SEPANG: Reigning MotoGP world champion Francesco Bagnaia fired a clear warning as the man to beat for the 2024 season after the Italian ended the final day of pre-season test today in Malaysia by setting the track’s unofficial fastest lap record.
The 27-year-old racer needed less than half an hour to achieve the feat as he zipped through the 5.543km tricky Sepang circuit in 1:56.682s on his eighth lap to become the day’s pacesetter.
The Ducati Lenovo star led a quarter of riders who ended the last testing day below the 1:57s mark, with Jorge Martin coming in second with 1:56.854s.
Yesterday’s timesheets leader Enea Bastianini came in third after clocking 1:56.915s, with Alex Marquez finishing fourth.
Aleix Espargaro completed the top five as the only rider outside the 1:56s mark as he secured his fastest lap of 1:57.091s.
But the final day belonged to the two-time world champ Bagnaia, who showcased his ability against what could unfold as a highly competitive field ahead of the season’s curtain raiser at the Qatar GP in March.
The Turin-born, who also holds the official fastest lap record on two wheels in Sepang set at last year’s Malaysian GP, was modest about his blistering pace.
“I am happy obviously. It’s an incredible time in my first time attack of the season. But I am a guy that doesn’t think too much about a good performance in a test.
“But I feel great with my bike. We are at 80% in terms of consistency. We move to Qatar in good shape,” he said.
Martin, meanwhile, forecasted this season will not be another two-horse title race between him and Bagnaia.
“It is difficult to analyse as a lot of the riders had great pace. It won’t be only Pecco and me, there will be others too,” he said, referring to Bagnaia by his nickname.
“But I feel ready for everything. I did a great lap today, going under 1:57s was nice”.
The second phase of the MotoGP pre-season test will next move to Qatar from Feb 19-20.