At day two of round two at Sepang, MotoGP’s riders once again had to contend with the changing Malaysian climate, as rain continued to make an appearance the Sepang International Circuit. Sidelined for the day, HRC played it safe with its riders after one of Dani Pedrosa’s engines failed during the previous day’s testing, thus making the day strictly a Ducati and Yamaha affair. With Yamaha taking the top four spots on the timesheet (lead by Ben Spies), it is clear to see at this point in the game where Ducati is with its development of the GP12.
Returning to Malaysia for a second round of testing, MotoGP’s first day at Sepang was delayed by torrential rain. Coping with the water and intense humidity, MotoGP riders did get to spend some laps around the Southeast Asian circuit, with Casey Stoner once again dominating the time sheet. Apparently not getting the memo that fatherhood makes you slower on the race track, Stoner was the only rider to get into the 2’01 lap times, and did so seemingly at will during his 16 lap testing day. Second quickest was teammate Dani Pedrosa, who was a quarter second back, while Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo was over half a second back from Stoner, and third quickest for the day. Noticeably quick was Alvaro Bautista, who continues his dark horse status, as the Spaniard was fifth quickest and even bested Nicky Hayden, who lead the Ducati contingency.
“It was really hard to leave Switzerland,” said new father Casey Stoner. “Ally woke up for a feed at the same time as I was leaving for the airport and I didn’t really want to leave. The first day of testing has gone well. We started off where we left last time, but the track conditions have been a little worse. We have some work to do. This morning we managed to compare a few things back to back. We’ve tried a new set of brake discs to try and reduce the brake fade that I’ve been having at the last test, so that’s been an improvement. We’re trying a few other things with set up to shorten the wheelbase and get a little more traction. We have a couple of things we can try to change the stiffness and also move the weight around a little bit to try and upset the chatter and reduce the frequency. This afternoon I have no doubt we would have gone a second or a second and a half faster, but the rain came out and the track didn’t dry up enough to warrant going out, so we’ll wait until tomorrow.”
With Carlos Checa dominating Phillip Island during the private tests and the first day of official testing, Tom Sykes displaced the reigning World Superbikes Champion early on in the second day of official testing at Phillip Island. In WSBK’s final test before the season’s racing kicks off this weekend, the Kawasaki rider set the day’s fastest time with a 1:31.648, holding off Checa by just 0.004 seconds. Also setting their best times on Tuesday, Jakub Smrz, Jonathan Rea, and Max Biaggi rounded out the fastest five overall. Marco Melandri was sixth fastest overall, with his best time being set on Monday.
There were a number of crashes that tested both riders and available machinery, of which Leon Haslam was the most notable. The Englishman fractured his right tibia in a high side at the final turn on Monday, leaving the BMW rider to scramble for an available surgery. He tweeted Tuesday, “I’ve finally found a guy to sort things out booked in for a Op on Thursday morning there might be a chance to ride on Sunday,” adding, “fingerscrossed.” Rea also crashed heavily, but did more damage to his bike than himself, and was able to continue throughout the test sessions.
Day Three of testing at Sepang has concluded, leaving many on the factory prototype-side of the garage pleased with their week’s work. Once again, Honda is setting the pace, as Casey Stoner sent a message to the rest of the paddock as he smashed the lap record at Sepang aboard his Honda RC213V. A full half-second faster than his nearest competitor, Stoner is an Aussie on a mission already in the season.
“I’m still not feeling great with my back, but the bike is ok, so we’ve made progress in reducing the chatter a little more and trying a few different things, some small settings on the shock that we haven’t tried before amongst other points,” said Stoner. “So far it’s been pretty positive, we’ll just have to wait and see what we have for the next test and hopefully improve a little more. Now I’m looking forward to getting home to Switzerland to see Adriana and await the arrival of our baby!”
Testing continues in Sepang, as MotoGP riders continued their first week of shaking down the new 1,000cc era machines. For the second day of testing, teams spent the sessions comparing settings and parts to the previous day, looking for clearer paths of development. For Yamaha, this meant testing suspension and electronic settings, while Honda tried different chassis with Casey Stoner. With weather hot and humid, Stefal Bradl got baptized with his first MotoGP gravel trap excursion, though the German was thankfully uninjured from the spill.
Progress on the all-new factory GP12 continued in the Ducati Corse garage, though the Italian team was short a rider after Nicky Hayden parked his bike after 16 laps. The American rider has been struggling with his broken shoulder, which still lacked the strength to properly ride at the Malaysian track. Quiting the day’s session earliy, Ducati’s test rider Franco Battaini took over for Hayden, and completed the day’s work with Valentino Rossi. Photos and results after the jump.
With rain the night before, MotoGP’s first day of testing in Sepang got off to a late start, with riders not taking to the Malaysian track until well into the day. Noticeably absent from the day’s test was reigning-World Champion Casey Stoner, as the Australian’s back seized during stretching before the first session. Casey is expected to ride Wednesday (Tuesday evening US time), though former-teammate Andrea Dovizioso is a question mark, as the Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider was too sick for a media debrief last night.
For the Ducati camp, initial results are looking positive, as the factory Ducati Desmosedici GP12 had its first shakedown from riders Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. Still recovering from his broken shoulder, Hayden only put in 25 laps on the new GP12 “Phoenix” before calling it a day and letting test rider Franco Bataini finish the day’s testing for him. Rossi on the other hand had a full-day with the Ducati Corse’s GP12, and was already impressed with the bike and the progress Ducati had made with it.
“I’m happy because first impressions are important, and already in the first few laps, I could tell that I like the bike,” said the nine-time World Champion. “Ducati did a good job in a just a short time. The bike is beautiful, but more importantly, it’s nice to ride. The riding position has improved a lot, and it’s better on braking and corner entry. I can brake like I want to and take the lines that I like, and I feel comfortable in general.”
Likely to be marked as the start of significant chapter in MotoGP history, the claiming rule teams (CRTs) were out in Jerez the past three days testing their MotoGP machinery, which is comprised of production-motorcycle motors with custom-built chassis. While not the first time we’ve seen a CRT bike on the track, the outing was the first time that a”top-tier” rider was on-board the new racing format motorcycles, as Colin Edwards lead the charge with his BMW/Suter machine with NGM Forward Racing.
Many in the MotoGP paddock have been waiting to cast their verdict on the CRT endeavor, withholding their judgments until a top GP rider took to the helm of a CRT machine and properly put the bike through its paces. With tests earlier in the year showing Mika Kallio on-board the BMW/Suter to be over six seconds off the pace of the 800cc-era machines, the CRT future of MotoGP looked to be in jeopardy. Those lap times improved over the year to be “only” four seconds off that 1,000-era bike pace, showing improvement, yet a gap to the front-runners.
Now with Edwards finally swinging a leg over the BMW S1000RR-powered Suter prototype, surely more comparisons between the factory prototypes and CRT offerings are to ensue. Posting a best lap time of 1’40.188 at the Spanish GP earlier this year, Edwards was roughly 2.5 seconds off his own pace, finishing the three-day test with a best lap to f 1’42.6. That news seems discouraging on its face, though it should be noted that the team dropped 1.3 seconds between Wednesday and Thursday’s tests.
Edwards also rated the bike at about 65% of its potential, while the Texan’s own fitness was questionable, as Edwards was till recovering from the injuries he sustained at the Malaysian GP. WIth all those caveat, does this week’s test equate to excuses for a lackluster performance, or justify that more leaps and gains will be made before the start of the 2012 MotoGP Championship?
“Veni, Vidi, Vici” might as well be stenciled on the four factory Honda RC212V race bikes of Stoner, Pedrosa, Dovizioso, and Simoncelli, as the foursome has dominated the Malaysian track over the past three days of MotoGP testing. Casey Stoner takes the top prize though, climbing once again to the top of the time sheets, with Dani Pedrosa right behind him as the only other man to crack under the two minute barrier at Sepang. While these results aren’t too surprising to those following the off-season closely, the time sheets speak an interesting story for the rest of the field.
The Top 13 riders are clumped by manufacturer, and who leads each group is a bit surprising. Ben Spies bested teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who also found himself behind Colin Edwards from the satellite Monster Yamaha Tech3 squad. In the Ducati camp, it was Hector Barbera who had the fastest time, ahead of Hayden and Rossi who both shared a best lap of 2:01.469 in Day Three. Even Alvaro Bautista’s Suzuki made a surprisingly quick journey around the track at Sepang, as the Spanish rider was 8th fastest overall for the day.
The Honda boys were out in full-force today, as MotoGP testing continued at Sepang. With only Toni Elias outside of the Top 7, Honda’s race package for the 2011 season is looking very stout, despite the fact that chassis selections still haven’t been finalized. While landing at the top of the results list is about as useful as yelling “first” in the comments section, Casey Stoner just barely snatched the honor away from Dani Pedrosa in his final lap around the Malaysian circuit, leaving only .058 seconds between the teammates.
Like yesterday, the Yamaha Racing factory squad looked in good form as well, with Spies showing marked improvements despite crashing in one of the sessions. Jorge Lorenzo spent some time on two different bikes, confirming the direction his crew was going with developing the 2011 Yamaha YZR-M1 for the new season.
Things weren’t progressing as well in the Ducati camp though, as all the teams struggled with front-end issues. Notably absent from the day was Valentino Rossi, who has come down with cold/flu like symptoms. He retired to the hotel, in the hopes of being well enough to ride in tomorrow’s last day of testing. Carrying the Corse flag alone, Nicky Hayden had a tough day that ended with gearbox problems. Still, the ever-positive American was hopeful for better fortunes on Thursday as the team seems to have worked out some chatter issues.
Posting the fastest time of the official World Superbike test in Portugal, Jakub Smrz was the fastest man at Portimao. A feat in its own right, Smrz’s accomplishment is compounded by the fact that the Portuguese track saw three days of continuously changing weather. In a climate that kept the bikes off the track, and the riders bored in the garages, Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty rounded out the fastest three riders at Portimao, with times set also on Wednesday afternoon. The first day was fair, though conditions worsened greatly overnight, making Thursday morning entirely unappealing for test laps. Luckily, Friday dried out through the afternoon, but no one was able to best Smrz’s early mark of 1:43.503 during the testing sessions.
All too often winter testing provides plenty of data for the teams and riders, but not nearly enough for journalists and fans who wish to prognosticate. While teams might focus on a certain sector during one lap and another the next, they hide their own flaws and keep their best performances to themselves. Combined with poor weather conditions, a rider sitting out to recover from surgery (Chris Vermeulen), and an entire team testing at another location, the WSBK winter test leaves very little actual story to tell before the start of the racing season.