After a long two-month winter break, MotoGP riders congregated for two three-day pre-season tests at the Sepang track in the grueling Malaysian heat. For the first test during February 4-6, 2014, there were 30 riders out on track including five test riders from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Aprilia. Though the pre-season tests don’t indicate much, they still afford the riders an opportunity for loosening their bodies and estimating the performance of their new machines. At the conclusion of the first session, all the top 5 MotoGP riders completed their laps in less than the circuit lap record of 1 min 59.79 sec, with reigning world champion Marc Marquez smashing the record, and being the sole rider to break into the 1 min 58 sec barrier. In the second session during February 23-25, 2015, Marquez was the dominant rider yet again despite suffering from the brake problems on day 1. On February 24 and 25, he finished with the best lap time of 1’59.115 and put in more laps than any other rider to announce his intentions for the upcoming season that will begin at the Losail international circuit at Doha, Qatar on March 29, 2015. But before that, the riders will have another pre-season testing session during March 14-16.
The first race of the 2015 MotoGP season is a little over three weeks away but the riders are getting accustomed to the shape of things to come. On February 4, Marquez’s Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa was seen at the top of the timesheets during morning trials but the remaining day saw 9 times World Champion Valentino Rossi dominating the track. Marquez had his own agenda as he tried three different chassis and did the most laps in the morning. At lunchtime, Marquez was placed 6th on the timesheets. But with 5 minutes remaining in the day, Marquez got past Rossi and finished at the top. Pedrosa, on the other hand, finished the day with a slow speed crash in the gravel at turn 9. Last year’s Ducati rider Cal Crutchlow of Britain has joined CWM LCR Honda this year. He has a new team-mate as well in Jack Miller, who has graduated from Moto 3 and both of them were pleased with their progress despite finding the new machine as physically demanding. Miller met with a slow speed crash on second day and missed an opportunity of setting a fast lap. Andrea Iannone is Crutchlow’s replacement at Ducati and he made great progress with his new bike by finishing 3rd on the final day with a fastest lap of 1.59.38s. Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha camp progressed from being third fastest on first day to top the timesheets on second day. The final day of the first pre-season testing belonged to Marc Marquez. The Repsol Honda rider clocked a 1:58.867, which was quicker than his 2014 pole record and finished a clear 0.139s ahead of team-mate Dani Pedrosa. The Repsol Honda riders kept evaluating different versions of Honda’s new RC213V machine. Andrea Iannone was placed third and he finished as the fastest of the Ducati riders. Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were fourth and fifth.
In the second pre-season testing during February 23-25, 2015, Marquez’s first day on February 23 was ruined by a brake problem but he bounced back in style over the next two days. Heading the timesheets on both days, the Spaniard did his best lap at 1’59.115; three tenths of a second ahead of his nearest rivals. Marquez also completed 73 laps on final day, more than any other rider, including a 19-lap stint. Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi was second as he finished 0.118 seconds behind Marquez. Rossi’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was third. Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso was fourth and Marquez’s team-mate Dani Pedrosa finished fifth.
The last pre-season testing will be held in Qatar during March 14-16, 2015 after which just two weeks will remain for the first race of the season at the Losail International Circuit at Doha on March 29, 2015. Having set the pace in the first two practice sessions in Malaysia, reigning champion Marc Marquez look like a strong favorite for the new season after winning his second consecutive world champion’s title in Japan last year.