Alvaro Bautista registered the quickest lap time with 2:00.848 on the first day of the second pre-season MotoGP testing at the Sepang International Circuit. – EPA Photo
SEPANG: Spaniard Alvaro Bautista was the surprise pace-setter on the first day of the second pre-season MotoGP testing at the Sepang International Circuit.
The GO&FUN Honda Gresini man registered the quickest lap time with track conditions not as favourable as when the speedster's first visit earlier in the month.
Bautista’s best lap time of 2:00.848 was 1.3 seconds slower than the marker set down by world champion Marc Marquez in the previous test.
Marquez is absent this time after suffering a leg injury in dirt track training in Spain last week.
Honda team principal Livio Suppo and the Repsol Honda team management want to give Marquez as much time as he needs to make a full recovery, although they are aware that the rider himself is keen to return sooner rather than later. A decision will be made this week as to whether Marquez can ride at the scheduled Phillip Island test from March 3-5.
The riders and teams carried out crucial development and data gathering exercises in the tropical heat on Wednesday, with pace man Bautista working heavily with the rear of his Honda Gresini bike.
“It’s been a very positive first day of testing. In the first laps, I had to regain confidence with the bike, re-activate the mechanisms and find the right references but, to be honest, it took me not too much because I immediately found myself at ease with the bike,” said Bautista.
Fellow Spaniard Aleix Espargaro came in second in 2:00.900, just 0.052 seconds behind Bautista, having featured at the top for several spells late in the day.
Espargaro and his fellow riders on Open class machines have a softer specification rear tyre available compared to the factory outfits.
Tyre durability and engine performance over race distance will be crucial to converting fast times in testing into world championship points once the season starts in Australia next month.
Double MotoGP title winner Jorge Lorenzo was the best performer on the factory bikes.
The Spaniard, riding for Yamaha Racing team, ended the day fifth with a time of 2:01.158.
Lorenzo worked primarily on the new harder rear tyre option.
Dani Pedrosa, who is the only Repsol Honda rider present, was sixth fastest with 2:01.160 with former world champion Valentino Rossi seventh.