HONDA riders departed Malaysia’s Sepang MotoGP circuit knowing their teams have a lot of work to do to ahead of the second official pre-season test on Australia’s Phillip Island in a fortnight.
It was Yamaha and Ducati who dominated the testing times as the grid settled into working with he new standardised ECU units and Michelin tyres.
Jorge Lorenzo was in imperious form over the three days of testing — but as Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi observed — the reigning champion seemed to be focused on short sessions while putting the hammer down.
Be that as it may, Lorenzo continued where he left off in 2015 by dominating the Sepang test to finish 0.515s ahead of the rest of the field.
Lorenzo was almost a second faster than the rest of the field on Monday, and he set the fastest time on the hard rear tyre on Tuesday after the soft option was withdrawn due to Loris Baz’s crash.
He then managed to go even quicker on the hard tyre on Wednesday — moved to the top of the timesheets with a 2min 00.882s. After his teammate Valentino Rossi briefly took over the lead, he returned to the top of the rankings with a 2min 00.016s lap time just before rain clouds gathered over the Malaysian circuit again, putting a halt to the track action.
With a little more than an hour left to go, he resumed his testing and headed back out to set the first lap under the 2min mark of the three-day test, which only the Spaniard himself could improve on when he set a best lap of 1‘59.580s.
He ended the test 0.515s clear of he second placed Danilo Petrucci, who set his fastest time on the soft tyre, and 0.976s ahead of the nearest rider that also set his time on a hard rear tyre, his teammate Rossi.
“Jorge) feels very good with the tyres and with the bike, he ride more at the limit and he ride better,” Rossi told a press conference on Wednesday.
“But it is just the first test. Sincerely, I did a lot of ‘dirt work’ compared to him, more laps and everything, he concentrated more on the performance. But anyway his lap time is impressive for everybody.
“So for me and all the other guys, we are behind. We have to understand the way to go closer. He is very good everywhere, he brakes hard, he enters the corner very fast and he is able to ride with good corner speed, so at this moment he is in good shape and he rides the bike very well.”
Marquez highlighted the new spec-ECU as the biggest issue affecting his ability to find a consistently fast rhythm on the Honda as he ended the test on Wednesday third quickest with a lap in 2m 01.047s.
“It was a little bit easier to keep the pace but anyway we are struggling and we are far from where we want to be. It’s a big question mark even for us because the problem for me is that with the electronics, we are too far from the level,” Marquez said.
“I concentrated on the new engine, but it’s what I say – with the electronics we are far, but it means that if we are far with the electronics, it is difficult to compare things because the limit is in the electronics and we must fix.”
In the Ducati camp, retired Australian double MotoGP champion Casey Stoner showed he had lost little of his skills when he emerged quickest Desmosedici rider on the final day of the Sepang test.
Stoner was the fastest Ducati rider by 0.147s over Danilo Petrucci (Pramac), in seventh. Factory stars Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso were eighth (+0.153s) and 13th (+0.605s) whilst debuting the 2016 bike.
Riding the GP15, Stoner was classified 1.490s behind Lorenzo, but half-a-second from Rossi.
Yet the Australian again declared he has doesn’t plan on entering a race and likened his new test role to that of an engineer.
“Honestly, I have no plan to race,” Stoner said. “My role is completely changed now. I’m not an engineer, but I’m taking the role of an engineer as a test rider, because a lot of test riders have careers where they want to achieve things and move forward, but I’m interested in each step, what it does, why it does it.”
Stoner will not take part in the two remaining official pre-season tests, at Phillip island and Qatar, but will ride in a private test at the Losail circuit just before the season-opening race.
by Peter McLaren
Honda need to burn the midnight oil to work out the electronic equations to tame the aggressive power delivery of its engines because after the final test at Qatar in early March, the engines will be sealed.
With the exception of Suzuki and Aprilia, the rest of the teams are frozen from developing their engines during the season.