5 February 2014
Sepang MotoGP Test: Aleix Espargaro splits factory Yamahas at Sepang
'Cal [Crutchlow] showed us last year that this bike can be on the podium. We are going to try for it and see if we arrive' - Aleix Espargaro
Far from resting on his laurels after an impressive opening day on the FTR-M1, Aleix Espargaro upped the ante further today as he split the factory Yamaha pair of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo on the Open class machine.
The NGM Mobile Forward Racing recruit jumped to fifth fastest on the times at Sepang with a brilliant lap in 2m 00.547s leaving him 0.621s down on Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez and less than one tenth of a second slower than Rossi.
Espargaro, seventh fastest on Tuesday, was understandably thrilled with his performance after ending the penultimate day of the test in front of eight time 2013 race winner Lorenzo.
“I'm very happy. I was happy yesterday but sometimes you can make one lap and that's it. This happened with me with Aprilia in the first year – I was really fast on the first day but then I fell a lot,” he said.
“For sure it's not easy to do this time. Today we did a great job and we tried a lot of things with the electronics and the frame.
“Tomorrow is going to be an important day because in the morning I will try to do a race distance and we will see. But our most difficult point will be the last seven laps of the race.
“The electronics are so important in that part, but in the first part of a race [distance] we are really good, we are fast, but our electronics will suffer in the second part but also we have more fuel than the [factory] guys so we will see how that affects them,” added Espargaro, who dominated the CRT class in 2013.
“Today we tried four or five different tyres because Bridgestone brought the new tyre and the old tyre. We tried the old and new soft tyre in the morning and the old and new soft and hard tyres once again in the afternoon,” he said. “For sure I will use the soft tyre.”
Espargaro has vowed to aim for a podium finish this season and believes there is still much to come from the FTR-M1, which currently uses a Yamaha M1 engine, chassis, swing-arm and 'Factory Ohlins' suspension.
“For sure the potential of the bike is really high,” he said. “We need to keep working because Cal [Crutchlow, Tech 3] showed us last year that this bike can be on the podium. We are going to try for it and see if we arrive.
“This bike is the best bike I ever tried. Maybe I jump to the official bike and am much faster or maybe I am slower – you never know this.
“But it's important to be less than a tenth from Valentino [Rossi] because it shows that the bike has a lot of potential.”
Reflecting on his decision to leave Aspar to ride the new Yamaha, Espargaro said time will prove whether or not he made the correct decision.
“It was not easy to go out of Aspar because it was not a team, it was a family for me,” he said. “I remember after the race in Valencia my bike was not in the box – we had the Yamaha arrive really late – and the Honda was really beautiful in the box of Aspar and I was thinking 'maybe I made a mistake!'
“But this team is really professional and Yamaha is really involved in the project. Time will decide if I made a mistake or not but for the moment I feel I'm in the right place.”
His team-mate, Colin Edwards, was 15th quickest, completing 35 laps in total and setting a best time of 2m 02.545s.
"Today we worked mainly on chassis and electronics," said Edwards. "We are working step by step as the bike is not turning as I would like, but I'm confident as we are working in the right direction."
In return for running the full control ECU system, Open class riders will have four litres of extra race fuel, the opportunity for more engine changes during the season and a softer specification rear tyre compared to the Factory class.
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