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Motorcycling: Marquez leads pack in Sepang test

Newly-crowned MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez leads the timesheets as riders kick off three days of testing at Malaysia's Sepang circuit.

SEPANG: Newly-crowned MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez led the timesheets on Tuesday as riders kicked off three days of testing in sizzling temperatures at Malaysia's Sepang circuit.

Honda's Marquez clocked 2 minutes 00.286 seconds for the day's top time, with Yamaha's nine-time Italian world champion Valentino Rossi just 0.518 seconds behind.

Marquez's teammate and fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa was third-fastest, 0.620 seconds off the pace, with former world champ Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha next.

Marquez and Rossi traded top times through the day as they blazed around a Sepang circuit that is notoriously tricky due in part to Malaysia's tropical moisture and frequent rains.

On Tuesday the track was hot and dry, yielding fast times but leaving riders drained after the two-month layoff since last season.

Marquez, who many favour to repeat victory this year thanks to his fearless riding style, was in fine form, pushing his Honda to get the most out of the conditions.

"The grip (tyre traction) was quite good. Last year during testing here I was nervous but now I feel more relaxed," he said.

"Frankly my lap time was quite fast. I was surprised that many riders were also fast."

Cheerful Marquez said he hoped to work on the bike's braking and rear stability while exiting the sharp corners at Sepang.

The 20-year-old Spaniard clinched the 2013 MotoGP title in his first season in the category, becoming the youngest-ever world champion.

Lorenzo, who has dismissed reports that he would move to Ducati in 2015, said 47 laps on the hot track was a challenge.

"Physically it was tough. I could not make many laps. The bike is not so smooth as before," he said, slapping his belly jokingly to suggest he could stand to lose a bit of off-season weight.

Pedrosa said braking and clutch control kept his attention on Tuesday but he planned to focus on his chassis and tyres on day two.

The testing wraps up Thursday, but the riders will return to Sepang for another three-day session from February 26.

They will have a further session at Phillip Island in Australia and at the Losail circuit in Qatar, before the new season officially kicks off at Losail on March 23.

Malaysia will host the championship in October.

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