Marquez looms large on first day at Sepang MotoGP test

MotoGP rookie only 0.044 seconds behind leader Pedrosa after first day of test, and most veteran riders aren’t surprised

2013/02/05 - mgp - Test - Sepang - MotoGP - Marc Marquez - Repsol Honda - RC213V - ActionAndrew Northcott

SEPANG, MALAYSIA, FEB 5 – Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez finished the first day of the Sepang MotoGP test only 0.044 seconds behind teammate and pace-setter Dani Pedrosa, but he didn’t think much of it. The self-effacing young Spaniard said he could concentrate on doing fast laps while the more senior riders were testing parts.

“Sure, I’m surprised, but, you know, now I think it’s not the most important,” he said after finishing the first day of the test behind only Pedrosa and Yamaha’s world champion Jorge Lorenzo. “The top rider, especially Dani (Pedrosa), that I know, but sure in Yamaha too, they are testing new parts and they are testing many things and today I just concentrate on the setting of the bike. I didn’t test. From tomorrow maybe I will start to test some things, but we didn’t know yet. But it’s just the first day. I think it’s not important the position.” Others disagreed.

Rossi predicted that Marquez would be fighting for the title from the first race. Marquez laughed, then disagreed.

“I expect and I said that Marquez can fight for victory from the beginning of the season already three, four months ago,” Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi said. “But I like a lot his attitude, because in his mind, looking at him today, looks like he wants to win the championship on the first try. This is good. We hope that he will make some mistakes and some problems, experience problems. If not, will be very strong for everybody.” Added Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, “I wasn’t surprised because I thought Valentino and Marquez would be there from the beginning. I will say that.”

Marquez tested at Sepang in November, which gave him something of a head start, even if the weather then wasn’t wonderful. Today at the first official MotoGP test of 2013, it was warm and humid, but other than some rain drops in the morning there was little precipitation. That gave Marquez eight hours to fine-tune his set-up. He started with the same 2013 model he’d finished the November Sepang test, the one with which he had problems on braking. Braking a heavy, fast motorcycle with carbon brakes, he admitted, was one of the hardest things to master.

“Yeah, braking point it’s quite difficult, especially, for example, in Valencia,” he said. “When I take the bike, I say, ‘OK, it’s not a very big problem.’ But here in Malaysia in November also especially first day I’m struggling a lot. And now I’m struggling to, you know… I can do maybe one lap but I’m not consistent. I need to learn more, especially on that point because you know from the speed, the weight of the bike, carbon brakes, also the front tire it’s a big difference from Moto2, from Dunlop. And in that way we need to focus in that part.”

Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Bradley Smith and Energy T.I.’s Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone were two other MotoGP rookies who overshot the first corner at the end of a long straightaway at Sepang. Said Marquez, “Maybe the area where we need to concentrate more is the braking point because it’s what I say. Here, especially in the hard braking point, the first corner, the last corner, on the smallest corner of the circuit, in that part I can do maybe one lap, but it’s quite difficult to be constant all the time, because to understand the carbon brakes and everything. From that just try to be to have more more laps with the used tires, because then when you use the used tires you understand more the electronic parts, traction control, traction wheelie. All the things with the used tires you understand. It’s better for understand.”

Marquez’s test program is dependent on his progress, he said. The first day was to get feeling with the bike, to put in the miles at speed, otherwise, he’d be giving information that wouldn’t be relevant at race pace. “And today’s goal was just to try to be there, try to make a good lap time and then from that I start to try other things,” he said.

With so little experience on the bike, Marquez found it difficult to relax on the first day of the Sepang MotoGP test. After the first five laps he was “completely tired because I was too stiff. But then on the end of the day I was quite happy with my feeling with the bike but sill I need more bikes and I know that I will finish this test and still I will be a little bit stiff on the bike. But it’s normal, you know, for example, the fastest riders with more experience, they go out and from the first lap they are there and just I struggle a little bit on that point.”

Rossi predicted that Marquez would be fighting for the title from the first race. Marquez laughed, then disagreed.

“No, it’s not in my mind,” he said. “It’s the first day of the pre-season. Everybody tries many things. For example, sure, Lorenzo, I know in my box, Dani, he’s trying, many, many new parts, new things. You know it’s the preseason, it’s the first day. When we will finish that three days we will know more the reality I think, because all the top riders are trying many new parts and sure all new parts are not good. and then from that just I was concentrating on the setting of the bike and that part was easy for me.”