Hot Honda Sweeps Thai Test

It was Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) on Day 1, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) on Day 2 and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) on Day 3 to make it three days in a row on top for Honda at the #ThaiTest. Pedrosa is quickest overall with a 1:29.781, with Marquez P3 on combined timesheets on a 1:29.969 and Crutchlow fourth, just outside the 1:29s. Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was second overall – just 0.086 off Pedrosa in the exclusive 1:29 club.

Marquez suffered a small crash on Day 3 – just outside the realm of a super save – but the six-time Cchampion nevertheless pounded through another huge workload of laps. One innovation spotted on Sunday was a carbon swingarm, which was also used in Sepang and Valencia, but the biggest headline for the Japanese factory was the incredible pace. It bodes well ahead of the season opener, with Honda bidding to retain both the riders’ and constructors’ titles.

Johann Zarco

The interloper in the Honda party at the top was the man who looked set to go fastest until right at the end – Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3). The Frenchman broke the 1:30 barrier on Day 3 twice, with his fastest effort a 1:29.867 before he called it a day some time before the end of the test, work completed. Zarco, who will be using the 2016 chassis on his Tech 3 machine this year, did 47 laps and was top Yamaha.

Fellow sophomore Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) made it a clean sweep of impressive performances on Day 3, as the Spaniard ended the test in fifth overall. Despite a crash, Rins did another 66 laps on Sunday. Teammate Andrea Iannone also ended the test positive but a little further down in P15 overall, finding it hard to unlock better pace on new tyres. The Hamamatsu factory brought a number of things to the test, including a previous aero fairing and two iterations of a new aero fairing, as well as chassis updates.

Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) was once again a star attraction on Sunday, and finished the test in P6 overall – only 0.007 off Rins ahead of him. The Australian has settled in incredibly quickly on the GP17, and teammate Danilo Petrucci on the GP18 and Ducati test duty made it both Alma Pramac Racing machines in the top ten as he slotted into P9 on combined timesheets.

Andrea Dovizioso in what might be the single worst photo ever sent to the press by MotoGP

Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was finished early on Day 3, with the track having proven more useful than expected during the hotter parts of the day and the Italian getting through the programme. He finished the #ThaiTest with 58 laps on Day 3, P7 on combined timesheets after trying three aero fairings and comparing chassis updates. Teammate Jorge Lorenzo was P16 on combined times after a more difficult test than his domination of Sepang with a record lap, comparing the GP18 and GP17 on the final day in Thailand.

Maverick Viñales

Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) ended Thailand in eighth overall, with a lap set on Saturday – when the Spaniard said the afternoon had seen them take a big step forward. But on Sunday, teammate Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) was quicker, P10 compared to Viñales’ twelfth place on the Day 3 timesheets. Rossi’s Sunday best was a 1:30.511 and the ‘Doctor’ set it on lap 69 of 70, but was P12 overall.

Takaaki Nakagami

Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was a big headline at the conclusion of the #ThaiTest. The Japanese rookie put in a 1:30.456 and took a stunning tenth overall – moving forward throughout the sessions and keeping himself top debutant. But Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) surged forward on the chase, moving up to P13 overall and just two tenths off. His teammate Tom Lüthi improved on Sunday too, having missed the available tracktime at the end of 2017, and did a 1:31.354.

Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was the next rookie up, and the Malaysian got another 47 laps under his belt in his first ever MotoGP™ test. Just 0.183 off Lüthi, it was another impressive move forward for the first ever Malaysian in the premier class.

Tito Rabat

(Reale Avinta Racing) took P11 overall as he was another who is settling into life on a Ducati well, just ahead of Rossi and Morbidelli. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was fourteenth and top Noale factory machine, with the timesheets incredibly tight, as teammate Scott Redding also moved forward on Day 3.

Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and KTM test rider Mika Kallio also made progress with their pace on Sunday, but with so much to test, timeattacks weren’t high on the agenda. One headline-grabber for the Austrian factory on the final day was a new aero fairing, and Smith fulfilled the target of getting into the 1:30 bracket with a 1:30.921.

Although the #ThaiTest is now over, three more days of testing remain – with Losail International Circuit in Qatar the next host. Action begins there on 1st March.

Day 2

Marky Marc Marquez

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) celebrated his 25th birthday in style at the #ThaiTest, leaving it late to set the first ever sub-1:30 laptime of Buriram quite a way through a mammoth 90+ lap workload for the six-time World Champion. That took the top spot back from teammate Dani Pedrosa, who ended the day second fastest and a tenth and a half down after having led for the majority of the latter stages of the session. Third was another stunning lap from Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing), who was 0.058 off Pedrosa as he continues his run of top performance in 2018.

One of the big headlines on Saturday was once again aero. Part of Marquez’ 94 laps in the incredible heat of Thailand was spent on an aero package, with the number 93, teammate Pedrosa and HRC test rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) – Friday’s fastest – all having tried updates across the Sepang and Thai tests. Behind the lockout for the Repsol squad at the top, Crutchlow was the third quickest Honda and was eighth, but quicker than his Friday lap. The Brit concentrated on test duty rather than a time attack.

Jack Miller

Miller, meanwhile, continued to show how he’s settled into life on the Ducati GP17. By the end of action, a late run from the Australian saw him shoot ahead of teammate Danilo Petrucci – who is on a GP18 and on Ducati test duty, and who ended the day in P6 after hovering further up earlier in the day.

Fourth and fifth were locked out by Yamaha – on Saturday, Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) led Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) after Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) had been the quicker rider on Friday. Viñales’ best was a 1:30.274, with Zarco just 0.086 behind. Viñales had a more difficult morning before making a big step in the afternoon – aiming to confirm it on Day 3.

Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), after going second quickest on the first day of the test, was seventh on Day 2 and again top Hamamatsu machine. Starting 2018 healthy after injury problems last year, the Spanish sophomore did around half a century of laps and tried new aero from Suzuki, with the factory fielding the fairing they’d previously had as well as longer and shorter version of a new package. Both Rins and teammate Andrea Iannone, who ended the day in eleventh but only three tenths back on Rins, tried the updates – and both crashed, but with no consequences.

Check out the fins on the fairing of Jorge Lorenzo’s Ducati

The Ducati Team, meanwhile, moved on with the program. They have three aero fairings at Buriram as well as a chassis update and continued working on them. On Day 2 Andrea Dovizioso was ninth and teammate Jorge Lorenzo tenth. ‘DesmoDovi’ was just 0.004 off Crutchlow ahead of him and two tenths ahead of Lorenzo, with the Italian putting in over 70 laps and the Spaniard more than 50.

Alvaro Bautista

Two more Independent Team riders on Ducatis took P12 and P13, with Reale Avinta Racing’s Tito Rabat ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) by only 0.028. Both were ahead of Valentino Rossi, who ended the second day in fourteenth.

Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) completed the top fifteen on Saturday, fastest rookie once again and the last man in the 1:30 bracket. He had a three tenth advantage on key rival Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), with the reigning Moto2™ World Champion doing a best of 1:31.185. His teammate Tom Lüthi did a 1:31.994, with the Sepang test having been his first time on the bike – and he ended the day just ahead of Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Xavier Simeon (Reale Avintia Racing).

Hafizh Syahrin

Syahrin, on a MotoGP™ machine for only the second day ever, was impressive once again on Saturday. The Malaysian rider was only 0.004 seconds off fellow rookie Lüthi, and was ahead of Simeon by the end of action.

Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the fastest KTM on Day 2, in P16 and only 1.144 off the front in order good showing of progress for the Austrian factory. With teammate Pol Espargaro absent due to injury, test rider Mika Kallio was the second representative for the Red Bull-backed team – and the Finn did the most laps of anyone, only a handful off a full 100. Smith says the squad found some good solutions to some issues they encountered in Malaysia – and after trying some things with the front suspension on Saturday, the front of the bike will be the focus on Sunday.

Aleix Espargaro

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) had a positive first day and ended Day 2 a tiny margin off Smith ahead of him, just 0.017 off the Brit. Noale factory teammate Scott Redding, who ended Friday just behind Espargaro after some technical issues affecting his running, was a little further back on Day 2 as he continues to adapt to the RS-GP.

Day 1

Cal Crutchlow

Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) topped the first day of testing at Chang International Circuit, taking over from reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) later in the session to set a 1:30.797. Despite setting the fastest lap so far by a MotoGP™ rider at the new venue, the Brit was nevertheless only 0.012 ahead of a late charge from Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) by the end of action. Marquez was third, just 0.033 ahead of 2017 Championship rival Andrea Dovizioso.

Weather was hot and edging 40 degrees for some time on Day 1 – with few riders putting in truly “long” runs. But the workload was far from light, with Crutchlow putting in 70 laps despite a crash and that number representative for many on the grid. The Brit was joining third fastest Marquez and his teammate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) – also a crasher on Friday – on HRC test duty, and all three men were in the top five, which was covered by only two tenths.

Alex Rins

Rins’ second place was equally impressive. The Spaniard, going into only his second season and having suffered some problems with injury last year, had good pace throughout most of the day and his late charge looked set to see him take over at the top until his final sector. But it was only 0.012 off Crutchlow, and teammate Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) made it double delight for Suzuki in the top ten, ninth quickest as the Hamamatsu factory tested, amongst other things, a new exhaust – as well as continuing their work on engine configurations.

Dovizioso, meanwhile, took back the honour of top Ducati on Day 1 in Thailand, and was only 0.033 off Marquez. The two men were locked together at the top for some time, before aero began to steal the headlines away from the timesheets. Ducati are expected to have three new aero fairings at Buriram, and Dovizioso tried two of them on Day 1. Chassis updates could also be on the cards for the Borgo Panigale factory in Thailand, aimed at mid-corner improvements– something that would aid Sepang’s fastest Jorge Lorenzo even more. At Buriram on Friday, the five-time Champion was tenth fastest, just over four tenths off Crutchlow.

Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) was another Ducati presence in the top ten as he took P6 on the GP18 on test duty, just ahead of his new teammate Jack Miller. Miller was again a force to be reckoned with and looked settled in – only 0.041 off the Italian ahead of him.

Valentino Rossi

There was also an Italian behind him – Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). On his 39th birthday, the ‘Doctor’ took eighth and was the quickest Yamaha, putting in an impressive 74 laps and topping the lap counter for the Iwata marque. Teammate Maverick Viñales was P11, but only a tenth further back – with the timesheets incredibly close. Incredibly close was also apt for Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), who was 0.011 off Viñales to take twelfth – and also confirmed that he will be using the 2016 chassis this season.

His new teammate for the Thai test was a new face in the premier class: Hafizh Syahrin, who is riding with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 during the event with a view to replacing Jonas Folger full time in 2018. Syahrin, the first Malaysian in MotoGP™, was within half a second of fellow rookies Xavier Simeon (Reale Avintia Racing) and the slightly faster – despite sitting out the Valencia test last year – Tom Lüthi (EG 0,0 Marc VDS).

Franco Morbidelli

The quickest rookie, however, was Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) once again. The Japanese rider was P17 overall but within nine tenths of the top, with reigning Moto2™ World Champion Franco Morbidelli close behind in P19 but only half a tenth further back. With 20 riders within a second, half a tenth makes its mark.

Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) was P13 on Day 1 and only 0.002 ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) as the two Independent Team Ducati riders just edged ahead of the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini riders. Aleix Espargaro was P15 for Noale factory Aprilia, and teammate Scott Redding was right behind him and both within nine tenths.

Bradley Smith on the KTM

The final rider within a second of the top was Bradley Smith at Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, and the Brit did 67 laps as the Austrian factory get their first glimpse of the newest venue on the calendar. Mika Kallio, KTM test rider, added another 48 despite a crash and brief trip to the Medical Center – rider ok. KTM will only be able to field the two men at the #ThaiTest, with Pol Espargaro sidelined through injury but on the road to recovery.

story and photos courtesy of Dorna/MotoGP

Leave a Reply