World MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha) has dominated the first official test session of 2016 at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia, going fastest on two of the three days and finishing up with the best time overall.
Lorenzo set his best lap of 1:59.580 on the final day — which was interrupted by early showers and then an afternoon thunderstorm — which is nearly identical to the time he set in the corresponding test in 2015. But this year, with riders continuing to come to grips with new tyres (Michelin) and universal ECU software, Lorenzo was then only rider to go under the two-minute mark.
"The lap times speak for themselves, they were very good lap times set with new electronics and hard rear tyres, because we can't use the soft rear because of what happened yesterday," said Lorenzo, referring to Loris Baz's crash on the soft Michelin tyre on day two.
"I'm very happy with Michelin, because they made a very big step with the feeling from the new front tyres. They did a great job, because now the feeling is closer to what we had with last year.
"Anyway, I felt very comfortable and fast during these three days, I'm still recovering from this illness that I have and for sure in Phillip Island we will be stronger and able to do a race simulation."
Valentino Rossi (2:00.556) made it a Movistar Yamaha 1-2 on day three, but the Italian said he was still grappling whether to "go with the bike that's more like the 2015 or the 2016 model".
"We will try them another time in Phillip Island, because the new one was not so bad at the end. I think all the engineers did a good job with the electronics and Michelin did a good job with the front tyres.
"I tried the winglets, they are very interesting, they change the airflow, but I don't feel a difference. I prefer the bike without the wings, it's more beautiful!"
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda, 2:00.883) was third on day three, ahead of Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda, 2:00.992), Aussie Casey Stoner (Ducati, 2:01.992), Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda, 2:01.161), Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati, 2:01.217), Andrea Iannone (Ducati, 2:01.223), Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich, 2:01.229) and Suzuki Ecstar's Maverick Vinales (2:01.244).
Petrucci, courtesy of his 2:00.095 on day two — and on the soft Michelin before it was withdrawn — finished the test second overall from Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing Ducati, 2:00.387). Petrucci did an engine on day three, which cost him two hours track time.
Ahead of the next test at Phillip Island from February 17-19, Marquez left Sepang in a positive frame of mind.
"The last day went quite well because we improved every day here in Sepang," the dual MotoGP world champion said. "We are still far from where we'd like to be, but I think we have taken a good step forward and slowly we're getting there. We are working hard and there is room for improvement, which is what we have to focus on.
"Today I worked a lot on the electronics and the chassis, understanding what setup for the bike is best for the new tyres. We also tested various types of front tyres with different profiles. Overall, these three days have been positive."
Meanwhile, Stoner surprised himself that he was able to complete three days of testing.
"Physically I feel great at the moment, but I’m sure I won’t tomorrow!" he said. "It’s been a really positive test, not only because we worked well with the bike, but also because I was able to get back up to speed right away.
"Today wasn’t too bad, even though we didn’t get to do a lot of laps. Two exits this morning comparing two different geometry settings, but then the rain came so we weren’t able to complete the tests.
"After the rain we finally got a bit of dry track time but struggled a bit with rear grip and spent too much time trying to find a balance again to move on. But as I said I’m really happy with the way things have gone, and working with Gigi (Dall’Igna) and the team has been really fantastic!”
Stoner was ninth overall on the combined timesheets, ahead of world No. 6 Bradley Smith (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha).
The MotoGP field returns to action on February 17 at Phillip Island.