Pedrosa, Marquez & Crutchlow make great progress at first MotoGP test
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Pedrosa, Marquez & Crutchlow make great progress at first MotoGP test
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Honda’s six MotoGP riders today completed their first track outing of 2018 with three gruelling days of testing in tropical conditions at Sepang, Malaysia. The session was the first of three tests before the 2018 MotoGP World Championship commences in Qatar on March 18th.

Honda go into the 2018 season once again defending the triple crown: the Riders World Championship, the Constructors World Championship and the Teams World Championship, following a stunning 2017 during which the factory’s awesome RC213V machine dominated.

Reigning World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V), Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) and third HRC rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) worked tirelessly in the Malaysian heat, with track temperatures reaching a sizzling 54 degrees this afternoon.

The main priority for all three was the evaluation of two new engines for the RC213V; the first of which was tested in Europe last November, the second which was made available for the first time at this test.

Pedrosa ended the three days a close second fastest, less than two tenths off the best lap, after leading the way on day one. Like his fellow HRC riders he also tried HRC’s latest aero package, designed to improve performance. He found the new bodywork has advantages and disadvantages, which will take further development and set-up work to perfect. He enjoyed the extra power and better power delivery of the latest RC213V engine, which HRC engineers will continue to improve in the coming weeks. As always, his primary concern is to create an engine that will look after the bike’s tyres in the later stages of each race.

Marquez had much the same focus as his younger-team-mate, but unlike most of the faster riders who rode their best laps in the cooler morning conditions, he preferred to concentrate his efforts on race-simulations in the heat of the afternoon. He also preferred the latest engine, although he believes that more detail improvements are required to make the power friendlier while accelerating out of the early stages of a corner. Marquez also enjoyed the latest aero package, for which the bike settings will need to be further adjusted.

Briton Crutchlow agreed with Marquez and Pedrosa about the new engine. This confirms that HRC are working in the right direction to compete at the front of MotoGP 2018, which already looks like being the most competitive championship in premier-class history.

This year Honda has six RC213V riders on the MotoGP grid, including three graduates from the Honda-powered Moto2 class: reigning Moto2 World Champion Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS RC213V), Thomas Luthi (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS RC213V) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V).

Former Moto2 race winner Nakagami ended this session an impressive 15th quickest, just 1.2 seconds off the best lap, set by Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati), which is the fastest motorcycle lap ever ridden at Sepang. The Japanese star undertook a race simulation today, which left him in very confident mood for the next tests in Thailand next month.

Reigning Moto2 king Morbidelli was confident he could have further improved his best lap time today, but he left his time attack slightly too late, so that the track surface was to hot and greasy to allow him to better his previous best. He was also hampered somewhat by a finger injury sustained in a minor tumble yesterday.

This three-day outing was a huge event for Luthi, Morbidelli’s main Moto2 title rival last year, who missed the first MotoGP tests this winter due to injuries sustained last season. The Swiss greatly enjoyed his first outing on an RC213V, spending much of the test getting used to the bike and then learning to ride with used tyres. Like Morbidelli, he also suffered a minor tumble yesterday.

MotoGP riders and teams have two further three-day preseason test sessions; the first at the championship’s newest venue at Buriram, Thailand (February 16/17/18), then at Losail, Qatar (March 1/2/3), where the 2018 World Championship starts in March.

Dani Pedrosa 26 - 2nd / 1m 59.009s

“I think we had a positive final day, and a positive test in general here in Sepang. The team did a very good job, as we correctly planned the work schedule for each day. Today we put together all the best aspects from the previous two days and worked on our speed, improving our fast lap and our pace, and completing a long run of almost race distance on a good rhythm. We worked on the engine, aerodynamics, suspension, and tyres – both soft and hard specs. You could say we addressed more or less every area of the set-up, and we got a good general feeling and collected a lot of data. We have to analyse everything more thoroughly, but the feeling was there. Now we look forward to confirming everything on other tracks.”

Cal Crutchlow 35 - 3rd / 1m 59.052s

“It was a positive day today, we were really pleased with the way we worked over the three days and we had another good one today. We pushed for the lap time early in the day, maybe not at the right moment because the track condition was not great and I made a few mistakes on my lap, so overall we’re quite pleased with the outcome to be so fast here, which is not normally a great track for me. We also did a long run today. I started the long run with six laps already on the rear tyre and then I completed another 15 laps. The rear tyre dropped a bit after ten laps of the long run and I also wasn’t on my favoured front tyre. So we didn’t push for a lap time at the end of the day as we’d already completed our programme.”

Marc Marquez 93 - 8th / 1m 59.382s

“Today I feel very happy because we worked hard and quite well. We even did a long run of 15 laps around three o’clock, when the temperature on track was very high, and our pace was good. In the afternoon we kept trying different things and ultimately didn’t really make a time attack, but I felt very good on the bike. We need to check the new aerodynamics better, and on another circuit, as we want to make the right choice. On the other hand, I think we did a great job on the engine, even if we’re still not at 100 per cent with the setting. Generally speaking, I think Dani, Cal and I were working in slightly different ways, and we gathered a lot of information that will be useful for Honda to prepare a good base.”

Takaaki Nakagami 30 - 15th / 2m 00.071s

“It was the last day today and we made quite good progress, I’m really happy to finish like this. My condition is quite good and I’m really happy with the lap time, I just missed out on a 59 lap by one tenth, but it was still a good day. Our race stimulation was also quite good and this is the main priority for us, to try and understand race conditions. I had a good feeling on the bike and we made a good step from yesterday, so I’m pleased and looking forward to the next test in Thailand.”

Thomas Luthi 12 - 25th / 2m 01.126s

“A good day again today, with another step made with the bike and tyres. The conditions were different today; normally it’s fast in the morning and then again in the afternoon when the temperature starts to drop, But today the grip level wasn’t there this afternoon, with no real fast times at the end. Today we worked mostly with old tyres, to understand better how to ride the bike towards the end of the race when the tyres start to slide. This was quite interesting and I think I learnt a lot today. I also got my first MotoGP crash out of the way, after losing the front at turn four. I almost saved it but then the rear went away and down I went. So now I know what that feels like too!”

Franco Morbidelli 21 - 20th / 2m 526s

“When I rode the bike for the first this morning I had some pain in the fingers on my left hand as a result of the crash yesterday, but I was able to continue with some painkillers. This afternoon we made some work with the medium tyre and I was happy with the results. I was able to make a lot of laps and the time was around 2’01 low, which is not so bad with this tyre. Finally we wanted to try a time attack, but the conditions weren’t as good late in the session as they were this morning and I wasn’t able to improve my time. It was the first test of the year, we managed to get a lot of things done and I felt good working with my crew, so I leave here satisfied and looking forward to Thailand.”

31-01-2018, 01:28 PM
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