SEPANG, Malaysia – Honda’s reigning MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez recorded the quickest time on the first day of pre-season testing for the 2019 MotoGP on Wednesday at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia, as track temperatures soared to 56 degrees Celsius (132.8 Fahrenheit).
Marquez (Repsol Honda), who returned to the circuit after undergoing shoulder surgery in early December, snatched the top spot from Alex Rins just before midday, clocking a time of 1:59.621.
He had opted to pull out after lap 29 to recover for Thursday’s session, although none of the other riders could better his time.
“Top of the time sheets so far for @marcmarquez93, dipping under the two minute barrier. He’ll take the afternoon off to rest his shoulder and work with his physio to be ready for Sepang Test Day 2,” the Honda team tweeted.
Suzuki rider Rins grabbed second position, just a quarter of a second behind Marquez, while Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales was in third, 0.316 off the reigning world champion’s best time.
Avintia Ducati rider Tito Rabat managed to break into the top four toward the end of the session with Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) right behind him.
Viñales’ Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was sixth, 0.433 off the top spot, ahead of LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami and the other Ducati factory bike of Andrea Dovizioso.
Honda tester Stefan Bradl, who had stepped in for the injured Jorge Lorenzo in the Repsol Honda team in the Sepang test, grabbed the ninth spot.
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) had crashed on a quick lap in the closing stages of the session, but managed to make it to the top KTM in 10th.
The 25-year-old reigning champion Marquez has dominated the sport in recent years, winning five of the last six MotoGP titles.
He won last year’s tour with three races to spare, and will be the bookies’ favorite to add to his five career world titles as he bids to become the most successful rider of all time.
The Catalan is one short of his rival Italy’s Valentino Rossi’s seven premier class titles, while both still trail Giacomo Agostini’s eight.