Quartararo tops first day of Sepang MotoGP test

Lewis Duncan

Last season’s top rookie Quartararo was the first out on track at the Sepang International Circuit on Friday morning, though it was Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro who set the initial pace in the opening hour.

Espargaro took part in the shakedown earlier in the week, and was able to guide his radically redesigned RS-GP to a time of 1m59.427s to dip underneath the existing race lap record.

The outright lap record of 1m58.303s belongs to Quartararo, who posted that on his way to pole for last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

After two hours, the SRT rider put his 2020-spec YZR-M1 top of the pile with a 1m58.945s, which would ultimately go unchallenged.

The morning running was briefly halted by a red flag for an incident involving on of the Yamaha test riders, though a greater lull would follow later in the day as a burst of rain kept the track quiet for some time, while another shower late on brought running the day to a premature end with just under 10 minutes to go.

The Pramac Ducati pairing of Francesco Bagnaia and Jack Miller signalled the resumption of running with just under two hours to go as they returned to the track, though Quartararo’s benchmark remained intact.

Quartararo’s teammate Franco Morbidelli trailed him heading into the lunch break by 0.051 seconds, and held onto the place come the chequered flag.

Morbidelli won’t have machine parity with Quartararo or the works team Yamaha riders anymore this year, and is instead riding the ‘A-spec’ M1 – essentially, the bike the factory Yamaha riders finished November’s testing with.

Alex Rins led the Suzuki charge in third spot as he worked through his programme on the new-spec GSX-RR, while LCR’s Cal Crutchlow was top Honda rider in fourth ahead of Miller.

Vinales ended up in sixth place, having crashed earlier in the day at the Turn 11 right-hander.

He, along with teammate Valentino Rossi – who was 10th-fastest – had three M1s at his disposal: two 2020-spec machines, and the ‘A-spec’ bike from November.

Early pacesetter Aleix Espargaro was seventh ahead of KTM-mounted brother Pol – who also took part in the shakedown.

Joan Mir was ninth on the sister Suzuki, with Rossi rounding out the top 10 ahead of the first of the works team Ducatis of Andrea Dovizioso.

Reigning world champion Marc Marquez shadowed Dovizioso, as he marks his first MotoGP outing since undergoing surgery on a right shoulder injury in the winter.

Admitting ahead of the test he’d only be at “70%” strength, Marquez only completed 37 laps and managed a best time of 1m59.675s.

His brother and new teammate Alex was just a further 0.021s adrift in 13th, while Johann Zarco was 1.5s off the pace in 19th on his first outing on the Avintia Ducati GP19.

In Andrea Iannone's absence as his doping case rages on, Lorenzo Savadori rode the other Aprilia and was 4.205s off the pace after logging 31 laps.

Session results

Pos. # Rider Bike Time Gap Laps
1 20 France Fabio Quartararo Yamaha 1'58.945   52
2 21 Italy Franco Morbidelli Yamaha 1'58.996 0.051 62
3 42 Spain Alex Rins Suzuki 1'59.195 0.250 56
4 35 United Kingdom Cal Crutchlow Honda 1'59.234 0.289 39
5 43 Australia Jack Miller Ducati 1'59.236 0.291 47
6 12 Spain Maverick Vinales Yamaha 1'59.367 0.422 49
7 41 Spain Aleix Espargaro Aprilia 1'59.427 0.482 43
8 44 Spain Pol Espargaro KTM 1'59.536 0.591 48
9 36 Spain Joan Mir Suzuki 1'59.568 0.623 51
10 46 Italy Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1'59.569 0.624 48
11 4 Italy Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 1'59.666 0.721 35
12 93 Spain Marc Marquez Honda 1'59.676 0.731 37
13 73 Spain Alex Marquez Honda 1'59.918 0.973 38
14 9 Italy Danilo Petrucci Ducati 1'59.939 0.994 42
15 26 Spain Dani Pedrosa KTM 2'00.017 1.072 45
16 88 Portugal Miguel Oliveira KTM 2'00.131 1.186 49
17 63 Italy Francesco Bagnaia Ducati 2'00.136 1.191 53
18 50 France Sylvain Guintoli Suzuki 2'00.371 1.426 48
19 5 France Johann Zarco Ducati 2'00.464 1.519 54
20 27 Spain Iker Lecuona KTM 2'00.511 1.566 44
21 33 South Africa Brad Binder KTM 2'00.519 1.574 58
22 53 Spain Tito Rabat Ducati 2'00.750 1.805 54
23 30 Japan Takaaki Nakagami Honda 2'00.815 1.870 31
24 90 Yamaha test bike Yamaha 2'01.080 2.135 50
25 91 Yamaha test bike Yamaha 2'01.744 2.799 22
26 32 Italy Lorenzo Savadori Aprilia 2'03.150 4.205 31