News 29 Jan 2018

Pedrosa sets pace as MotoGP testing opens at Sepang

Four Ducatis in the top five following Sunday's first day.

Image: Supplied.

Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa was fastest on the opening day of 2018 MotoGP testing at Sepang, Malaysia, on Sunday, leading Ducati Team duo Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo by three-tenths of a second.

The first day of 2018 MotoGP action began with the majority of the field setting some laps, but then waiting it out as the track began to dry, so the season began on wets, before slicks began to appear up and down pit-lane.

Pedrosa and teammate Marc Marquez had 2018 protoype machines as well as 2017 spec R213Vs in the Repsol Honda garage. Pedrosa put in 56 laps and blasted ahead on his final run at 1m59.427s, with the reigning champion on the other side of the garage doing 51 and moving up to P7 late in the day.

LCR Honda Castrol’s Cal Crutchlow was also testing for HRC with 2018 protoypes and the Brit had three machines in the pit-box. He earned the honour of first crasher of the season, but did also play guinea pig by heading out first on slicks. Critchlow was ninth on the time-sheets.

Hot on their heels over in the Ducati garage and following test rider Casey Stoner’s positivity on the new GP18 after private tests, Dovizioso and Lorenzo had both the GP17 and the GP18 with which to put in their laps. Dovizioso spent some time on top before being deposed later in the day, but the Italian charged back up to second overall by the end of action.

Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) made it three Ducatis in the fastest four as he took P4, just ahead of new teammate Jack Miller, who made it 80 percent Borgo Panigale machinery in the top five as he impressed once again.

Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and teammate Maverick Vinales began the day with new fairings, but not the new full carbon-black aero package seen on test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga’s machine. The two men were forces to be reckoned with on the time-sheets until a final time attack from some, placing Rossi sixth and Vinales P13.

The first man out on wets in the morning was Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech3) as the lights went green and the Frenchman had some new – to the Tech3 team – aero to test. He ended the day in eighth position, while Yonny Hernandez was 23rd as he joined Tech3 for the first time in place of Jonas Folger.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing impressed once again as they head into their second season. Pol Espargaro was on the pace from the off and completed the top 10, with teammate Bradley Smith in P17. Test rider Mika Kallio was also on track, only completing seven laps.

After taking a wrong turn with the engine in 2017, Team Suzuki Ecstar were forced to develop around the problem, but now think they’re in a much better direction with their 2018 engine specification. Ex-rookie Alex Rins was their top rider on the first day in P11, with Andrea Iannone taking 16th, but only four-tenths further back.

Aprilia were working on weight distribution and improving the power over the winter, re-evaluating their findings with riders Aleix Espargaro and Scott Redding from now on. Espargaro put Aprilia Racing Team Gresini in 14th, with Redding starting to settle in in P21.

It was Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) who emerged from the first day as the fastest rookie, riding a 2017 Honda this season and putting in a good amount of laps to claim 12th overall. Reigning Moto2 champion Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda) was next up in terms of debutants in P18.

Fellow rookies Xavier Simeon (Reale Avintia Racing) and Tom Luthi (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda) were also on track, with Swiss rider Luthi now having successfully completed his first day in the premier class after being forced to sit out the Valencia test through injury.

Detailed results