Ducati Lenovo Team’s Francesco Bagnaia claimed the bragging rights on the final day of the Sepang Test, and in some style too by obliterating the outright lap record. The World Champion fired in a 1:56.682 during a blistering opening hour of action to better Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing), as last year’s gripping rivalry was renewed early in 2024.
Having finished fastest yesterday, Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) was forced to settle for third but once again proved he’s back to his best - something his team boss, Davide Tardozzi, also wanted to stress. Fourth and the final man to have broken new ground by posting a 1:56.938 was Gresini Racing’s Alex Marquez.
Ducati Lenovo Team, Prima Pramac Racing, Pertamina Enduro VR46 & Gresini Racing
Yet more reasons to smile down at Ducati with their three 2024 machines occupying the top three places, and six of their seven full-time riders sitting in the top eight.
Marc Marquez finally threw some soft rubber at this Gresini Racing machine today and he closed out his three days in Malaysia within touching distance of the top spots. A 1:57.270 sees the #93 just over half a second behind the World Champion.
Pertamina Enduro VR46’s Fabio Di Giannantonio was eighth over one lap, but his pace was nothing short of phenomenal. Nine riders did Sprint simulations today and Diggia was the fastest of the lot, ahead of Bastianini and Martin. Fifth of the nine riders, and only a couple of seconds away, was Marc Marquez as his adaptation continues.
The outlier for Ducati was Marco Bezzecchi, who’s had his struggles in Sepang. A third crash in three days won’t have helped his mood as he was unable to improve on his lap from yesterday and, as a result, finished 15th on the combined standings.
Aprilia and Trackhouse Racing
Another day of two halves for Aprilia. On one side, Aleix Espargaro hailed it “the best test” he’s ever had with the Noale factory, and you can understand why. The #41 claimed the final spot inside the top after punching in a 1:57.091, and his pace wasn’t bad either. He was fourth of the Sprint simulations and only a second away from 2023’s Sprint King, Jorge Martin.
The end! Very happy w the first test of the season, good speed and even better pace! Let's have some days of rest and back at the action at the Qatar test! Ciaoooo 🤟 pic.twitter.com/GO0DGYqfq5— Aleix Espargaró (@AleixEspargaro) February 8, 2024
Meanwhile on the other side, after complaining of a lack of rear grip yesterday, no many in-roads were made today. Maverick Viñales closed out the three days in 12th, whilst Miguel Oliveira (Trackhouse Racing) was 18th.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing & Red Bull GASGAS Tech3
Another day were all of the headlines coming out of the Austrian camp and down to the remarkable efforts of Pedro Acosta. Although Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) finished ahead of him on the combined standings, Acosta closed the gap down to just 0.058 seconds to the orange army’s star man.
His Sprint simulation is also worthy of a mention. Faster over 9 laps than the World Champion Pecco Bagnaia and less than a second adrift of the incredibly experienced Marc Marquez and Aleix Espargaro. A reminder: today was just day seven on a MotoGP™ machine.
Aussie Jack Miller rounds out the three days 1.1 seconds adrift of top spot in 14th, whilst there’s work to do for Augusto Fernandez who finished 21st and over two seconds behind.
Repsol and LCR Honda
Repsol Honda’s Joan Mir closed out the Sepang Test inside the top ten after going under the pole position lap from last year - positive signs for the Japanese factory. But despite Mir’s 1.1 second improvement over one lap, he wanted to stress the need for further work over a longer distance. Taka Nakagami fired in a 1:57.765 to end 13th, ahead of Johann Zarco and Luca Marini in 17th and 19th.
Monster Energy Yamaha
Fabio Quartararo continued to beat the ‘one lap pace’ drum after closing out the three days in 11th. The Frenchman hoping for a further step next time out in Qatar. Alex Rins was 16th and 1.1 seconds away from Bagnaia’s record-breaking lap.