Sepang MotoGP Test – Day 1 roundup
Day 1 of the Official MotoGP™ Sepang Test is now in the history books… Mooney VR46 Racing Team’s Marco Bezzecchi ended the day on top as the Italian set a 1:58.470 to finish 0.130s ahead of second place Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing). There’s more to pre-season than the timesheets though, and there was plenty to see on Friday up and down pitlane. Here’s a rundown of Day 1 at the office for the class of 2023.
There was plenty of interest on Marc Marquez’s (Repsol Honda Team) side of the garage, where the eight-time World Champion had four bikes at his disposal – one that he finished 2022 on, two 2023 bikes that have been seen a few times now, and one with some new, relatively unseen parts on it.
That bike features the new air intake but also sports the aero wings that seem to be the ones Marquez ran in the second half of 2021. In addition, this particular RC213V has the ground effect lower side fairing and an aluminium swingarm – but it’s not the Kalex one. The number 93 admitted that the bike in question had a bit of a “different character”, but the lap time and performance were similar. Marquez was top Honda by the end of play, ending the day in 12th.
New stablemate Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team), meanwhile, had two 2023 Honda machines on his side of the garage and ended the day in P17 – just under half a second from 12th place Marquez – with fellow new HRC rider Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) having a similar setup in his box. The 2022 Valencia GP winner ended the opening day in P18, with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) in P22. The Japanese rider tested two different chassis and two new engines, with focus on getting a good feeling on the bike again having suffered with his hand injury for the latter months of 2022.
The Borgo Panigale factory topped the timesheets with Bezzecchi as the Italian took over late on, and that’s not a huge surprise given the high level of the GP22 that comes out the box and ready to roll for 2023. The laptime was impressive nevertheless.
The headlines in terms of development at Ducati are concentrated on the new machines and, of course, the Ducati Lenovo Team line-up as Enea Bastianini joins reigning Champion Francesco Bagnaia. Bastianini was fastest of the two and third overall, with Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) just five thousandths in arrears in fourth. Bagnaia was fifth, another tenth further back. But what did we see?
Bastianini was on 2022-looking machinery, and so was Bagnaia for much of the day – but the eagle-eyed spotted a small difference. One bike had the ride height device controls on top of the left handlebar and the other one had them on the triple clamp. Later in the day, Bagnaia also headed out on the new aero seen at the Shakedown test.
At Pramac, Martin didn’t seem to be testing anything too new, but teammate Johann Zarco was spotted on the new aero. He was P7 at the end of Day 1. Amongst those on 2022 machinery for the season, Bezzecchi stole the headlines despite a crash at Turn 7, but there were some notable laps from Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) in eighth, with new teammate – and Ducati debutant – Alex Marquez only just behind in P9 as he adapts to a whole new machine. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) was P13.
In the Noale camp, both Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia Racing stablemate Maverick Viñales had three bikes to test on Day 1. Both of the Spaniards had one 2022-spec RS-GP and two 2023-spec RS-GPs, and both were out on the new one from very early on.
As seen at the Shakedown with test rider Lorenzo Savadori, the new RS-GP has an updated aero package, a different tail unit and the exhausts have also had a small update. Moreover, the chassis and swingarm have been slightly updated too, with Team Manager Paolo Bonora admitting to pitlane reporter Simon Crafar that the whole bike is an “evolution”, with plenty of small tweaks from 2022.
After a late time attack, Viñales set a 1:58.600 to finish second on the timesheets having completed 67 laps – the most of anyone – and he was positive about his initial taste of the 2023 RS-GP. Espargaro ended Friday’s action in P6, 0.4s from top spot.
Miguel Oliveira’s (RNF MotoGP™ Team) first morning back on his new RS-GP didn’t go quite as planned after the Portuguese star suffered a small crash in the final sector. Oliveira was unhurt and posted 50 laps to finish P14, with teammate Raul Fernandez continuing his adaptation with 54 laps and a P15 placement.
It didn’t take long for Fabio Quartararo to start lapping with the 2023 aero package that we saw Cal Crutchlow testing at the Shakedown. Both the Frenchman and his Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™ teammate Franco Morbidelli had three bikes in their respective sides of the Iwata factory box as the duo got to work testing Yamaha’s promising new engine.
Both were towards the top of the speed trap charts, further indicating that a solid step has been made in that department. Quartararo was also seen testing a different chassis to his 2022 version, while Yamaha also brought some new downwash ducts to the table on Friday – the first time they’ve tested them.
The 2021 World Champion was upbeat about the top speed gains, but admitted that it still needs work. Understandable with it being the opening day of the test. The throttle connection “is still difficult to judge” and regarding the chassis Quartararo tried, it sounds like that won’t be an update that will be in line to be used in 2023.
Having worked tirelessly during the Shakedown, Crutchlow wasn’t lapping for the opening day and will save his energy for Day 2 and 3, but fellow test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga joined Quartararo and Morbidelli on track. The latter duo completed 117 laps between them, Morbidelli finishing P10 and Quartararo P11.
At Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, it was new arrival Jack Miller who was the lead rider for the Austrian factory on the timesheets and the Australian was also the very first out on track. He ended the day in 16th. Both Miller’s machines were sporting the new aero he tried in Valencia, but that’s not the even newer aero tested by Dani Pedrosa on the third day of the Shakedown.
For Brad Binder, there wasn’t much to see from the outside – suggesting the South African may have been working comparing engine specs – and he was on the aero run throughout 2022 and was 21st.
Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) was the top RC16 for a while, shaving half a second off his best lap from the Shakedown and then ending the day in P19. After using the Shakedown to settle in, Fernandez also had the new seat and tail unit. Teammate Pol Espargaro reportedly had one bike with the new chassis spotted in the hands of Binder in the Valencia Test, and he was just behind his new rookie teammate by the end of play.