Just over 4 and a half kilometres, 2 left-handers and 5 right-handers, a long, one kilometre straight and another, slightly shorter one: this is the description of the Chang International Circuit, where the MotoGP riders turned laps for the first time today. The first piece of good news is that the asphalt was in good condition and that is never a given when arriving at a scarcely used track.
This is good news for the tyres, which were not destroyed by a dirty surface. Speaking of tyres, in Thailand, Michelin provided 4 different options for the front (all symmetrical) and as many for the rear (all asymmetrical). The compounds were a selection of the ones used in Brno Brno, Termas de Rio Hondo, Sachsenring and Sepang, plus the evolutions that had already been taken to the tests in Malaysia.
As for the rankings - very tight considering the fact that there are 12 riders packed into a half a second. The name at the top of the list is Cal Crutchlow who did a time of 1’30”797 at the last minute. For what it’s worth, that is a full 2 seconds faster than Rea’s pole position in SBK (1'32"957).
If Cal’s outstanding result ahead of all the factory riders was somewhat unexpected, even more so was the second place time done by Alex Rins astride his Suzuki. The Spaniard, who was already quite at ease in Sepang on the GSX-RR, stopped the clock just 15 thousandths of a second behind the Brit.
Behind this ‘odd couple’ were the two riders with the highest expectations – Marquez and Dovizioso – who stayed very close to one another, as they had in Sepang and who, unlike the others, did not take advantage of the final hours in the afternoon to do a time attack. In any case, Marc was just 0”115 behind his fellow Honda rider and Dovi was 33 thousandths behind, with Pedrosa breathing down his neck (at 15 thousandths). As you can read HERE, Andrea tested a new fairing that Ducati brought at the end of the day.
The ‘Red’ shone not just with Dovizioso, but also with Petrucci (on the GP18) and Miller (on the GP17). The two Pramac riders finished the day in 6th and 7th place, with a gap of just a couple tenths. Less positive, at least in the morning, was Lorenzo’s day, with the rider managing to move up in the rankings only toward the end of the day, finishing in 10th position.
Ahead of the Majorcan were Andrea Iannone and Valentino Rossi, who was the best Yamaha rider for his birthday with the 8th place time. Viñales was 3 positions farther back, but only one tenth behind the Doctor, whereas Zarco was 12th. The Frenchman decided to continue using the 2016 frame, discarding the 2017, but with a new engine.
Continuing down the rankings, behind Rabat and Bautista we find the two Aprilia machines in 15th and 16th place ahead of Nakagami, the best rookie on the track today. The Japanese rider was 0”895 from the leader, while Morbidelli was 0”932 behind and in 19th place. Closing out the standings was logically Syarhrin in his first time on a MotoGP bike. Considering the fact that this is all new to the Malaysian, he cut a fine figure with a gap of 2”368.
Noteworthy during the day were crashes by Crutchlow, Bautista and Pedrosa on the last turn, a steep and treacherous first gear climb. On turn 7, on the other hand, Simeon ended up in the gravel with no physical consequences for him either.