Martin sets the pace for Ducati on opening day

Last year’s championship runner-up Martin set a time of 1m57.951s on the GP24 Ducati to head Tech3 rookie Pedro Acosta by 0.269s following eight hours of running on a hot and sunny day in Malaysia.

It was Raul Fernandez who grabbed the top spot early on for the new Trackhouse team as the test began at 10am local time, lapping the venue in 2m00.044s on his satellite Aprilia.

However, drama would follow just 20 minutes into the session, as both Fernandez and Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia went down at Turn 11 in separate incidents.

It is understood that Fernandez was the first to fall off his bike at the long right-hander, with Bagnaia then getting caught up by the oil left on track by the Aprilia.

Fernandez’s bike caught fire in the gravel trap while the Spanish rider himself had to be taken to the medical centre later for check-ups after reporting pain. He was able to rejoin the session later on.

Once the red flag deployed to assist with the recovery of their bikes was removed, Maverick Vinales started lighting up the timesheets on the factory Aprilia, breaking the two-minute barrier with a time of 1m59.639s just before the end of the first hour.

During the second hour, it was Martin who rose to the fore, setting a time of 1m58.904s before lowering the benchmark further to 1m58.201s.

Shortly after the clock ticked past 1pm, the Pramac rider managed to go even quicker with the first 1m57s lap of the session, putting himself within half a second of the fastest-ever MotoGP time set at Sepang.

The 1m57.951s flier would remain unbeaten until the end of the day’s running, with the majority of the riders shifting away from time attacks in the afternoon session.

The closest anyone came to Martin’s lap during the day was MotoGP’s star rookie Acosta, who set a best time of 1m58.220s on his KTM to finish second.

Fabio Quartararo, whose Yamaha team struggled with one-lap pace all year in 2023, jumped to third with just two hours remaining in the session with a time that was just 0.008s slower than Acosta.

Quartararo’s late effort pushed VR46’s Fabio di Giannantonio down to fourth, 0.032s ahead of the factory Ducati of Enea Bastianini. 

Vinales led Aprilia’s charge after improving to a 1m58.470s in the final hour of the running, leaving behind the Ducatis of Alex Marquez (Gresini) and Marco Bezzecchi (VR46).

Marc Marquez, Gresini Racing

Marc Marquez, Gresini Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Six-time MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez had an eventful start to his second MotoGP test as a Ducati rider but was able to propel himself to ninth with a last-gasp effort of 1m58.621s, which put him 0.670s down on pacesetter Martin.

Marquez’s first run lasted only four corners as his bike came to a halt on his out-lap with a technical problem. More issues followed him on his second run, with a small crash at Turn 15 dealing another blow to him during the morning session.

That left him 16th at the halfway point of the day, but a smoother run in the afternoon helped him book a spot inside the top 10 as the session drew to a close.

Marquez was followed by LCR rider Johann Zarco, who was the fastest Honda on the timesheets with a best lap of 1m58.620s.

11th place went to Alex Rins on the factory Yamaha, followed closely by Brad Binder on the best of the two works KTM bikes.

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia), Joan Mir (Honda) and Miguel Oliveira (Trackhouse) rounded out the top 15.

Reigning champion Bagnaia ended up eight tenths off the pace in 16th place in what was a low key session for the Ducati rider, other than the incident at Turn 11 at the beginning of the session.

Franco Morbidelli was the only race rider not in action on the opening day of the Sepang test, as the new Pramac recruit continues to recover from the heavy fall he suffered during a private Ducati test at Portimao last month. 

A small blood clot had been discovered in his head following a CT scan in Faro Hospital, impacting his preparations for the new season. However, it is still possible that Morbidelli could arrive in Malaysia before the end of the test on Thursday.

His place at Pramac was taken by Ducati test rider Michele Pirro on Tuesday. 

Apart from Pirro, Cal Crutchlow was the only other non-2024 rider to take part in the test as he gathered more data for Yamaha, the only manufacturer without a satellite team in MotoGP.

Sepang MotoGP test – Day 1 results:

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