Lorenzo tops day one at Sepang

The ECU software is now universal, riders can access the same pool of tyres from new official supplier Michelin, and all bikes will have 22 litres of fuel at their disposal.

Welcome to the much anticipated new era of MotoGP competition, which officially reloaded for season 2016 on February 1 as 21 riders — minus injured Aussie Jack Miller — hit Sepang for the start of a crucial three-day test as the build-up to the season opener in Qatar enters a critical phase.

Although the rule book has come in for a major re-write, the balance of power doesn't appear to have been altered — just yet at least — as world champion and Sepang lap record holder Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha) set the fastest time (2:00.684) on day one, over one second ahead of teammate Valentino Rossi (2:01.717).

It was not just a single flying lap from Lorenzo either, as he completed seven laps under the 2:02 mark; three being 2:00s. All that while feeling a little under the weather.

"I'm very happy and surprised about the feeling I had today with the Michelin tyres," said Lorenzo. "The lap times were relatively easy to achieve and every time we exited pit lane we improved something on the bike to understand the electronics better and they adapted very well to the Michelin tyres.

"I'm very happy with the change, because Sepang, for me, is always difficult. Today I only slept two hours because of the jetlag and I have a sore throat so I'm taking antibiotics. My physical condition is not perfect, but to ride two or three laps, I can do that very well. If I was fitter I could do longer stints."

Behind Rossi, 2015 Sepang winner Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda, 2:01.780), Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati, 2:01.811) and Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team, 2:01.912) saw out the top five — the latter wearing a new helmet design which reflects on his close encounter with the seagull at last year's Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix…

Iannone mainly rode the 2015-spec Ducati, while Pedrosa was assessing two engine configurations as Honda attempts to tame the aggressive nature of last year's engine.

Meanwhile, Rossi hit the ground running at Sepang after a two-month layoff — which included a guest appearance on the Italian version of Masterchef — and only Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing Ducati) completed more laps than the Italian veteran on a typically hot and humid Malaysian day where rain held off until the final 20 minutes.

Barbera (2:02:002) finished day in sixth, ahead of two-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda, 2:02.278) who produced the fastest ever lap around Sepang in last year's corresponding test — a searing 1:58.867.

Lorenzo's lap record is 2:00.606, set in the 2015 race where Pedrosa's victory came a distant second in the attention stakes to the now infamous Rossi-Marquez imbroglio.

On Saturday, during private MotoGP testing, Australia's Casey Stoner produced a lap nearly identical to Marquez's in his first appearance on a factory Ducati since reuniting with the brand in late 2015. Stoner completed 54 laps on the 2015 model Desmosedici GP machine, and will now make an appearance on day two of the official IRTA test — circulating alongside old rivals Lorenzo, Rossi and Pedrosa for the first time since his retirement at the end of 2010.

Briton Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati, 2:02.338) was the fastest of the riders with a new team in 2016, while Aleix Espargaro (Suzuki Ecstar, 2:02.539) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda, 2:02.586) completed the top 10.

Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati, 2:02.650) was down in 13th, two spots ahead of Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3, 2:03.026).

Aprilia pair Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista sat at the bottom of the timesheets on the 2015 RS-GP, with the pair not set to debut the 2016 model until later in the month.

Miller (Marc VDS Racing Team) will not ride at Sepang as he recovers from a broken right tibia and fibula sustained in a motocross crash. He will be back on track at Phillip Island from February 17-19 in the second IRTA test of the year.

Testing continues at Sepang today from 1:00pm AEST.

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