Three-time MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo sent a warning to his rivals by setting the fastest ever two-wheeled lap of the Sepang circuit on the third and final day of 2018’s opening pre-season test session.
The Spaniard fired his Ducati around the Malaysian circuit in a time of 1:58.830 to head the timesheets from countryman Dani Pedrosa and Britain’s Cal Crutchlow.
While the Malaysian test gives a barometer of the season ahead, it is also one of the most important for the manufacturers as they decide upon which aerodynamic and engine specifications to settle on before racing starts in Qatar on March 1st. All of the factory teams trialled a wide range of engine specifications and fairings, with Ducati and Yamaha both debuting ‘winged’ fairings that differed from those publically unveiled earlier in the month, while Honda brought along a dramatic looking aero fairing and three different engine specifications.
“I leave Sepang very satisfied with the work that we have done over the last three days, not only because of the time that I set today, but also because I’m convinced that many aspects of the bike have improved since last year,” said Lorenzo. “Now I feel it’s better adapted to my riding style and I feel more at home when I’m riding it, but we still have to understand a few things to be able to get the best out of its potential. We are only at the start of the year but the sensations are already good and now it will be important to confirm them in the next test in Thailand.”
Yamaha duo Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales had topped the times after day two of the test but mysteriously lacked outright grip on the third and final day. Despite ending way down in 18th on the third day, but seventh on combined times, Vinales remained upbeat, commenting:”Today it’s been difficult. I don’t know why we lost time, especially in the afternoon – in the morning it went quite well. Anyway, we worked hard, trying to improve, so now we have to check the data and see what we can improve on in Buriram, there we’ll know more. I think the new fairing is really positive, because I felt an improvement in acceleration, so let’s see. I think the circuit in Buriram has many points of acceleration, so we can test it even better there.”
Although finishing down in eighth after the three days, world champion Marc Marquez was happy with his first outing of the year, confirming that he and fellow Honda riders Crutchlow and Pedrosa were working on different parts. He said “Today I feel very happy because we worked hard and quite well. We even did a long run of 15 laps around three o’clock, when the temperature on track was very high, and our pace was good. In the afternoon we kept trying different things and ultimately didn’t really make a time attack, but I felt very good on the bike. We need to check the new aerodynamics better, and on another circuit, as we want to make the right choice. On the other hand, I think we did a great job on the engine, even if we’re still not at 100 per cent with the setting. Generally speaking, I think Dani, Cal and I were working in slightly different ways, and we gathered a lot of information that will be useful for Honda to prepare a good base.”
MotoGP testing continues in just over a fortnight, when the teams move to the new Buriram circuit in Thailand on 16-18 February.
Combined Results MotoGP IRTA Test Sepang International Circuit 2018
1. Jorge Lorenzo (ESP), Ducati, 1:58.830 min, 109/130 laps (Day 3)
2. Dani Pedrosa (ESP), Honda, +0.179 sec, 121/170 (Day 3)
3. Cal Crutchlow (GBR), Honda, +0.222, 94/141 (Day 3)
4. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA), Ducati, +0.339, 83/118 (Day 3)
5. Jack Miller (AUS), Ducati, +0.516, 98/123 (Day 3)