Under more seasonable skies than have sometimes greeted the MotoGP paddock upon arrival for the race weekend at Phillip Island in October, the second Official Test of 2017 saw blue prevail over ‘The Island’, but a stiff breeze keeping the grid from heading out straight away – with new Ducati Team arrival Jorge Lorenzo one of the first to get down to work. By the end of Day 1, it was compatriot Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) who topped the timesheets, as the Spaniard put in a 1:29.497.
There were some crashes for the field including Hector Barbera (Reale Esponsorama Racing) and Sam Lowes (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), and two Red Flags on Day 1. One saw animals on track cause a short stoppage, before a crash for Lowes at Turn 6 – rider ok – damaged the tyre barrier and necessitated some repair work.
Marc Marquez, the reigning champion, was proving exactly why he is just that, as he spent the day working with the engine specification chosen in Sepang alongside teammate Dani Pedrosa. The reigning Champion put in 68 laps and set his best on his 53rd, which would seal the deal as Test Day 1 concluded with the 5 time champion on top. Team-mate Pedrosa, who spent most of the day in 4th before a late charge from some others in the top ten, ended the first session in seventh on a 1:30.281, after 55 laps.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP held second on the timesheets for most of the latter part of Day 1, first with Maverick Viñales after the Spaniard had led the way, and secondly with 2015 and 2016 series runner-up, Valentino Rossi – who ended the day in P2 on a 1:29.683. The rider from Tavullia also saved a potential crash earlier in the session, as the Italian continues his rivalry with Marquez even in the crash department. Viñales, who did a best of 1:29.989 after 64 laps, didn’t better his time towards the end as his Suzuki replacement and Rossi’s fellow countryman Andrea Iannone did, moving down to P4.
Iannone rapidly climbed the timesheets for Team Suzuki Ecstar near the end of the day, taking third overall with a 1:29.926 after having spent much of the session outside the top ten. The “Maniac” completed 70 laps and set his fastest on number 68. Teammate and rookie Alex Rins did 66 laps as he gets to grips with MotoGP, setting a best of 1:31.432. We would like to report that no seagulls were injured in the making of Iannone’s fast lap.
LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow completed the top five with a 1:30.065, almost a second faster than his time from the official Grand Prix Qualifying back in October. Putting in a late charge to move up, the Brit did over 60 laps and set his fastest on his final run. Cal was another rider testing a version of the new specification engine for Honda, as well as Marc VDS rider Jack Miller.
Miller did 82 laps of his home track with a best of 1:30.426 – impressively ending the day in the top ten in P9. Miller’s teammate Tito Rabat is not at the test following a crash at Sepang, but is hoping to return for the Qatar test. Miller continues to come of age, following on from his win at Assen last season, as well as his impressive performances which saw him break the top 10 a total of 5 times from the 13 races he started.
Danilo Petrucci was another late charger as he moved up to end the session in sixth, just ahead of Pedrosa and fastest Ducati on Day 1. Putting in 87 laps as he gets used to life on his new GP17, the Italian also set his quickest lap on his last – a 1:30.262. Petrucci has so far stayed safe, after his horrendous accident at the pre-season test last year. His hand injury was so bad that it was thought it may curtail his season by around 7 or 8 races.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was the next Ducati machine, and the 2016 Malaysian GP winner ended the day in eighth with a 1:30.410. Charged with testing new parts and continuing the progress of the Desmosedici, “DesmoDovi” did 64 laps. New teammate Jorge Lorenzo continued his progress as he focuses instead on adaptation to the machine, spending much of the day in the top ten and one of the first out on track. The “Spartan” did 61 laps with a best of 1:30.631, just pushed down to P11 in the latter stages. It is clear that the Ducati team need to work hard at a circuit which they haven’t podiumed at since the departed Iannone took 3rd back in 2015.
Completing the top ten was the fastest rookie of the day: Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3). Impressing once again after a solid debut in Sepang, the German posted a 1:30.578 and did 62 laps. Folger’s form indicates that he isn’t making up numbers for 2017, and given the tumultuous form of MotoGP in the last couple of seasons, Folger will be looking to become the first German premier class winner since Edmund Czihak in 1974.
Teammate Johann Zarco, reigning Moto2™ World Champion, did 80 laps with a best of 1:30.867 to go P15.Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team), Hector Barbera and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) completed that top fifteen, ahead of Zarco.
Red Bull KTM Racing continue their progress in MotoGP™ as they prepare for their full-time debut in Qatar, with Pol Espargaro putting in a 1:31.200 as the fastest Austrian machine on Day 1.
Action resumes at Phillip Island on Thursday afternoon, or morning if you’re in a not-so-warm and sunny blighty, with the teams eager to get back out and squeeze in as much time as possible before the floodlights in Qatar come on, and the green lights in Qatar go out!
Marc Marquez – Fastest – Honda – 1.29.497
“We had a quite a busy day because we worked a lot on the engine, which of course is different from the one we used here at Phillip Island last year. That meant we had to readjust everything during the morning and spend a lot of time in the box. In the afternoon we found a base for the electronics, but we still need to work harder in this area. I’m fast, but like in Malaysia we want to double-check how it’s working in some areas. We also worked on the setup, and overall it has been a positive day. The weather was good, which is always important, so hopefully it will stay the same for the next two days.”
Valentino Rossi – 2nd – Yamaha – 1.29.683
“It was a good day, I’m quite satisfied. We started in a difficult way this morning. Before the break I wasn’t strong enough and because I couldn’t push at the maximum I didn’t have a lot of feeling. We worked well during the break and in the afternoon the situation changed, I was a bit better. At the end, with the new tyre, I was able to do a good lap and second position is positive for the first day. For sure, we still have a lot to do, especially on the long distance and we hope to have good weather also in the next few days.”
Andrea Iannone – 3rd – Suzuki – 1.29.926
“This morning was very difficult for us. The team couldn’t find the proper setting to feel confident. I struggled a lot. But then in the afternoon, we changed some settings and improved step by step. At the final stage I was happy because the machine improved, as well as the feeling of the bike and the pace. This is a very positive outcome, because it means we have the capability to overcome very hard situations and turn them into a positive. As of tomorrow, we have the chance to work on pace as well as single lap performance, and also introduce some more improvements. We are on a good path. My crew chief is as new as I am with the GSX-RR and it’s very important for us to learn and get to know it at its best.”
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko