Yes they are Back! The roar of the MotoGP machines has finally echoed in 2015 and boy! we are loving every bit of it. After a torturous winter and a desperate wait to hear the MotoGP machines again, we are glad that our favourite sport is back and the way it has kick-started has already got us thrilled and we have become more confident that this is going to be one of the most adrenaline filled seasons of recent times.
It was an intriguing first day back, with highs and lows, strong performers and real disappointments. The finishing order is not completely indicative of the real strength of the field, but it offers some sound clues as to who stands where. Marc Márquez topped the timesheets, but he had to put in a fast lap on a new tire at the end of the day to depose the Yamahas. For it was Valentino Rossi who led the way for much of the first day of testing, the Italian happy to be back on a bike. It wasn't just Rossi who was quick: Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Tech 3's Pol Espargaro were the fastest of the bunch, with Márquez and Dani Pedrosa only occasionally interjecting to spoil the Yamaha fun.
The fact that the Yamaha has improved was evident at the Valencia test last year only, but it has improved a lot in this Sepang test much clear by the fact how Rossi showed his prowess the whole day. Valentino Rossi explained. "The way that Yamaha works is always with small steps and 99% of the time it's always better. Usually when Yamaha brings something, it is better and this is always good for the rider because you can understand the bike in a better way," he said. Rossi has the air of a man ready to challenge for a championship again, his old cheerful self returning, success on track dispelling the occasional flashes of false cheer he used to disguise his mood during the dark years at Ducati.
Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez both tested multiple bikes on Wednesday, Pedrosa using three bikes and Márquez four, including a 2014 bike for comparison, and variations of the 2015 bike from which to choose, including one based on the bike tested at Valencia, and a variation of that. The new bike had potential, both men agreed, but needed work. Pedrosa summed it up as follows: "Obviously, the 2014 is developed, the 2015 is still in the process, so I would say the '14 is more ready now, but the '15 has more potential, and we must shape a little bit the thing, and I think it can be good when we get the right setting."
Ducati have brought a Desmosedici GP14.3 to Sepang, and despite protestations from Dovizioso that the only change was in the electronics, the bike set up looks a little different. The bike looks even more waspish around the middle, the seat and tank section slimmed even further to give the rider room to move about. Comparing the set ups being run by factory riders Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone, it is interesting to see that they now have a lot less of the front forks pushed through the top yokes than the older machines being used by Danilo Petrucci, Michele Pirro, and the Avintia riders Hector Barbera and Mike Di Meglio. Dovizioso and Iannone have a centimeter or two poking out of the triple crown. The rest have anything up to six or seven centimeters poking through. Dovizioso's speed leaves Ducati optimistic for the GP15, though as Dovizioso rightly pointed out, we will only know once it arrives at a track.
The Suzuki GSX-RR engines ran all day without complaint, Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales racking up a total of 100 laps. Given the problems they had at Valencia last year, losing three engines to mechanical problems, the new engine appears to be utterly reliable. With reliability covered, Suzuki now have to turn their attention to producing more horsepower. Espargaro and Viñales worked on improving the set up of the bike, now having time to work on the bike without it going bang all the time. They made good steps forward, but they ultimately need more horsepower. A new exhaust – shorter, more aerodynamic – had helped, but not enough to make a big difference. But the two Spanish youngsters pronounced themselves happy with the progress produced so far. The handling is still impeccable, allowing the rider to be more aggressive, but more power is still needed.