MotoGP: Marquez celebrates 25th birthday in style setting fastest lap in Thailand test
The reigning Champion sets the first 1:29 lap of Chang International Circuit, edging teammate Dani Pedrosa and Jack Miller
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 (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.
Sunday is a slightly different schedule for the #ThaiTest as action gets underway half an hour earlier at 9:00 local time (GMT +7), and also ends an hour earlier at 17:00.