Rain has called an end to the action at Sepang, a brief downpour soaking the track and leaving it wet. Whether it dries out or not depends on whether the sun comes out, but it's been overcast all day, so that is far from a given.
With cool weather in the morning and the threat of rain this afternoon, riders were out chasing a fast time in the first hour of the test day. Aleix Espargaro shaved a tenth off Danilo Petrucci's record time from 2019, with Enea Bastianini taking another couple of hundredths off ten minutes later.
As temperatures rose, riders have buckled down to work on this important second day of the Sepang test. Once they finish here, they head off to Mandalika, and an unknown quantity in terms of bike development.
Times at noon:
Shall we declare Aprilia 2022 MotoGP champions, now that Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales ended the first day of the Sepang MotoGP test in the top two positions? Obviously not. The Aprilias have already had extra time around Sepang, Maverick Viñales spending two days on track during the shakedown test, Aleix Espargaro one day extra. So they were already up to speed and used to riding a MotoGP bike again.
That doesn't mean that Aprilia's speed isn't real. The 2022 bike is a step forward, in part a result of Aprilia changing course after a disappointing Jerez test back in November. A new chassis improved the handling of the bike, the engine is more refined, and the whole is a lot narrower. "It felt like a Moto2 bike," Espargaro said after he had sat on it for the first time at the Aprilia factory. He had spent a long time in the garage after his team had rebuilt the bike after the shakedown test, where he had been alternating between the old and the new bike.
Making the bike narrower was quite an achievement, with a lot of parts to pack into a small area, but the effort had paid off, Espargaro said. "The difference is huge in last year’s bike in this area. From lap one it helps a lot to throw the bike into the corner. The strongest thing of the bike, the best thing is the turning," he told us.
Back to speed
The one near certainty coming into the Sepang MotoGP test was that Ducati would have found a new way to push the boundaries of vehicle dynamics. We have seen it before with the wings, with the rear swingarm spoiler, with the holeshot and ride-height devices, and more. The only question for onlookers was what exactly Gigi Dall'Igna and his team of engineers had dreamed up this time. After a tip by French MotoGP tech guru Tom Morsellino, I set out to investigate.
The answer to that looks like it is at the front of the GP22, instead of the rear. Ducati have installed a new holeshot device on the front of the Desmosedici, which appears to double as a front ride-height device. Where the old holeshot device was a simple latch, the new one is much more sophisticated, and looks like it is being used on corner exit, as well as at the start.
First, a quick look at the old holeshot device. Like the units fitted to most of the bikes on the grid, it is relatively simple. There is a catch on the bottom of the fork, and a latch mechanism operated by a cable. The rider loads it by compressing the forks, then rotates a butterfly switch on the top triple clamp to engage it. When the rider brakes for the first corner, the latch releases and the front comes up again.
Walking down pit lane, I took the following photo of the mechanism on Fabio Di Giannantonio's bike. (As it's old tech, mechanics are a lot less paranoid about it.)
The Aprilias of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales have topped the first day of testing at Sepang. Espargaro set his fastest time in the early part of the day, while Viñales put in a very fast lap at the end of the day to get within a hundredth of a second of his teammate.
Things are starting to pick up at Sepang as the temperatures drop towards the end of the day and a fast lap comes within reach again. Aleix Espargaro is still fastest, leading Enea Bastianini, but Maverick Viñales has upped his pace moving ahead of Alex Rins. The Hondas of Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro lead the second Suzuki of Joan Mir, while Johann Zarco is the second quickest Ducati in 8th. Yamaha tester Cal Crutchlow is the fastest Yamaha, just ahead of Fabio Quartararo in tenth.
Times at 5pm:
Times at 4pm:
Times at 2pm:
Testing is underway for the 2022 MotoGP season, and the track has been busy from the outset. With little rain over the past few days, the track is in good condition, and so times are already very fast. Aleix Espargaro is close to the best times of qualifying for the 2019 race, and not far off the outright lap record held by Danilo Petrucci from the 2019 season. Espargaro has the advantage of an extra day on the track during the shakedown test.
Pit lane is finally open, if only for some teams – notably Yamaha and Suzuki – to show off their new liveries, and we are starting to get a first look at the new parts some of the factories have to test. The new Yamaha livery is almost indistinguishable from last year's, Yamaha following the "if it ain't broke" philosophy.
Suzuki's is updated, and to my mind improved by having a dash of black to set off the other colors on the bike. The black panel around the race numbers something of a throwback, though historically, white numbers on a black background were used in the 125cc class.