MotoGP: Rossi struggles through opening day in Sepang

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Valentino Rossi has struggled through the opening day of MotoGP pre-season testing at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit, after awakening suffering from the effects of travel and sitting out the early part of the day.

“The first feeling wasn‘t so bad because in this session we finally have the ’real‘ two bikes that we will use during the championship and they are better than the first prototype that we tested in November, from many points of view. Unfortunately, it was a difficult day today.

“This morning I woke up with a very bad headache and until 12 o‘clock I wasn‘t in good shape. After that, we were able to do some laps and the feeling was good. In the afternoon we had to finish the work but it started to rain, so we have to wait and hope that in the next two days we will have good track conditions. We will try some new things tomorrow. Today we worked on the engine and the electronics and found some good stuff.”

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However, the day went better for teammate Maverick Viñales, who finished his second public Yamaha outing in third place overall and pleased with his progress.

“We have been working a lot to prepare before the race season starts and honestly I‘m quite surprised. The first day is always difficult, but I‘m feeling OK on the bike and physically good, so I‘m happy and I want to go back to working on the bike some more. We tried many things today to get a good package and now we focus on comparing many things. We‘re doing some difficult work these days before we go out to set a fast lap time, but it‘s really useful for the next few tests.”

His sentiments were echoed by team boss Massimo Meregalli, who says that their overall progress to date was going according to plan.

“It‘s been a positive first few hours of testing in Sepang for us and, so far, we are quite satisfied. The progress is going well and we are on schedule. In the beginning of the test we suffered a bit from a lack of grip when Maverick started his first run, so he couldn‘t ride as he wanted, but we tried some different things and now it‘s much better.

“Valentino wasn‘t feeling 100% fit this morning, but he still headed out on track because we were expecting rain in the afternoon. His and Maverick‘s pace started to pick up throughout the first stints when the track was cooler, though we honestly haven‘t been focussing on setting fast lap times. Today our target was to confirm our findings from November and we did do so without any issues.

“We also worked on the engine, the electronics and the rear tyre life. The changes that we made improved the feelings for the riders on how the bike is performing. It doesn‘t look like the temperatures affected the riders too much, but today was only the first day, there are two more to come.”

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Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer