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Sepang MotoGP Test Ends With Quartararo Dominant

As we reported earlier, Fabio Quartararo, in his second MotoGP season, already warrants a full-factory Yamaha M1 despite his presence on the satellite Petronas team this year. The first official MotoGP test of 2020 ended yesterday in Sepang with Quartararo posting the quickest lap time each of the three days.

Sepang highlighted just how competitive the MotoGP category has become. Breaking two minutes flat on a lap has traditionally indicated a very quick rider at Sepang, and 24 riders achieved this during the three-day test, including riders representing each manufacturer participating in the series. Among the top ten lap times posted, six manufacturers were represented, including Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Ducati, KTM and Aprilia!

Of note, Marc Marquez continues to struggle with the shoulder operated on a few months ago, and he uncharacteristically posted the 13th fasted lap over the three-day test.

Yamaha test rider Jorge Lorenzo was only allowed to ride on the 3rd day of the test, on last year’s bike, but still broke two minutes. Johann Zarco was reasonably quick on his new Ducati. Take a look here for the combined times of the three-day test.

Here is a press release from Quartararo’s team, Petronas Yamaha SRT:

The opening MotoGP test of 2020 has come to a successful conclusion for PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team riders Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli. Across the three days the team has been able to build up vital knowledge as they prepare for the season start next month in Qatar.

Once again Quartararo was one of the first riders out on track to run a series of time-attack laps, which saw him improve upon his best time from yesterday, despite experiencing some difficulties, before testing Michelin’s new rear tyre compounds. After an early lunch break, Fabio was able to focus his attention on a long run at a time of day representative of a race start. The Frenchman rounded out the session with a series of practice starts and finished the final day of testing at the top of the time sheets with a best lap of 1min 58.349secs, out of the 57 completed.

Morbidelli had initially planned to join his team-mate in the series of time attack runs, but needed to test some different bike setups instead to combat some front-end chatter. After working through this Franco was able to resume his testing programme in the afternoon, where he proceeded to enjoy more laps on his Yamaha YZR-M1 and finished the day with a total of 58 laps on the board. His best time was a 1min 58.838secs, which in an exceedingly close session placed him 13th – just 0.489secs shy of Fabio.

With testing at Sepang now at an end PETRONAS Yamaha SRT will have to some time to assess their learnings before turning their attention to the next MotoGP Official Test in Qatar (22-24 February), which will be the last test before action gets underway at the first round of the year (6-8 March), also held in Qatar.

Razlan Razali
Team Principal

I’m glad we got the launch and the announcements out of the way before the test began as it meant that our riders could fully focus on the three day test without any distractions. In general, I think the test went very well. Although we can’t really look too much at the timings yet, I think psychologically it’s good for the riders to be quick, and for the competitors to see as well. So far everything seems positive: Fabio is doing great on the new bike that he’s had for only two days and Franco is making progress with his bike as well. At the same time we’ve also managed to engage the riders with the fans here the last three days, and with our guests. I think generally it was a very positive test.

Wilco Zeelenberg
Team Manager

The first test for season 2020 is done. It was a very positive test with no crazy things happening! We had good weather across the test. For Fabio to have three days on top of the time sheets is very promising. I’m also very happy to see Franco riding like he is at the moment. I think he understands the bike better than he did last year and he also made some good steps forward. We did what we had to do and tested what we had to be doing, there were no big crashes and now we’re ready for the Qatar test.

Fabio Quartararo 1st (1:58.349)

Today was a difficult day for us, it was not easy to get into the pace and make a good lap this morning, but overall I’m really happy. We did a long run of 12 laps in the hottest conditions when there was nobody on track. It was not bad: our pace was high 1min 59sec and low 2mins, it was 55 degrees on track and nobody else was riding so it was probably the worst track conditions we had today. We are working in a really good way to improve the speed and hopefully in Qatar we will take another step forward. My goal now has changed a little bit; we want to have better long run pace, because we now know over one lap we are fast. Overall, I’m really happy with the first test of the year with the 2020 bike.

Franco Morbidelli 13th (1:58.838)

I feel quite happy about this test as we’ve been working a lot and we understand many things on the new bike. I also already feel that I have good confidence with the new bike. We didn’t use the super soft tyre today to make the time attack, we used it yesterday just for normal running. So I think that is why we are not higher up the timings today. But even with the normal tyre on the time attack our pace is not so far off the top. I understand a lot from these three days and we know what we need to work on in Qatar. It has been overall a good test and I look forward to Qatar now and we try to do a good job there also.


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27 Comments

  1. John G Friedrichs says:

    Lots of predictions here. I’m just hoping for competitive racing. I enjoy racing when it comes down to the last corner of the last lap. Love the epic battles between Dovi and Marc.

  2. TimC says:

    Re: The shoulder thing – interesting. If this is enough to even put MM back into the thick of things instead of just waltzing around at will, the picture is seriously dramatically different.

  3. VLJ says:

    So, what does Yamaha do if a miracle happens…

    -Their 2020 M1 has enough top speed to be competitive against the Ducati and Honda. Maybe at least enough power to be able to stay in their slipstream, and/or not get swallowed whole down every decently long straight.

    -They finally solve the issue with tire degradation late in races, particularly on hot days.

    -Vinales remains Vinales. He’s fast in practice, usually qualifies well, wins a race or two, but, often as not, fails to back up his fast pace on Fridays and Saturdays with any meaningful results on Sundays.

    -Quartararo repeats his first season results, or, for that matter, Zarco’s first Yamaha season results. He’s always fast. Often on pole. Never wins. Increasingly, as his frustration mounts, he crashes more and more. By season’s end, he’s down in seventh in the standings. Or fifth. Whatever.

    -Morbidelli continues to show improved results, despite being the only Yamaha rider on a non-factory, reduced-power M1. He nabs a podium here and there, but is no threat to the championship leaders.

    -Rossi returns to the Rossi of 2015-2018, only now he has a competitive bike. He’s consistent. He’s a podium machine. He wins a few races. Once again, he’s Yamaha’s top man in the points chase.

    -Marquez’s bad shoulder prevents him from effectively defending his title.

    -#46 picks up the crumbs and wins title number ten.

    Like I said, a miracle.

    Still, what if? What does Yamaha do then? Can they seriously still demote their demigod, who also happens to be the reigning world champion?

    It seems to me that Yamaha at least needs to keep the option of a factory Monster M1 ride open for Rossi in 2021, even if it means having three factory riders. There is no way they can demote their top rider, their championship-winning rider, to the satellite team, irrespective of whether the Petronas bike is factory-spec. Under those circumstances, Rossi has to remain in Monster Yamaha colors, flying the factory banner for Yamaha.

    Otherwise, what a public-relations nightmare it would be for the Tuning Fork boys. That would be some serious egg on their faces.

    • joe b says:

      … who is #46?

    • Dave says:

      If what we’ve read about Rossi’s and Yamaha’s future is true (he gets full factory support outside of the factory team) and VLJ’s scenario comes to pass, then there will have to officially be two “A” teams under two different sponsors, instead of an “A” and a “B” team. Why can’t Petronas Yamaha be just as big and important as Fiat Yamaha, if they’re willing to pay the bills?

    • mickey says:

      That would be a conundrum VLJ. I would like to see Rossi win another, he truly tries hard every season, but time waits for no one. Even the great Valentino Rossi, and he is just not as young, fit, or hungry as his competition. In a couple race season, that might not make a difference, but in a grueling 20 race season, it has to. He is still a great rider without a doubt, unfortunately he is no longer the greatest rider in the field. It would indeed take a miracle for him to win the WC again.

    • John A. Kuzmenko says:

      If Rossi won the 2020 MotoGP championship, he should retire at the end of the season and go out on a high note.

    • TimC says:

      It would be great, but damn that’s not a bet I’d take.

      First flaw – Q floundering. Ain’t gonna happen, he’s a natural, in the ways that (e.g.) Vinales is not.

      • VLJ says:

        Zarco was also a natural. Maybe even more so.

        Crashes happen. Frustration mounts. More crashes happen.

        • mickey says:

          quatro gets frustrated every time MM snipes him at the finish line. The last time, he rode around on the parade/cool down lap pounding his gas tank, collapsing on the tank and crying. MM can use this to his advantage, breaking the kid down, and making him think he can’t possibly beat MM. Lot of talent, thin skin, but then again he’s young and inexperienced. He needs to toughen up… or prove to himself he CAN beat MM.

      • Dave says:

        Let’s not forget, Fabio hasn’t yet secured his first premier class win. A few years back, there were only a couple of riders who could win but now it is a more reasonable expectation. He needs to win, and more than once, before he can be truly considered a threat for the title.

  4. Provologna says:

    Should not Yamaha move Quartararo from Petronas Satellite to the Factory Team?

    • Dave says:

      On’y 2 seats available and they’re both contracted to other riders. Rossi has hinted that this will be his last year on the factory team, though if he’s fast this year, I could see him swapping seats with Quartararo and getting all the same support as factory, which I think Fabio is getting at this point, anyway.

    • Jeremy says:

      Quartararo and Vinales are both signed to Factory Yamaha for 2021. If Rossi decides to keep going after this year, he’ll have to do so with the satellite team.

    • Jeremy says:

      Quartararo and Vinales are both signed to factory Yamaha for 2021.

  5. mickey says:

    Early indications are for a close and suspenseful season.

  6. Curt says:

    Regardless of the rider order, pretty incredible how close the times were.

  7. Dave says:

    Pretty interesting outcomes. Rossi is Yamaha #2, recording his first sub-1:59 laps in his career at this track. Every time we think the old dog is done..

    • Jeremy says:

      It was an interesting test session. I know it is still too early to discern anything, but I’m impressed with the Espargaros on the KTM and Aprilia. I sure would like to eat my words about the KTM and Aprilia being unlikely to make any big leaps, and it looks like both OEMs are finally taking the gloves off with KTM abandoning the steel trellis frame and Aprilia pretty much coming with an entirely new bike. I am also glad to see Rossi in a seemingly optimistic manner concerning the new bike.

      • Dave says:

        Going by the times, it really was. In light of Rossi’s point that he’d never been below 1:59 at the track before, 16 other also managed to do it, so track conditions must’ve been optimal.

        We have to expect the big guns to get their acts together in future sessions and shuffle KTM & Aprilia down a little bit but I agree, their progress is encouraging.

        • Jeremy says:

          According to several of the riders interviewed, the vast amount of rubber that gets laid down on the track during these big testing sessions in this kind of heat gives great grip and basically allows “everybody” to be fast

          Crutchlow also mentioned in an interview that Sepang isn’t a very complete track and that the track in Qatar has a bit of everything and should be a much more relevant test of machine, setup, and rider.