11 February 2014
Moto3: Antonelli opens on top at Valencia
"Being on top is always a great feeling!" - Niccolo Antonelli.
Niccolo Antonelli took the Go&Fun Gresini team's new KTM machinery to the top of the timesheets during day one of official 2014 Moto3 testing at Valencia.
The Italian, no higher than 14th in the championship during his two seasons on FTR Honda equipment, finished the day with a 0.355s advantage over new Red Bull KTM signing Jack Miller.
Antonelli's best lap of 1m 40.000s was only 0.275s outside the official race record set by Luis Salom in November's three-way title showdown.
“I am very happy, because after the good impressions obtained at Almeria I expected to be among the fastest here in Valencia, but being on top is always a great feeling!” said Antonelli.
“Of course we have to stay calm because we are only at the first day of testing and I am convinced that our rivals will be closer tomorrow.
“We didn't make big changes to the bike, just a few refinements, waiting for an improvement of the weather: today the temperatures were always very low, but tomorrow should be warmer.”
Another Italian having a strong opening day was Romano Fenati, who took third place (+0.555s) for the new Team Sky VR46 entry, with Isaac Vinales - effectively replacing title winning cousin Maverick at Team Calvo - completing an all-KTM top four.
Had it not been for Danny Kent's Husqvarna, KTM riders would have filled the top eight places - although in reality both brands are owned by KTM.
Kent was one-second from Antonelli, with Malaysian Hafiq Azmi (SIC-Ajo), Francesco Bagnaia (Sky VR 46) and Enea Bastianini (Go&Fun Gresini) completing the next batch of KTMs.
Caretta's Efren Vazquez was quickest of the Honda riders in ninth (+1.345s), marking a steady start for the new machine built to break KTM's class dominance.
Miguel Oliveira was the leading Mahindra rider in tenth place (+1.452s) with Philipp Oettl the top Kalex-KTM in 15th place (1.702s).
Alex Rins, the only rider from the 2013 title showdown that is staying in the junior Grand Prix class, was only 17th quickest, as the Estrella Galicia 0,0 team returns to Honda.
"After the first [shakedown] test last week in Almeria, today we have been working hard with the technicians to find a good setup,” said Rins. “The conditions were not ideal, but I'm happy to see that the whole team is doing their best and that HRC is working hard to bring new developments to the tests.
“We are focusing on the configuration of the chassis and the suspension. It is a completely new bike, so we still have to continue working, but we know that we have much room for improvement in which to adapt and get everything in place."
Team-mate Alex Marquez, younger brother of MotoGP champion Marc, began the week in eleventh (+1.502s).
“We have been working hard on the setup of both the chassis and the suspension, to find a good base as soon as possible,” said Marquez, who suffered a small fall at turn 12. “Regarding the engine, we have improved slightly since the previous test and HRC is working to continue bringing developments.”
Testing, alongside the Moto2 class, concludes on Thursday evening.
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