The first official Moto GP test of the 2014 season is over. The fast Sepang track in Malaysia, unusually, stayed dry and not impossibly hot, giving some interesting indicators of the season ahead – although it’s always important to remember that one test does not make a season.
No big shock – defending world champion Marc Marquez destroyed everyone else with his Repsol Honda, finishing nearly half a second ahead of the next-quickest rider.
His quickest time, by the way, set a new absolute track record, breaking Casey Stoner’s time from 2012.
First surprise was that Valentino Rossi was second quickest, albeit only a 10th of a second ahead of his Yamaha factory team-mate Jorge Lorenzo. Second surprise, and perhaps the biggest of the test session, was Aleix Espargaro, fourth on his “Open” class Yamaha and ahead of all the other factory and official satellite riders.
Third surprise was that the Open Hondas were so far back. Nicky Hayden was the quickest (and apparently had considerable set-up help from the factory techs as well as his own Aspar team) but was well back, 13th overall and a second and a half behind Espargaro. Hayden wasn’t a happy camper, and the Honda pits from HRC boss Suhei Nakamoto down were noticeably upset about how their bike compared to the Yamaha.
Fastest Ducati was Andrea “Crazy Joe” Ionnone, his Pramac bike ahead of both factory entries of Andrea Dovizioso and new hire Cal Crutchlow. Yonny Hernandez, on the only Open entry Ducati, was 18th and last in the final order, two seconds slower than Ianonne’s time.
Ducati seems to have gone nowhere with its latest GP14 entry, and is seriously considering entering all (or at least more) of its bikes in the Open category. While limiting the team to the standard Marelli software, it also allows much more experimentation with engine and chassis changes, plus a higher fuel allotment, more engines for the season, and more tire choices. It’s looking like a long year for new team boss Gigi Dall’Igna and the boys in red.
The next test is back at Sepang at the end of February, by which time Ducati will have to declare which class they’ll be running in.
Top 10 fastest times at Sepang
1. Marc Marquz, Spain, Repsol Honda, 1.59.533
2. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Yamaha Factory Racing, 1.59.727
3. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 1.59.866
4. Aleix Espargaro, Spain, NGM Mobile Forward Racing, 1.59.998
5. Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 2.00.112
6. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 2.00.223
7. Andrea Ianonne, Italy, Energy T.I. Pramac Racing Ducati, 2.00.37
8. Pol Espargaro, Spain, Monster Yamaha Tech 3, 2.00.655
9. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 2.00.725
10. Alvaro Bautista, Spain, Go&Fun Honda Gresini, 2.00.788