continue to work on the line to understand the track and also to increase the rear grip on the bike as we suffer in acceleration. The first feeling is positive.
"It’s important for MotoGP to have a third race in America, we have a lot of good riders from the USA so it’s right to be here.”
Yamaha team manager Massimo Meregalli stated the duo is working on baseline settings, starting with their Sepang setup and fine-tuning from there. He indicated that if the team gathers enough data on Wednesday, it will not stay to participate in the final day of testing.
COTA MotoGP Test Day 1 Results:
1 - Marc Marquez (Honda) 2:05.620
2 - Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2:06.140
3 - Stefan Bradl (Honda) 2:07.307
4 - Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2:07.388
5 - Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 2:07.924