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The first day of MotoGP testing at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia was a close-fought affair with the top seven riders within less than a second of each other, and the top three - Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and rookie Marc Márquez - less than four hundredths apart, while veteran Valentino Rossi showed he hadn't lost his spark.
The forecast rain didn't happen, giving riders a full day of riding, as Honda's Pedrosa put the latest evolution of the RC213V - in particular focussing on extended engine life - on the top of the timesheets with a 2min01.157 late in the day.
Yamaha lead rider Lorenzo, who holds the record for the fastest lap at the circuit from 2012 with a 2min00.334, also put in a late scorcher with his new Yamaha, which has a different chassis and upgraded engine - designed to cure pumping and give better acceleration out of corners - and got within 0.008sec of his compatriot.
RED HOT ROOKIE
Yamaha and fans alike got their first glimpse of Valentino Rossi back on the Triple Tuning Fork machine; the Doctor didn't disappoint with a time just over four-tenths off Pedrosa in fourth. He said he was “very happy” with the Yamaha, and that he felt comfortable from the first lap.
However, the story of the day was arguably Pedrosa's new team mate Marc Márquez, who was third, only 0.036sec slower than Lorenzo, increasing his credentials as one of the favourites this year.
Another potential star was Honda privateer Stefan Bradl, running a RC213V to the same spec as the HRC team in Valencia at the end of last year. He ended the day in fifth, only two tenths off Rossi, after spending the day working on a host of settings, from traction control to suspension and brakes.
NEW ERA FOR DUCATI
Behind him was Yamaha Tech 3's Cal Crutchlow, who improved steadily throughout the day, on a 2012-spec M1, with another Honda privateer Gresini rider Álvaro Bautista - who was trying to find the best set-up for his Showa suspension - next, finishing 0.824sec off the pace.
Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga and HRC test rider Kosuke Akiyoshi put in good performances to make the top ten, ahead of Ducati's Nicky Hayden, who kick-started the team's new era by finishing 10th (three places ahead of new team mate Andrea Dovizioso), but more than two seconds slower than Pedrosa.
Tech 3's British rookie Bradley Smith was getting used to his machine, ending the day in twelfth, around 2.3 seconds off the leader, ahead of Yamaha test rider Wataru Yoshikawa, Dovizioso and the privateer Hondas of Aleix Espargaró and Randy de Puniet.
Ducati privateer Andrea Iannone made steady progress on his Desmosedici, making it into 16th by the end, ahead of team mate Ben Spies, who put in a few hours on his new Ducati in the morning, but had to stop due to shoulder pain.