The three-day check at the Malaysian venue provided plenty of indicators as to who has made the biggest leap since 2023, and who may very well be on the again foot going into the brand new season.
Within the midst of excessive warmth and humidity, double reigning champion Franco Bagnaia set a blistering time of 1m56.682s to high the charts, profiting from barely cooler circumstances on Thursday morning to decrease the lap document.
His 2023 title rival Jorge Martin ended slightly below two tenths behind him in second with a time of 1m56.854s, whereas manufacturing unit Ducati team-mate Enea Bastianini was simply 61 thousandths of a second adrift in third place.
The frequent denominator within the ‘huge three’ was that they have been all working an identical equipment, the latest-spec GP24 carrying a brand new engine and aerodynamic bundle. The fourth rider with entry to the identical bike, Pramac recruit Franco Morbidelli, suffered a blow to his head in a non-public check at Portimao final month and received’t return to motion till the opening race at Qatar subsequent month.
Other than the trio, Gresini’s Alex Marquez was the one different rider to interrupt the 1m56s barrier within the check, regardless of competing on a year-old Desmosedici.
Marc Marquez, Gresini Racing
Photograph by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Whereas one-lap tempo performs an more and more bigger function in figuring out the ultimate end result in a race weekend, long-run pace continues to hold extra significance.
On the ultimate day of the check, many riders carried out a 10-lap dash simulation at Sepang, giving a tough thought of what the pecking order might appear like when the season formally will get underway on the Losail circuit subsequent month.
Marc Marquez was solely sixth general within the timesheets come the top of the Sepang check, however over lengthy runs – the place he was in a position to get in a rhythm with the GP23 – he was truly third quickest, behind Martin and Bezzechi however forward of Bagnaia and brother Alex.
Martin was simply the quickest of the lot and the one rider to dip into the 1m57s in a future, additionally recording six laps within the low-1m58s vary.
Bastianini was shut, however his quickest lap time was a 1m58.019s and he struggled on the ninth tour, dropping to 1m59.380s. In all, he registered six laps in low-58s, two in mid-58s and one in high-58s, along with a low-59s flier.
In the meantime, Marquez accomplished the dash with three low, 5 medium and two excessive 58s laps, a powerful run given it was solely his fourth day of working on Ducati equipment.
A number of different riders, together with Fabio Di Giannantonio, Aleix Espargaro and Pedro Acosta have been additionally fast over a future and might combat for a podium spot based mostly on their present tempo in these circumstances.
Whereas Marquez performed down his probabilities after Sepang, claiming he’s nonetheless not on the identical degree as the highest riders following his change to Ducati over the winter, his long-run tempo should sound like an ominous warning to his rivals.
The Spaniard will get two extra days of monitor working on the Losail Worldwide Circuit on 19-20 February to additional hone his abilities on the Ducati, earlier than the brand new season will get underway on 10 March.