The laptimes tumble on Wednesday as the 1:57 club expands and the ‘Beast’ takes to the top
Ducati Lenovo Team’s Enea Bastianini produced late brilliance on Day 2 of the Sepang Test, claiming top spot thanks to a new, albeit unofficial, outright lap record. Five riders all bettered 2023 Champion Pecco Bagnaia’s (Ducati Lenovo Team) pole position lap from late last year, with The Beast firing in a historic 1:57.134 to once again prove his pace in Malaysia.
Prima Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin had to settle for second in the end after leading the pack for the vast majority of the day. The Spaniard finished 0.139 seconds adrift of 2023 Malaysian Grand Prix winner Bastianini. KTM and Aprilia were hot on the heels of the Ducati duo too, with Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completing the top three ahead of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing).
After an under-the-radar opening day in Sepang, 2023 World Champion Bagnaia also joined the party, claiming the final spot inside the top five with a 1:57.469, leaving him just over three tenths behind his teammate.
Ducati Lenovo, Prima Pramac, Pertamina Enduro VR46 & Gresini
Bastianini, Martin and Bagnaia all put themselves under the lap record on Wednesday, with all three doing their laps with the Bologna factory’s much-improved new engine. The bulk of their work was focused on aerodynamics, however, with a united consensus yet to be reached. Michele Pirro was also back out subbing for Franco Morbidelli.
A late tumble for Marco Bezzecchi (Pertamina Enduro VR46 Racing Team) couldn’t dampen what was otherwise another positive day for The Doctor’s squad. The #72 rounded out Day 2 in ninth place, and ahead of one name he had his eye on, whilst Fabio Di Giannantonio continued to impress. The Italian was one of the riders on top form in the second half of 2023, and he’s carried that momentum into 2024 despite the team switch.
Nobody did more laps than Gresini Racing’s Marc Marquez as he looked to make up for some lost time yesterday after a couple of small issues. The eight-time World Champion clocked 72 laps in total, 10 of which were an impressive Tissot Sprint simulation alongside his teammate. The #93 was just over 2 seconds quicker than the Sprint-winning time in 2023. But Alex Marquez on the #73 was a further two seconds quicker again…
Red Bull KTM & Red Bull GASGAS Tech3
Binder led the charge on Wednesday, but superstar rookie Pedro Acosta (Red Bull GASGAS Tech3) found yet another step forward, posting a 1:57.726 – a lap good enough for the middle of the second row of the grid in 2023. Big smiles for his side of the box! It was a tougher day on the other side, however, with Augusto Fernandez frustrated at his lack of progress after a couple of issues lost him some time. Steps forward, he reported, but not fast enough yet.
On the orange side, Jack Miller joined Binder in working their way through KTM’s various aerodynamic upgrades. The Australian finished 15th as the two take up the workload first refined by test riders Dani Pedrosa and Pol Espargaro in the Shakedown.
Aprilia & Trackhouse Racing
There were some contrasting emotions in the factory Aprilia box with Aleix Espargaro taking that impressive fourth, whilst Maverick Viñales was struggling with rear grip and, as a result, didn’t push for a time attack. But he reported the aim, regardless, is to be fast all year, not just one lap. The Spaniard was 18th today, one place and one tenth ahead of a similarly frustrated Miguel Oliveira. Trackhouse Racing’s Oliveira, still, said Espargaro’s fast lap was good to see for the whole squad as each work on their own programmes.
The trio also lapped together in the midday sun, ostensibly to check out the effect of the slipstream and potentially to put the machine through its paces in the heat, something that was tricky for the factory at times in 2023. Lorenzo Savadori, meanwhile, is the replacement for Raul Fernandez at Trackhouse for the rest of this test as Fernandez recovers from a crash on Day 1, with nothing broken but precaution the name of the game.
Repsol Honda & CASTROL/IDEMITSU Honda LCR
Repsol Honda’s Luca Marini and Idemitsu LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami put together the longest runs of anyone on Wednesday: 13 consecutive laps apiece. 10 of Marini’s laps were in the 1:59s, compared to only two 1:59s between all four Honda riders in last year’s Sprint and Grand Prix.
Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team) was also able to put in a headline laptime, taking the final spot in top ten. The 2020 World Champion was six tenths quicker than his Q1 performance last year, but reiterated that a lot of work is still to be done. Johann Zarco (CASTROL Honda LCR), meanwhile, was another tenth and a half off Mir – but he’s been the Honda rider most praising the leap already made.
Monster Energy Yamaha
Electronics was the key focus for Yamaha, but Fabio Quartararo was left wanting a little more. The Frenchman managed to improve on his best lap from last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix but he was still three quarters of a second adrift of top spot. He said they’re still suffering a lack of pace during time attacks, something they’ll continue working on. The 2021 World Champion could only manage 11th today, with his new teammate Alex Rins a quarter of a second further back in 13th. But on the speed trap, there was a big ray of light for the Iwata marque as Quartararo was the outright quickest.