MotoGP 2015: Marc Marquez tops the first pre-season test in Sepang as Honda set the benchmark

Suzuki and Aprilia returned to the field while Yamaha believe they've made significant improvements over the winter

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The Independent Online

The first three-day MotoGP test of 2015 for got underway on last Wednesday in Sepang, Malaysia. Raring to go, there were 30 riders out on track including five test riders from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Aprilia. Pre-season testing isn’t a huge indicator of what to expect for the season ahead with the priority being testing various parts across the teams. Concluding the test on Friday however, the five fastest riders all set times under the circuit lap record of 1 min 59.79 sec, with reigning world champion Marc Marquez smashing the record, and being the sole rider to break into the 1 min 58 sec barrier.

The first day had HRC’s Dani Pedrosa at the top of the timesheets for most of the morning, but the rest of the day was dominated by nine times World Champion Valentino Rossi. With three different chassis to test at Honda, Marquez put in the most laps in the morning yet sat 6th in the timesheets by lunchtime. He then pipped Rossi to the top within the last five minutes of the day, stealing the fastest lap by 0.11s, less than 0.8s off last years fastest pre-season test time. Pedrosa meanwhile ended the day in the gravel after a slow speed crash at turn 9.

Briton Cal Crutchlow, the former World Supersport Champion who having ridden with Ducati last year and Yamaha Tech 3 the two years before, has now joined CWM LCR Honda and at the end of the first day, commented on the RC213v being the most physically demanding bike he has ever ridden. Pleased with his progress over the duration of the test, key work was made on corner entry.

New teammate Jack Miller, making the big step up from Moto3 to the premier class, appears to be taking it in his stride getting to grips with Honda. A slow speed crash early on the second day of the test meant missing the opportune window for setting a fast lap at the hot circuit in Malaysia, and whilst he may have dented his confidence slightly, is learning as much as possible with every outing and making progress, setting a fastest lap of 2 min 01.89 sec.

Jorge Lorenzo in pre-season action at Sepang

Taking over Crutchlow’s seat at Ducati is Andrea Iannone who whilst improving corner speed and braking stability, has made great progress with the Desmosedici GP14.3 finishing in 3rd place on the final day with a fastest lap of 1.59.38s. Ducati are without their GP15 machine, though promised that they will be developing this further at the next test at the end of this month. Andrea Dovisiozo put in strong times throughout the three-day test and finishes just one second behind the pacesetter.

In the Yamaha camp, Jorge Lorenzo has been training all winter to be fit for this test, desperately trying to put 2014 in the distant past no doubt, and losing five kilos in the process. Arriving fresh from the Movistar launch in Madrid and talking confidently about the progress Yamaha have made with the YZR-M1, he progressed from third fastest on the first day to topping the timesheets on the second day, 0.6 seconds faster than his previous best.

The final day finished with a 5th place with fastest time of 1 min 59 sec. On the other side of the garage, Rossi, who bolted out the box on the first day, then spent the second battling with chattering and the rest of the test working on electronics and parts including a new swingarm. Whilst also carrying out race simulations on Friday, he concluded the test in 4th place. Both are very happy with the progress Yamaha have made over the winter and hope to arrive at Qatar with the most competitive M1 yet.

Returning factories Suzuki and Aprilia haven’t make a huge impression as such, although on the second day Aleix Espargaro was in the top 10 on the new Suzuki GSX-RR, just 1.38 seconds behind the pacesetter on the second day and 1.61 seconds on the final day.

Michelin began testing tyres for 2016 at the circuit on Saturday, and the next test will be again in Sepang, beginning on 23rd February.