Bastianini hits back with best-ever Sepang lap on Day 2

by | Feb 6, 2022 | Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM, motoGP News, Suzuki, Yamaha

Bastianini hits back with best-ever Sepang lap on Day 2

The ‘Beast’ bests Aprilia on a rain-hit Sunday, with 20 riders within a second on Sunday as the Sepang Test draws to a close

The two-day Official MotoGP™ Sepang Test has come to a conclusion and at the end of proceedings, Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) has become the fastest-ever rider to lap the Malaysian circuit. The ‘Beast’ set a scorching 1:58.131 on Day 2, beating Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) by a slender 0.026s as we witness 18 riders separated by just 0.8s.

Very heavy afternoon rain disrupted the action in Sepang as the factories only got a few hours in the morning to continue their testing programmes. Some riders ventured out in the wet conditions, but as expected, the timing screens remained unchanged from the early flurry of rapid laps.  


However, testing is more than just what the time screens tell us. We saw plenty of new parts on show throughout the two days in Sepang, so let’s take a look at how each factory fared.

DUCATI:

Bastianini was the top Ducati on Day 2 – on the GP21 – as the ‘Beast’ hit back to topple Aprilia’s Saturday dominance. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing), the rider who duelled and beat Bastianini in the fight for Rookie of the Year last season, leapt up the timesheets too – the Spaniard slotting into third and just 0.112 off the top. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) made a big move up the timesheets into sixth on Sunday, 0.134 off Bastianini, with Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) in ninth. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) was P14.

On rookie watch, Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) came out on top once again, despite a crash. Just over half a second off the fastest ever lap of the track is a feat in itself, and the number 72 ends the test in P16. Teammate Luca Marini also had a good day and was P11 by the end of play. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) was P20, the number 49 having missed two days of the Shakedown but still able to get within 1.066 of his teammate’s record-breaker at the top.

MotoGP™ pitlane reporter Simon Crafar reported a concern shared with him by Ducati Lenovo Team Manager Davide Tardozzi: the throttle connection, and rideability. The new engine has made gains in top speed and at Jerez the feedback was all positive, but Sepang has shown there remains margin for improvement. Martin, as he begins his sophomore season, framed that more in terms of still having a big margin to improve the new bike – so pausing the ‘Jaws’ music may prove premature.

However, the GP22 machines appear to have settled with the new aero and updated air intake, and the updated ride-height device continues to make a splash as Borgo Panigale continue to push the boundaries of innovation. 

APRILIA:

After taking a fantastic 1-2 on the opening day, Aprilia end the Sepang Test in P2 and P5 thanks to the efforts of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing). The new 2022 bike – that’s had small updates across the board – has been very well received by both riders. Aleix Espargaro has praised the turning and corner speed improvements, the Spaniard does however remain undecided on which chassis is best.

A very happy Technical Director Romano Albesiano explained that Aprilia’s longer runs at the Sepang Test, which included a 12-lap run for Espargaro, have been “to measure the temperature of the working components,” not seeing how fast Espargaro and Viñales can go. Whichever way you look at things in the Noale camp, they’ve started 2022 on the front foot. Both Espargaro and Viñales – who ended the Test fifth on the timesheets – are within 0.130s of Bastianini’s quickest time, so three more days in Mandalika should be enough time to iron out any remaining issues they have before the Qatar GP. A big thumbs up for Aprilia so far.

A very happy Technical Director Romano Albesiano explained that Aprilia’s longer runs at the Sepang Test, which included a 12-lap run for Espargaro, have been “to measure the temperature of the working components,” not seeing how fast Espargaro and Viñales can go. Whichever way you look at things in the Noale camp, they’ve started 2022 on the front foot. Both Espargaro and Viñales – who ended the Test fifth on the timesheets – are within 0.130s of Bastianini’s quickest time, so three more days in Mandalika should be enough time to iron out any remaining issues they have before the Qatar GP. A big thumbs up for Aprilia so far.


SUZUKI:

Suzuki confirmed they had “significantly improved the engine”, which was a real key for the Hamamatsu factory as the inline-four machines – Suzuki and Yamaha – look to gain top speed without compromising elsewhere. There was more mixed feedback for aero and chassis updates but plenty that did work, making for some more good news.

Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was the fastest Suzuki once again, slotting into fourth and less than a tenth and a half off the top. 2020 MotoGP™ Champion Joan Mir was P12, still within four tenths of Bastianini as the timesheets were split more often by hundredths and thousandths. Mir suffered a small crash at Turn 15 on Day 2. 

YAMAHA:

Yamaha and its YZR-M1 engine. It’s been a big talking point for a few seasons now and after winning the World Championship in 2021, Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) and his team were demanding more top speed. However, it’s not the news Yamaha would have been hoping for. Although there has been a small step, both Quartararo and Team Manager Maio Meregalli have explained how they expected a bigger improvement, so they’re focusing hard on other areas – mainly aerodynamics – to get the best out of the updated YZR-M1.

“We didn’t make any revolution, we tried to improve the bike we used last year and we mainly focused on aerodynamics, we started to compare two chassis and in my opinion the ‘real test’ will be in Mandalika, where the riders have their speed and confidence back,” said Meregalli to Jack Appleyard and Simon Crafar in Sepang. “There we will spend three days working and testing all the items we’ve test here. To take a decision on which way we can go is too early, we would prefer to wait in one weeks’ time to have a better overview of what is working better.


“We share his (Quartararo) point of view. We all expect a bigger improvement, they did a little step, we expect more, but during the season we can work on the new engine because it will be sealed, but there are other areas we can keep developing. Here for example we got some results in changing aerodynamic items and for sure that will be a part we have to really explore.”

Binder was able to get some wet weather laps under his belt in the afternoon on Day 2 and finished 1.7s away from the fastest time at the Test. Very respectable from the South African, who now has three more days to get acquainted with his new bike in Mandalika.

Binder was able to get some wet weather laps under his belt in the afternoon on Day 2 and finished 1.7s away from the fastest time at the Test. Very respectable from the South African, who now has three more days to get acquainted with his new bike in Mandalika.

HONDA:

Work on the completely new RC213V continued on Day 2 for the HRC quartet of Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda teammate Pol Espargaro, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol), with the famous number 93 ending the Test as the quickest Honda rider on track.

Upon his return, Marc Marquez ended the Sepang Test with a 1:58.332 to place him eighth on the overall standings, as the Spaniard got an important 101 laps under his belt. The new bike is a “big change” from the previous RC213V and Marc Marquez admitted he needs time to find the limits with the new bike, and at the end of Day 1 he was “very tired”. However, he did feel good with Honda’s package. Two crashes on Day 1 hasn’t affected his preparations for the new season, and the three days coming up in Indonesia will be vital for the eight-time Champion.

Pol Espargaro snuck into the top 10 with a 1:58.420 to finish a couple of tenths away from the best pace, with Nakagami – a crasher on Day 2 – and Alex Marquez also in the 1:58 bracket. All three riders have been testing the 2022 RC213V from the get-go in Sepang and the signs are positive from the Japanese manufacturer’s camp. Repsol Honda Team Manager has described this test as the best he’s ever had, but there’s a long way to go with this bike. 

KTM:

For KTM it remained a more muted test on the timesheets, but new Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager Francesco Guidotti said the focus for now, after a tougher 2021, is getting a good base to begin the season, and one from which the Austrian factory can then further develop. Guidotti said they’d had a lot of work to do and plenty of new parts, as well as a lot from 2021 to evaluate better. Some parts were “much better than expected”, and some things “so-so”, according to the Italian.

Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the fastest of the Mattighofen contingent in 15th but still within 0.570 of the fastest ever lap of the track, and Brad Binder was only a few places and a few tenths behind his teammate. On rookie watch, Raul Fernandez (Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing) was right behind Brad Binder and got down to a 1:59.180, 0.164 off the South African. 2021 Moto2™ Champion Remy Gardner, still pushing through the pain barrier after breaking his wrist in training, put in a best lap of 1:59.348.

So that’s it from Sepang! The paddock now heads across to Indonesia and the Pertamina Mandalika Circuit for a three-day Official Test on the 11th, 12th and 13th of February. 

Top 10 combined:
1. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) – 1:58.131
2. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) + 0.026
3. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) + 0.112
4. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.130
5. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) + 0.130
6. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 0.134
7. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) + 0.182
8. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.201
9. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.282
10. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.289

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