Jorge Lorenzo sets fastest two-wheeled circuit lap at Sepang: MotoGP first test ends

By | January 30, 2018

Jorge Lorenzo of Ducati tops on the third day of the first MotoGP Test at Sepang on Tuesday. Photo by Srinivasa Krishnan

MotoGP riders complete first preseason session feeling optimistic about the year ahead
The Ducati GP18 has made a sensational start to the MotoGP preseason with Jorge Lorenzo guiding it to the fastest ever two-wheeled lap of Sepang today in a time of 1’58.830. The Spaniard moved ahead of early pacesetter Dani Pedrosa, who was fastest on the opening day but second fastest today, with Cal Crutchlow, Andrea Dovizioso and Jack Miller completing the top five as four manufacturers featured within the top ten. Testing for the premier class continues from 16-18 February at the Buriram circuit in Thailand, which will host a round of the MotoGP World Championship for the first time in October this year, according to a Angel Nieto Team MotoGP release.
The Repsol Honda Team adds that it concluded a positive first test of 2018 in Malaysia, with Dani Pedrosa second-fastest with a best lap time of 1’59.009” and reigning World Champion Marc Marquez just over 3 tenths of a second behind him in seventh place, with a best lap of 1’59.382”.
Third Day’s Report:

Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) decimated the competition on the third and final day of the #SepangTest, setting the fastest ever lap around the Malaysian venue with a 1:58.830. His closest challenger was Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa – the fastest man on Day 1 of the test – who was just over a tenth and a half behind his compatriot. The number 26 is also the holder of the pole lap record. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) took P3, only half a tenth behind the RC213V of Pedrosa ahead of him.

It was a day without the rain that had affected Sunday and Monday’s action, and Lorenzo put in 48 laps overall, topping the timesheets on Lap 21. The Spaniard had also crashed earlier, but then went out and set his best effort. The 1:58.830 lap will not count as the official record due it having been set outside a race weekend, but it is the quickest recorded lap on two wheels. The previous best belonged to Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and was set during testing in 2015. Lorenzo said there were marked improvements in the GP18 when compared to last year’s machine.

Pedrosa did 58 laps and similarly set his quickest lap early, on Lap 9. Only 0.009 away from breaking into the 1:58 bracket, the ‘Little Samurai’ was the quickest Honda of the test. He was working with one bike in the garage sporting Honda’s new aero fairing and one without, whereas teammate Marc Marquez opted to go aero-fairing free on Day 3, saying the innovation needs bigger setup changes to be evaluated. The reigning Champion ended the third day in seventh and got through a long workload of 75 laps; his best a 1:59.382 after opting to forego a timeattack lap.

Behind Crutchlow in third – the Brit another who did a lot of laps, completing 65 – was the second Ducati Team rider of Andrea Dovizioso. ‘DesmoDovi’, like teammate Lorenzo, took a tumble but escaped unscathed. The Italian ended the day just over a tenth off the top three, and completed 51 laps. Just behind him was another impressive performance for another Borgo Panigale machine; that of Alma Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller. Switching from Honda, the Australian proved his adaptation once again with a 1:59.346 as his best after 36 laps – completing the top five despite proving the first crasher of the day.

Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was the rider who broke the Ducati and Honda stranglehold on the timesheets first, going sixth quickest but only 0.002 off Miller and the top five. Rins, who struggled with injury in 2017, has had a rapid start to his sophomore season and put in another half century of laps at Sepang. Teammate Andrea Iannone, after suffering a number of technical issues in testing so far, was twelfth fastest but managed an increased 62 laps for the Hamamatsu factory as they aim to reset after a more difficult 2017.

The top Yamaha was nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, with the ‘Doctor’ slotting into eighth and one of the late improvers. A 1:59.449 on Lap 52 of 54 saw him just pip Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Johann Zarco in the last few minutes of track action, after the number 46 had been second fastest on Day 2. Teammate Maverick Viñales – fastest on Monday – was P18 on the third and final day, but is within the top six overall with his previous best. Both Yamaha riders had their new aero-packages on track, and Independent Team rider Zarco also tried the fairing on Tuesday.

Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) made it both Pramac machines in the top ten on Day 3 as he ended Tuesday 0.017 seconds off Zarco. ‘Petrux’ was also the fourth Independent Team rider within that quickest ten, and just pipped fellow Independent Ducati rider Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) to the honour. Rabat was a crasher on Day 3, but was unhurt. He did 35 laps and was just 0.019 off Petrucci in an incredibly tight midfield on the timesheets. The next quickest Independent Team Ducati was Angel Nieto Team’s Alvaro Bautista, who was P15.

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) led the charge for the Noale factory in P13, and put in his quickest lap on his final exit – the last rider in the 1:59s on Day 3. One of Aprilia’s key focuses has been increasing their horsepower and reconfirming their work over the winter with Espargaro and Scott Redding. Redding continued his adaptation with another 56 laps in the bank.

Meanwhile, at Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, it was test rider Mika Kallio leading the way on the timesheets for the Austrian factory. They debuted a new aero package, and Kallio did a best of 2:00.464. Bradley Smith did a 2:00.969, with Pol Espargaro sitting Tuesday out following his big crash on Monday. The Spaniard has no fractures but the crash, at Turn 4, was a fast one.

Of the four rookies, it was Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) who was the quickest once again on Day 3. The Japanese rider was fourteenth quickest overall with a 2:00.71, tantalisingly close to the 1:59 bracket. Reigning Moto2™ Champion Franco Morbidelli was around half a second off that and second fastest of the new riders in the field – but the number 21 was 0.021 ahead of Viñales for an impressive scalp. Xavier Simeon (Reale Avintia Racing) was a further three tenths back, with Tom Lüthi (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) the final rookie on the timesheets. It is, however, the Swiss rider’s first test on his new machine, having been sidelined for Valencia due to injury. He crashed at Turn 4 in a slow incident, but picked the bike up and continued.

That’s a wrap on the first action of the year, but MotoGP™ will be back before you know it – getting a first taste of Buriram in Thailand ahead of the 2018 debut of the Thailand GP. The test there begins on the 16th February.

Sepang Day 3

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA Ducati Team 1:58.830
2 PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA Repsol Honda Team 0.179
3 CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR LCR Honda 0.222
4 DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA Ducati Team 0.339
5 MILLER Jack 43 AUS Alma Pramac Racing 0.516
6 RINS Alex 42 SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 0.518
7 MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA Repsol Honda Team 0.552
8 ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 0.619
9 ZARCO Johann 5 FRA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 0.681
10 PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA Alma Pramac Racing 0.698
11 RABAT Tito 53 SPA Reale Avintia Racing 0.717
12 IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA Team Suzuki Ecstar 0.785
13 ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1.132
14 NAKAGAMI Takaaki 30 JPN LCR Honda 1.241
15 BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA Angel Nieto Team 1.375
16 KALLIO Mika 36 FIN KTM Test Team 1.634
17 MORBIDELLI Franco 21 ITA EG 0,0 Marc VDS 1.696
18 VINALES Maverick 25 SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1.717
19 ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE Angel Nieto Team 1.744
20 SIMEON Xavier 10 BEL Reale Avintia Racing 1.954
21 REDDING Scott 45 GBR Aprilia Racing Team Gresini