Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro was in control of the times from only his ninth lap of the Sepang test on Saturday, running 1’58.371 pace.
Gresini Racing’s Enea Bastianini was in hot pursuit from the outset, sitting just over two-tenths adrift after 23 laps and holding fast until the closing stages. The second Aprilia of Maverick Viñales edged ever nearer as the clock counted down, rounding out the top three with 20 minutes left to run and more in the tank before striking for second - just 0.013s off his teammate - on his 54th lap.
Frenchmen Johann Zarco and Fabio Quartararo vied for fourth and fifth respectively in the final hour, with the Pramac Ducati the last inside the 1’58 bracket until the late laps came in. The Suzuki pairing of Joan Mir and Alex Rins had been running in tandem in sixth and seventh after spending the day evaluating the GSX-RR’s new engine and chassis, first seen in Jerez, alongside two swingarms and a brand new rear squatting device. Rins’ late charge, however, promoted the Spaniard to third with five minutes to go, just a tenth off the leading Aprilia out front.
Marc Marquez, back on the vastly updated RC213V for the first time since October, suffered his first crash of 2022 in the opening two hours of action but was quickly back on track and running top five, and top speed with an hour left to go. The Repsol Honda rider also went down at turn 15 in the closing half an hour, completing Saturday’s standings in eighth narrowly ahead of fellow HRC man Pol Espargaro.
Britain’s Cal Crutchlow concluded his second day of testing the M1 Yamaha on the edge of the top ten ahead of LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami while Raul Fernandez continued his impressive rookie showing as he claimed 12th overall thanks to a 1’59.682 on his 66th lap. A last 1’59.550 effort from Marco Bezzecchi, however, promoted the Mooney VR46 rider to tenth in the standings and top rookie of the day in the final minute.
The second LCR of Alex Marquez split the Red Bull KTM’s of Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira from 14th to 16th while Jorge Martin headed the Ducati pack of Luca Marini, on his first taste of the Desmosedici GP22, Pecco Bagnaia and a seemingly recovered Fabio Di Giannantonio in the top 20.
Monster Energy Yamaha’s Franky Morbidelli completed his first day back on a MotoGP machine after his winter rehab in 21st ahead of other big-hitters Jack Miller and Andrea Dovizioso with Remy Gardner and Darryn Binder continued their premier class education in 24th and 25th. Binder’s day ending slightly prematurely after a late off at turn nine, and 45 laps on track.