Aprilia MotoGP rider Aleix Espargaro was quickest on the first day of official MotoGP testing for 2022, coming within a couple of tenths of the premier class’ lap record at Sepang.
Thanks to Aprilia’s concession status, Espargaro ran on the final day of the three-day shakedown that preceded the test and therefore needed little time to get up to speed on Saturday.
His day-topping 1m58.371s effort – just short of Danilo Petrucci’s 1m58.239s record from the 2019 pre-season test – came within the first hour of running, with other riders only managing to close the gap over the remainder of the day.
Ultimately, team-mate Maverick Vinales – who had topped the shakedown – managed to get as close as 0.013s off in the final 15 minutes, while Suzuki’s Alex Rins – who had a reported crash earlier in the day – rounded out the top three, a tenth off Espargaro’s benchmark.
The other Suzuki, that of 2020 champion Joan Mir, was seventh-fastest. In addition to its 2022 specs of chassis and engine, the Hamamatsu marque has brought a new version of its ride-height device to the test.
Gresini Ducati newcomer Enea Bastianini spent much of the day in second place behind Espargaro, and wound up fourth at the chequered flag, a quarter of a second down on the Aprilia and over three tenths down on fifth-placed Johann Zarco.
Zarco (Pramac Ducati) led compatriot Fabio Quartararo, the reigning champion leading the Yamaha contingent in sixth place.
Marc Marquez, returning to MotoGP action for the first time being sidelined his diplopia-inducing training incident late last year, had two falls during the day but still placed as the lead Honda in eighth place, half a tenth up on team-mate Pol Espargaro – who was the final rider within a second of his table-topping brother.
Marco Bezzecchi (VR46 Ducati) improved at the chequered flag to round out the top 10 and finish as the lead rookie.
KTM’s fastest time was set by newcomer Raul Fernandez, who placed 13th, while there were crashes for works riders Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira.
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