Crutchlow tops the opening day in Malaysia as new parts surface from several factories.
MotoGP™ bikes are back on track! The 2023 campaign has resumed with test riders and our sole premier class rookie, Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3), completing a rain-affected opening day of the Sepang Shakedown test. Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow topped the timesheets with a 2:01.146, although it’s less about laptimes and more about track time in the first few days of action this year.
Three-time Grand Prix winner Crutchlow had three YZR-M1s at his disposal – two 2023 spec bikes, one 2022 spec machine. The main focus was pinpointed on Yamaha’s new, more aggressive engine which was a hot topic of conversation back in Valencia. Glancing at the timesheets, it looks like the problem that arose at the end of last year, causing some puzzled looks after clear improvements had been proven at earlier tests, has been diagnosed.
Crutchlow clocked a 330km/h top speed according to the circuit’s live timing, just a couple of kms shy of the fastest. In addition, looking back at the 2022 Sepang Test, Yamaha’s fastest top speed was 327km/h – early indications that progress has been made. That’ll be music to the ears of Fabio Quartararo and his Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™ teammate Franco Morbidelli ahead of the Official Sepang Test.
New KTM testing recruit Jonas Folger joined MotoGP™ Legend Dani Pedrosa on track for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing as the German got to grips with the RC16 for the first time. Pedrosa, meanwhile, was working with Jack Miller’s crew on the opening day.
Reigning Moto2™ World Champion Fernandez was back out with GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 and having had no plans for the Valencia Test apart from trying a MotoGP™ bike for the first time, these three days will be vital for the Spaniard to start making the bike his own. The number 37 finished second on the timesheets with a 2:01.331, just 0.185s from Crutchlow’s best effort.
Stefan Bradl was lapping for HRC and the German had two RC213Vs in the box. Bradl was out on a new-look Honda machine dressed in redesigned aero, a new exhaust and the 2023 engine. Bradl’s best time was a 2:01.605, placing him fourth on the timesheets.
Lorenzo Savadori was on hand to give the 2023 Aprilia RS-GPs a shakedown, and it was a busy day for the Italian who had six bikes to ride. Aprilia debuted some new aero – something we’ll be seeing plenty of from the factories during pre-season – as Savadori also suffered a technical issue towards the end of the day.
Ducati’s trusted Michele Pirro was again putting in the groundwork for the reigning World Champions, who head into the season looking to defend not one, not two, but three Championships.
The Borgo Panigale factory opened their 2023 account with a new fairing to show off, and Pirro worked with two GP23s. The Italian posted a 2:02.115 best lap time.
With temperatures soaring in Malaysia, coupled with a dirty track surface following the winter and then rain coming later in the day, times were around three seconds slower than what we saw at the 2022 Malaysian GP. Expect the times to tumble the further we get into testing at Sepang!
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