MotoGP rookie Thomas Luthi lowered the gap from 4.3s to 2.3s during his belated debut for the Marc VDS Honda team, at the Sepang test.

The Swiss star had been forced to miss all of November testing due to ankle injuries at the same Sepang circuit in October, which had also ended any chance of depriving 2018 team-mate Franco Morbidelli of the Moto2 title.

Luthi then fell for the first time since that accident on the final day of the MotoGP test, emerging uninjured from a low-speed tumble after losing the front into turn four.

"A good day again today, with another step made with the bike and tyres," Luthi said at the end of testing.

"The conditions were different today; normally it's fast in the morning and then again in the afternoon when the temperature starts to drop, but today the grip level wasn't there this afternoon, with no real fast times at the end.

"Today we worked mostly with old tyres, to understand better how to ride the bike towards the end of the race when the tyres start to slide. This was quite interesting and I think I learnt a lot today.

"I also got my first MotoGP crash out of the way, after losing the front at turn four. I almost saved it but then the rear went away and down I went. So now I know what that feels like too."

Joined at Marc VDS by highly-experienced crew chief Gilles Bigot, Luthi eventually set a best lap time of 2m 1.126s.

That was only good enough for 25th out of the 30 bikes, but Luthi was within a few tenths of the best lap by factory Aprilia rider Scott Redding and ahead of Tech 3 Yamaha stand-in Yonny Hernandez.

"Tom seems a little disappointed with the lap times, but from our perspective he's doing a good job," said team manager Michael Bartholemy.

"Already we can see many things that he's doing quite well with the MotoGP bike and if he can make the same progress during the next two tests then I think he'll make up for the testing time missed at the end of last year ahead of the first race in Qatar."

Morbidelli was 0.6s quicker than Luthi for 20th on the timesheets, with LCR Honda's Takaaki Nakagami the top rookie in 15th.

The Italian also suffered his first MotoGP fall at Sepang, causing some lingering hand pain on the final day.

"When I rode the bike this morning I had some pain in the fingers on my left hand as a result of the crash yesterday, but I was able to continue with some painkillers. In the afternoon we made some work with the medium tyre and I was happy with the results. I was able to make a lot of laps and the time was around 2m 01 low, which is not so bad with this tyre," Morbidelli said.

"Finally we wanted to try a time attack, but the conditions weren't as good late in the session as they were this morning and I wasn't able to improve my time. It was the first test of the year, we managed to get a lot of things done and I felt good working with my crew, so I leave here satisfied and looking forward to Thailand."

The Thailand test, from February 16-18, will offer a more equal chance for the rookies since there have been no previous MotoGP laps at the Buriram track. The outing will also see the debut of Hafizh Syahrin at Tech 3, the Malaysian being the only rider with less testing time than Luthi.


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