Marquez sizzles in Sepang MotoGP testComment on this story
Honda's world champion Marc Marquez set the pace in the first official MotoGP test session of 2014 at the Sepanf circuit in Malaysia, while Aleix Espargaro put a second-tier Open specification bike in the top five for the first time.
Marquez's team-mate Dani Pedrosa who led the way for much of Wednesday morning, until the world champion smashed through the two-minute barrier shortly before his lunch break, after which there were substantially less changes in lap times.
It remains to be seen Marquez can better Casey Stoner's 2012 pre-season time of 1min59.607, also recorded on a works Honda.
Stefan Bradl was third, only 0.003sec slower than Pedrosa, on a privateer Honda, with Valentino Rossi fourth for Yamaha.
Espargaro showed the potential of the new Open FTR-Yamaha combination (a Yamaha engine in an FTR frame), as he was barely two tenths down on the nearest factory Honda, with Rossi's team mate Jorge Lorenzo sixth.
Lorenzo was battling with handling issues, as a result of setup changes made to improve fuel consumption - for 2014 the Factory Option bikes are limited to only 20 litres for the full duration of each Grand Prix.
Bradley Smith spearheaded the Yamaha Tech3 charge, with Ducati privateer Andrea Iannone eighth, significantly quicker than the works bikes. Alvaro Bautista was ninth on a privateer Honda, but his morning session was cut short at 11.30am when the bike developed a technical problem.
SUZUKI DEVELOPMENT CONTINUES
Espargaro's youngev brother Pol rounded out the top 10 on the second Tech 3 Yamaha, with the three works Ducatis of Andrea Dovizioso, Cal Crutchlow and test rider Michele Pirro locked together in the next three places.
Former world champion Nicky Hayden was the quickest of the new Open-class privateer Honda RCV1000R riders, while veteran Colin Edwards on the second FTR Yamaha was 15th.
The Suzuki Test Team ended the day with Randy de Puniet 3.1 seconds behind Marquez, as the bike's development continues ahead of a planned return to the premier class in 2015.
Testing will wrap on Thursday with a number of riders running full-length race simulations - which may give a better indication of what to expect when the MotoGP season starts in Qatar on 23 March, although are still another three pre-season tests schedules before then; anything could happen and probably will.