MEDIA RELEASE/MOTOGP - Photo: supplied History-making margins decide the difference in Thailand as Martin gets…
MEDIA RELEASE/MOTOGP – Photo: supplied
Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales were split by 0.013s on the first Official day of testing in Malaysia as 2022 kicks off.
2022 pre-season testing couldn’t have started any better for Aprilia Racing as Aleix Espargaro’s 1:58.371 handed the Spaniard top spot honours on Day 1 at the Sepang Test, as teammate Maverick Viñales claimed P2 having lapped just 0.013s off his compatriot. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was third quickest on a busy opening day in Malaysia, with plenty of updated parts making an appearance.
During the Shakedown Test, Aprilia Racing Technical Director Romano Albesiano explained how the 2022 RS-GP is like “moving a building two metres away, it’s not a big change, but you have to move everything.” Basically, the bike is a completely new machine, albeit similar to the one we saw return to fighting at the front in 2021. And early indications suggest that both Aleix Espargaro and Viñales are enjoying themselves, with Viñales especially enjoying that the new RS-GP is narrower than last year’s.
On the ninth lap of the day, Aleix Espargaro slammed in a 1:58.371, one of the fastest-ever two-wheel laps at the Sepang International Circuit, with Viñales going just 0.013s slower than his teammate with 13 minutes left on the clock on Day 1. 98 laps were completed between the pairing as the Noale factory, and although both riders took part in the Shakedown Test and are already well into the groove, Espargaro and Viñales have well and truly started the new season on the front foot.
For Suzuki, the day started well and ended well on the timesheets as Rins and Team Suzuki Ecstar teammate Joan Mir were joined on duty by test rider Sylvain Guintoli. Between them, the three put in over 180 laps. Rins crashed early on at Turn 9, rider ok, but the number 42 ended the day in third overall – starting there, dropping down a couple of places and then catapulting himself back ahead of Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™).
Mir joined Rins in the top five early on before the 2020 Champion dropped down to seventh on the timesheets. With Suzuki looking for a little more power, the new engine has already been put through a good few paces and that work continued for the Hamamatsu factory. The ride height device – debuted halfway through 2021 – is a key focus too, and the GSXRR was spotted with the carbon-reinforced chassis already seen on track during testing at Misano and Jerez last year.
At Ducati, it was a more muted day on the timesheets for some of the more established riders, but that could speak to a sense of serenity in not yet going for a time attack. The fastest Borgo Panigale machine was Enea Bastianini as he settles into life at Gresini Racing MotoGP™ and on the GP21, the ‘Beast’ shooting straight out the blocks into second for much of the day with a 1:58.638. He was fourth by the end of play with that laptime, with Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) for close company in fifth.
The next Ducati on the timesheets was a stunning performance from Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) in P10. The Italian’s 1:59.468 was no mean feat and sees him end Day 1 as the fastest rookie.
For those testing more than settling in, focus remained on the engine and the interesting exhaust evolutions brought by the Borgo Panigale factory. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and teammate Jack Miller had the new tail exhaust on both machines, as did Zarco. Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin had one to try too, and he was the fastest of the four in P17 just ahead of Mooney VR46 Racing Team’s Luca Marini. Bagnaia was P19 ahead of Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) as the rookie got back out… and Miller ended the day in P22. Ducati time attacks will be a huge point of interest on Day 2.
The biggest talking point regarding the 2022 Yamaha YZR-M1 is the engine. We know the Iwata factory are trying desperately to squeeze some more top speed from their package, so five days of pre-season testing are vital for them to see if work over the winter has paid off. Elsewhere, though, there’s plenty of external updates to have a look at.
There’s some new front aero, similar to the one seen on the Aprilias, while Yamaha have also been testing an additional set of wings that sit further down on the side fairings. Knee supports have been spotted, too, as have some silver wheels. These were seen on Ducatis at some Grands Prix in 2021, and it supposedly helps keep the tyre a bit cooler. An intriguing addition.
Reigning World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was the leading Yamaha rider on Day 1 with a 1:59.002, the history-making Frenchman was 0.6s from Aleix Espargaro’s effort. Test Rider Cal Crutchlow was back on track and completed 47 laps, a best of a 1:59.558 put the British rider 11th on the timesheets.
Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Andrea Dovizioso (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team) – both running 2022 YZR-M1s were unable to dip into the 1:59s, while rookie Darryn Binder’s (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team) best was a 2:00.818 – another 45 laps under the South African’s belt.
The main talking point heading into the Sepang Test was the return of eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). After recovering from a second bout of diplopia, the number 93 was back on an RC213V for the first time since October 2021 and headed out on last year’s bike first to reacquaint himself with MotoGP™. It wasn’t long before Marc Marquez was out on Honda’s 2022 package though, and despite small crash at Turn 9 in the morning, followed by another small tumble towards the end of the day at Turn 15, all seemed well with the Spaniard. A 1:59.287 and 62 laps put Marc Marquez in eighth place on the timesheets, a solid day at the office.
Factory teammate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) got straight down to business with the 2022 model, the latest spec Honda have that has been updated from the Jerez Test, with one of Takaaki Nakagami’s (LCR Honda Idemitsu) machines running a never-before-seen chassis. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) was lapping on the 2022 Honda as all four riders put in the work on Day 1.
The tail unit, the exhaust that runs past the tail unit, some aero, and a new engine were also on the checklist for the Japanese giants, as well as more than four chassis – according to our trusty eyes on the ground. It’s Honda’s biggest change, within the same set of rules, in MotoGP™ and the early signs are very much positive. Pol Espargaro ended the day in ninth, less than a tenth off Marc Marquez, while Nakagami and Alex Marquez ventured into the 1:59s.
Brad Binder led the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing ranks on Day 1. The South African ended the day in P14, with teammate Miguel Oliveira in P16 – both within the high 1:59s. The two factory riders took over from the test line-up of Mika Kallio and MotoGP™ Legend Dani Pedrosa as KTM were focused on their new engine and a different air intake, as well as different aero. Both Binder and Oliveira suffered small crashes at Turn 8.
Aside from the technical novelties – and the arrival of new Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager Francesco Guidotti – there’s an all-new line-up at Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing too. And the fastest KTM on Day 1 was in fact Tech 3’s rookie sensation Raul Fernandez. He put in a 1:59.682 to end the day in P13. Moto2™ World Champion Remy Gardner, fighting through the pain barrier after breaking his wrist in training, put in a 2:00.470 and managed 60 laps.
The second and final day of testing in Sepang takes place on Sunday, so stay tuned to motogp.com for videos, highlights, interviews, reports, After the Flag (10:30 CET) and more!
Top 10 Day 1:
1. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) – 1:58.371
2. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) + 0.013
3. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.100
4. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) + 0.267
5. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.575
6. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.631
7. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.696
8. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.916
9. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.982
10. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 1.097
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