British veteran and Spanish sophomore fastest in Buriram – with Marquez and Dovizioso on the chase
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) topped the first day of testing at Chang International Circuit, taking over from reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) later in the session to set a 1:30.797. Despite setting the fastest lap so far by a MotoGP™ rider at the new venue, the Brit was nevertheless only 0.012 ahead of a late charge from Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) by the end of action. Marquez was third, just 0.033 ahead of 2017 Championship rival Andrea Dovizioso.
Weather was hot and edging 40 degrees for some time on Day 1 – with few riders putting in truly “long” runs. But the workload was far from light, with Crutchlow putting in 70 laps despite a crash and that number representative for many on the grid. The Brit was joining third fastest Marquez and his teammate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) – also a crasher on Friday – on HRC test duty, and all three men were in the top five, which was covered by only two tenths.
Rins’ second place was equally impressive. The Spaniard, going into only his second season and having suffered some problems with injury last year, had good pace throughout most of the day and his late charge looked set to see him take over at the top until his final sector. But it was only 0.012 off Crutchlow, and teammate Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) made it double delight for Suzuki in the top ten, ninth quickest as the Hamamatsu factory tested, amongst other things, a new exhaust – as well as continuing their work on engine configurations.
Dovizioso, meanwhile, took back the honour of top Ducati on Day 1 in Thailand, and was only 0.033 off Marquez. The two men were locked together at the top for some time, before aero began to steal the headlines away from the timesheets. Ducati are expected to have three new aero fairings at Buriram, and Dovizioso tried two of them on Day 1. Chassis updates could also be on the cards for the Borgo Panigale factory in Thailand, aimed at mid-corner improvements– something that would aid Sepang’s fastest Jorge Lorenzo even more. At Buriram on Friday, the five-time Champion was tenth fastest, just over four tenths off Crutchlow.
Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) was another Ducati presence in the top ten as he took P6 on the GP18 on test duty, just ahead of his new teammate Jack Miller. Miller was again a force to be reckoned with and looked settled in – only 0.041 off the Italian ahead of him.
There was also an Italian behind him – Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP). On his 39th birthday, the ‘Doctor’ took eighth and was the quickest Yamaha, putting in an impressive 74 laps and topping the lap counter for the Iwata marque. Teammate Maverick Viñales was P11, but only a tenth further back – with the timesheets incredibly close. Incredibly close was also apt for Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), who was 0.011 off Viñales to take twelfth – and also confirmed that he will be using the 2016 chassis this season.
His new teammate for the Thai test was a new face in the premier class: Hafizh Syahrin, who is riding with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 during the event with a view to replacing Jonas Folger full time in 2018. Syahrin, the first Malaysian in MotoGP™, was within half a second of fellow rookies Xavier Simeon (Reale Avintia Racing) and the slightly faster – despite sitting out the Valencia test last year – Tom Lüthi (EG 0,0 Marc VDS).
The quickest rookie, however, was Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) once again. The Japanese rider was P17 overall but within nine tenths of the top, with reigning Moto2™ World Champion Franco Morbidelli close behind in P19 but only half a tenth further back. With 20 riders within a second, half a tenth makes its mark.
Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) was P13 on Day 1 and only 0.002 ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) as the two Independent Team Ducati riders just edged ahead of the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini riders. Aleix Espargaro was P15 for Noale factory Aprilia, and teammate Scott Redding was right behind him and both within nine tenths.
The final rider within a second of the top was Bradley Smith at Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, and the Brit did 67 laps as the Austrian factory get their first glimpse of the newest venue on the calendar. Mika Kallio, KTM test rider, added another 48 despite a crash and brief trip to the Medical Center – rider ok. KTM will only be able to field the two men at the #ThaiTest, with Pol Espargaro sidelined through injury but on the road to recovery.
Saturday brings more track time in Thailand and with a day of learning and familiarisation under their belts, another chance for the order to get another big shake up. Who will pencil their name in as favourite for when MotoGP™ returns to Thailand to race in October? The second session begins from 9:30am local time (GMT +7), ending at 17:15 before a final quarter of an hour on Saturday is set aside for practice starts.
MotoGP riders get to grips with the Buriram circuit. Andrea Dovizioso fourth and Jorge Lorenzo tenth after first day of official testing in Thailand
Today the 2018 grid of MotoGP riders took to the track for the first time at the Chang International Circuit in Buriram for three days of testing in preparation for the inaugural Thailand Grand Prix, which is scheduled for the 7th October.
The two Ducati Team riders were able to lap constantly throughout the day, testing various set-up solutions on their Desmosedici GP18 machines and they also did a few runs with a new aerodynamic package late in the afternoon.
Andrea Dovizioso was up amongst the leaders right from the early morning and he finished the day in fourth place with a best time of 1’30.945 out of a total of 60 laps, while Jorge Lorenzo (64 laps) finished today’s session in tenth place, with a time of 1’31.246.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 1’30.945 (60 laps)
“The Buriram track is very unusual and it wasn’t easy to get used to its layout. There are three corners which are virtually hairpins and then the rest is quite a pretty straightforward run. It’s quite a slow track for our bike, but it’s always interesting to try new circuits. I’m happy with the feeling with the bike, we went well right from the start and then we focussed on doing different tests, especially with the new fairings, but tomorrow we should be able to get some more detailed feedback about these new components.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99) – 1’31.246 (64 laps)
“Today I had a bit of difficulty on this track and I wasn’t really able to be very quick. In the next two days we will have to find a way to improve the feeling with the bike, so that I can push really hard. At the end of the day we tried a new aerodynamic package, but it’s too early to draw conclusions, especially because we are still quite far off the potential that we can express on this circuit.”
tests at the new Buriram International Circuit today. The LCR Honda CASTROL man had already enjoyed a successful start to his pre-season campaign in Malaysia back in January, and today’s performance in the searing heat of north-eastern Thailand lends credence to the suggestion that bike and rider are in excellent shape ahead of the 2018 season.
The Buriram track is a complete unknown to the MotoGP field, and features on the world championship calendar for the first time ever in October later this year. Despite suffering from a lack of sleep due to jet-lag, Crutchlow made the most of that blank canvas, setting a best lap of 1’30.797 on his 57th out of 70 laps of the circuit.
Testing continues at Buriram on Saturday and Sunday.
Cal Crutchlow – 1st
(1’30.797 – lap 57 of 70)
“It’s nice to finally come and ride at the Buriram circuit, and it was really good to see so many people come down and watch the test. We’ve managed to learn the circuit very well, and as we said in the last test, Honda have done a great job this winter. I feel very good with the bike at the moment – the fundamental feeling is the same as last year, but we have some other positive points on the machine compared to last year. It’s good be able to take advantage of that.”
“I look forward to continuing the work, and testing hard over the next couple of days. Today I didn’t feel too well, and though I never suffer from jet-lag normally, last night I struggled and only managed to get to sleep at 5am for two and a half hours before coming to the track. I didn’t feel great all day. We have to see if I can improve that tomorrow, hopefully I will sleep well tonight and come back and do another good job with the LCR Honda CASTROL Team.”
ÁNGEL NIETO TEAM DISCOVERS THE BURIRAM TRACK
The Spanish team’s MotoGP riders conclude day one with both riders less than one second off the top in Thailand
The MotoGP World Championship had its first action at the Buriram track in Thailand this Friday, kicking off a three-day test for the premier class. This encounter with the new circuit, at which the great majority of riders had not ridden before, finished with Cal Crutchlow at the head of the timesheets (1:30.797), ahead of Álex Rins, Marc Márquez and Andrea Dovizioso, and with four different manufacturers in the Top 10.
The Ángel Nieto Team were experiencing the Buriram track for the first time. Álvaro Bautista and Karel Abraham finished the first day of testing as two of the most active riders, with 84 and 82 laps, respectively. They were both one second off the fastest time. Bautista, who from this test on has the two Ducati GP17 bikes with which he will take part in the season available to him, described the new track as fun and highlighted the critical nature of the last two sectors, which are narrower and where finding the correct line will be crucial. Teammate Karel Abraham closed the first day little more than a tenth of a second slower, although he experienced difficulties. After completing a very good first part of the day, in the second he had problems with the front end of his bike, so he and his team will work to improve this aspect of the setup for tomorrow.
14th Álvaro Bautista 1:31.525 (84 laps): “It’s a track that has a couple of good points like Turn 4, where you go into it very fast and you have to go down a couple of gears and enter quickly. The circuit reminds me a little of Austria; it’s varied and fun. I thought it looked easier, on paper, but riding a MotoGP bike complicates everything a bit more. The last two sectors are critical; they are narrow and you have to clearly choose the line because otherwise you can lose a lot of time. I enjoyed the opening laps. At the moment we have not been working on anything big, other than getting used to the track and making small changes to the gearing or electronics. The positive thing is that we now have our two bikes and everything is much more fluid. Today we verified that everything was good with the second bike, but we have also started work with the first, bike focusing on the setup.”
18th Karel Abraham 1:31.698 (82 laps): “Today we had a good day, especially in the first part, in which everything was going well. In the afternoon we were going fast, but we noticed problems with the front end and we were not able to solve them completely. We have work to do, especially the team, to find a better setup in order to feel more comfortable with the front tyre.”