Honda rider Pol Espargaro led his brother Aleix on the opening day of testing at Mandalika as MotoGP endured a complicated, disrupted debut day at the Indonesian venue.
Heavy overnight rain had brought a layer of mud and dirt to the track, the situation exacerbated by ongoing construction work not just to complete circuit facilities but to significantly upgrade the access roads ahead of next month’s first MotoGP race.
Track action was first suspended for over an hour and a half in the morning as officials worked to sweep the track and wash it, removing over 40kg of aggregate material according to The Race’s sources.
Action then resumed at 1200 local time, but with many riders apparently refusing to take to the track due to safety concerns, an impromptu safety commission meeting was called.
This resulted in a follow-up being scheduled and riders mandated to complete 20 laps in the interim, both to allow them to better assess conditions and to lay down more rubber in an attempt to improve grip – with an extra set of Michelin tyres being allowed beyond the original testing allocation so that valuable sets weren’t wasted in an effort to lay down more rubber.
Had the extra mileage proved fruitless – and it seemed it might at one point, as the three Ducatis of Marco Bezzecchi (VR46), Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini) and works rider Francesco Bagnaia went down at the sharp Turn 10 right-hander in quick succession – the mileage for the day would’ve theoretically been curtailed in advance.
However, as extensive running carried on the laptimes did improve significantly, with Pol Espargaro becoming the first rider to surpass the World Superbike record at the track (set by Yamaha’s champion and MotoGP hopeful Toprak Razgatlioglu) with just under three-quarters of an hour left on the clock – Friday action having been extended by 45 minutes due to the stoppages.
But despite the extra allowance few riders ended up getting a shot at Espargaro’s time, especially with rain making an unwelcome return in the final half-hour.
The elder Espargaro, Aprilia rider Aleix, made it an all-Espargaro 1-2 by just 0.006s over KTM’s Brad Binder, but both were nearly half a second down on Pol. Espargaro is understood to have been set on very used tyres.
Suzuki’s Alex Rins, Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo and Ducati’s Jack Miller made it six different marques in the top six, while only 11 riders wound up clocking times within a second of the pace-setter.
Beyond the three quickfire top 10 crashes, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) also had a fall at the same spot, while there was likewise a tumble for Pramac Ducati’s Jorge Martin – who spent a big chunk of the day in the top spot. Rookie Bezzecchi also fitted in a second crash.
Despite the track surface complications, all riders managed to log a fairly comprehensive amount of mileage – with nobody logging fewer than 45 laps and Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati) leading the way on 96.