Ecstar Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone took charge at the top of the Sepang MotoGP test timesheets today in a session that was halted by rain early on and the green track mean that laptimes were down on the fastest set yesterday until the last ten minutes when the Italian smashed in a 1’59.452 to beat Casey Stoner’s best from yesterday by two-tenths.
Iannone had been on top until the half-hour mark when he was toppled by Alvaro Bautista’s Ducati GP16 and then Movistar Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales jumped into second place but Iannone was not to be outdone and ended a little under half a second second ahead of Vinales’ final time
In a quasi-qualifying session, nine-time champion Valentino Rossi rolled down pitlane on the 2017 M1, which is sporting a new fairing with concealed aero intakes up front, to steal third with a 2’00.254 with seven minutes left which pushed team-mate Vinales back into fourth place. Vinales was having none of it, however, and responded with a 2’00.054 to snatch second with four minutes remaning, bumping Rossi back to fourth.
Vinales then upped his game again to go under the 2’00 minute mark with a 1’59.992 on his 49th lap and then bettered it with a 1’59.893 with his penultimate effort. Vinales’ last lap was closer again through the first two sectors but it went away in the third but pushed and ended with a 1’59.859.
“I’m very happy with today, although we had a short time due to the track conditions, we could do much work and, most importantly, made a step forward. In the early runs we started with some configurations that didn’t make me feel totally comfortable, then when we tried some changes I found much more confidence and the lap times got a huge benefit,” said Iannone.
“They were not radical changes, more small improvements, but they proved to be very effective. We are working very well, I am finding an excellent feeling with my team, they are working very hard and very professionally and this gives me a positive attitude that allows me to ride with confidence. Today is a result of this, we improved a lot since yesterday and it is important for us to have found positive improvements.”
Rookie Johann Zarco impressed the paddock with his fifth placed time of 2’00.343 which bumped veteran Hector Barbera down to sixth in the final analysis. Andrea Dovizioso ended just one place ahead of new team-mate Jorge Lorenzo despite a late charge by the three-time champion. Lorenzo finished with a 2’00.484 which was a second slower than Iannone - the man he replaces at Ducati.
Jonas Folger is also impressing in his first season, setting a 2’00.495 on the Monster Yamaha for ninth place while reigning champion Marc Marquez continues to struggle with the new Honda, finishing in tenth place, just ahead of Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia.
Cal Crutchlow ended in 11th, one ahead of Alex Rins while Dani Pedrosa, on the second works RC213V, finished in 14th and 1.434 off the pace. Britain’s Scott Redding recovered from a small off to 15th place. Sam Lowes ended his day in 22nd on 2’02.058 with Bradley Smith in 25th.
It was a bad day for Tito Rabat who crashed with an hour to go and was taken to hospital with a knee injury. Stoner didn’t ride today as it was Michele Pirro’s turn to test.