Honda Wraps-Up Domination at Third Day of Sepang

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“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.

Of course the times and rankings matter for very little at the end of the day, and it’s the improvements and development data the teams have gathered that are the true measures of success at a testing session. In that regard Honda has faired very well once again, as Casey Stoner reports that he has decided on which chassis he will use and continue to develop for the 2011 season, the same can also be said of Jorge Lorenzo.

The factory Ducati squad however finds themselves behind on what they wanted to accomplish in Sepang, as the team is still struggling with getting the Desmosedici GP11 to work properly. Development issues were compounded by Valentino Rossi missing the second day of testing to the flu, and the Italian rider admits that he his behind on where he wanted to be with the Ducati.

Pos. No. Rider Bike Time Diff Diff Previous
1 27 Casey Stoner Honda 1:59.665
2 26 Dani Pedrosa Honda 1:59.803 0.138 0.138
3 58 Marco Simoncelli Honda 2:00.163 0.498 0.360
4 4 Andrea Dovizioso Honda 2:00.541 0.876 0.378
5 11 Ben Spies Yamaha 2:00.678 1.013 0.137
6 5 Colin Edwards Yamaha 2:00.966 1.301 0.288
7 1 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 2:01.003 1.338 0.037
8 19 Alvaro Bautista Suzuki 2:01.194 1.529 0.191
9 7 Hiroshi Aoyama Honda 2:01.328 1.663 0.134
10 40 Hector Barbera Ducati 2:01.346 1.681 0.018
11 46 Valentino Rossi Ducati 2:01.469 1.804 0.123
12 69 Nicky Hayden Ducati 2:01.469 1.804 0.000
13 65 Loris Capirossi Ducati 2:01.493 1.828 0.024
14 35 Cal Crutchlow Yamaha 2:02.034 2.369 0.541
15 14 Randy de Puniet Ducati 2:02.155 2.490 0.121
16 24 Toni Elias Honda 2:02.410 2.745 0.255
17 100 T1 Yamaha 2:02.457 2.792 0.047
18 17 Karel Abraham Ducati 2:02.506 2.841 0.049
19 200 T2 Yamaha 2:03.016 3.351 0.510

Casey Stoner – Repsol Honda – 1st:
“We had a good day comparing the chassis again and I’m happy we have made our decision on which one we’ll use for the season. We also tried a lot of electronics with engine braking and found improvements in a few areas, and some losses in others so we need to rectify these. The chassis we’ve chosen always behaves in the way we want it to; no matter what set-up we use, we are also able to adapt it fairly easily. So when we get to Qatar in a few weeks we’ll be able to test different set-up’s at the same time and get more track time on it. Some changes can be quite time consuming to do, so having the two bikes with identical chassis will be useful. The test here has been very productive for us; we did a long run here today – almost race distance – and gathered some key information. I’m feeling more and more comfortable on the RC212V and I can’t wait to get to Qatar.”

Dani Pedrosa – Repsol Honda – 2nd:
“We did a very good three days testing; both tests here in Sepang have been very positive. We improved the braking and worked a lot with different chassis configurations and electronics. It’s been a much better winter test than last year, even if we know that everybody will improve for the first race. I’m leaving Sepang satisfied and I think testing in Qatar will give further opportunity to check our work at another circuit, with a different layout and track conditions to what we have had here. I’ve spent more or less the same time with last year’s chassis and the modified 2011 chassis and my best lap time was with the 2011 version, but it will be nice to check it again in Qatar and take there the final decision. I think the bike and myself are in a good shape and we are getting to Qatar with more confidence than last year, but we need to keep our feet on the ground because we had many problems at the beginning of last season and then we improved a lot, so the others can do the same. Nothing is clear until we start racing.”

Andrea Dovizioso – Repsol Honda – 4th:
“The good point is that we are really fast, and to have the first two tests like this is a great thing. Also, when we tried the race simulation we were fast, so this is confirmed that we are strong and can fight. However, after completing the simulation I discovered a problem in the front – as I had in some races in 2009 – after a few laps I lose some grip in the middle of the corner. I will leave this test very happy, but we’re far from perfect. We need to study what we changed that caused this problem as it occurred after we added just five litres more of fuel. Anyway, even with this problem I completed many fast laps and we are very fast compared to last year. I feel without the problem I had in the front of the bike, I would be able to achieve a similar pace to Dani and Casey, so I’m happy about this.”

Ben Spies – Yamaha Racing – 5th:
“It was a productive test, we got through a lot. I had one small mistake but on the plus side we had a lot of stuff we accomplished so it’s all good. We still have some work to do obviously but we’re not too far off race pace. We need to figure out how to get the bike a little bit quicker for a few laps, definitely for qualifying and the beginning of the race. It wasn’t the most ideal conditions today for a quick lap, I did go to put in a few this morning and was pretty pleased with the time. I’m looking forward to a few days rest now in cooler temperatures at home before Qatar! The team have been awesome again, I’m really pleased with how we’re working together.”

Jorge Lorenzo – Yamaha Racing – 7th:
“I feel quite tired, after two and a half days of testing I’ve finished with a long 20 lap run. The results have been quite good, we had a very consistent pace and I was happy to have improved some things with the bike. I think we’ve made some big steps forward with traction and feel, although we still need to improve our lap time.”

Valentino Rossi – Ducati Marlboro – 11th:
“We can’t be satisfied with this test because we didn’t reach our goals, which were to finish close to the top six and especially to reduce the gap to the front. Instead, we’re 1.8 seconds back, and our rhythm is also lacking. After the first day, we thought we could do it. We had started well and were able to make the bike work with the hard tyres, which is good. After that though, we didn’t take steps forward. Although we have some good ideas for the electronics that I’m optimistic will solve those problems relatively easily, I’m not as confident about the chassis setup. We tried hard, but we haven’t yet managed it. I’m able to brake hard, but I’m still having trouble in mid-corner. It was definitely a disadvantage to only ride two days instead of three because we had to rush at the end and try many things in order to understand as much as we could. We were prepared for that possibility, but it started to drizzle, making it impossible to push. There could be some good solutions for the future, but we weren’t able to confirm them. This circuit hasn’t traditionally been favorable to the Ducati. The next test is in Qatar, where the track is different, so we’ll see if we can go faster there.”

Nicky Hayden – Ducati Marlboro – 12th:
“We’ve tested a lot of options over the course of this test, like different geometry and electronics. We’ve just been trying to improve the feeling and eliminate stuff that didn’t work, focusing mainly on finding a base setup that could work for this season. We’re still behind, not because of any major problem, but a combination of little details that prevented us from getting the results that we’d hoped for. I’ve got a good bike and team, and we definitely need to do better than this. We’ve got a lot more work to do, but we’ve made progress this week, and we’ve still got some options we can try at the next test. It’s going to be a competitive season, no doubt. A lot of guys are going fast and pushing hard. We’ll have to work hard to try to take full advantage of this bike’s potential. It’s been three long days, and our team—everybody from engineers to mechanics to tire guys to suspension guys—has worked really hard the whole time.”

Álvaro Bautista – Rizla Suzuki – 8th:
“I felt a little better this morning, especially after the Clinica guys gave me a special vitamin drip. On my first run I made my best Sepang time so far, but actually I made a couple of mistakes and it really should have been a 2.00 something, after that everybody was using older tyres and the track is getting hotter so it gets less easy to make similar times, but I was happy to be able to make mid 2.01’s on old tyres. The test wasn’t the best on my side, because my condition wasn’t great and I didn’t make the long run today – sorry to Suzuki’s engineers about that – but we have improved the bike in areas that I really believe will help us in different conditions. The Suzuki is now stable, has good feeling and it’s fast – I hope we have the same feeling in the colder conditions of Qatar – now I just want to race!”

Marco Simoncelli – San Carlo Gresini Honda – 3rd:
“I am very happy for the time I did this morning. But today we were a bit confused during the race simulation. Yesterday, with the hard rubber I could be very fast, but this afternoon, from the beginning, I was considerably worse; I could not do the same time. Anyway, I’m pretty calm, because the performance today was determined by a choice of tyres, which was not just a good idea – maybe it would be better to opt for a soft rubber like other people did – and I was fast in in the race simulation. But I repeat, we are not at all worried and even go away from Malaysia very happy with the work done in these three days and also happy to change the track because after six days of evidence in these two tests at the Sepang circuit, I was quite exhausted by now.”

Hiroshi Aoyama – San Carlo Gresini Honda – 9th:
“Finally we have finished these tests, which have been very challenging for me. We have done so much work that I was partly satisfied and partly not. The team supported me a lot and together we are able to understand the way to go about the technical solutions to be taken for the season. In the end I’m happy and I can not wait to arrive in Qatar for the next test and begin to build on the great work on this circuit. I am happy to work with these guys and I hope to shortly give them satisfaction.”

Colin Edwards – Monster Yamaha Tech 3 – 6th:
“This test has been awesome for us and I’ve had a lot of fun, even though the conditions have been really extreme with the heat. I’ve got a lot of experience and I’ve been riding motorcycles forever, but even I’m still learning a lot and I’ve really enjoyed coming here and changing the bike to see what does and doesn’t work. I’ve figured out a lot of things with the new bike and the Bridgestone tyres and I’ve also learned that for an old guy, I’m not finished yet. I spent most of the test working on the new chassis, mainly experimenting with geometry and we made a lot of progress. My team is really smart and together we played around with a few ideas and got the bike to a point where I’m really satisfied. We improved front feeling compared to the last test and we can finish the corner a lot better. I’m really happy with the progress with rear traction too. Yamaha has done a great job and we leave Malaysia tired but with a lot of confidence. I’m now looking forward to getting Qatar and starting the racing.”

Cal Crutchlow – Monster Yamaha Tech 3 – 14th:
“It has certainly been an eventful week and the good thing is that it ended in positive fashion. The food poisoning I picked up on the way to Sepang didn’t help my preparations and I’ve felt weak all through the test as a result. Two crashes on the first day didn’t help my confidence and day two was a struggle to be honest. We made a lot of changes to the bike without helping me feel more comfortable. My team have b een fantastic though and given me great support and the last day was much better. For the first time I was able to do a decent lap time, but the important thing is I was able to be more consistent and feel more confident with the bike. We made improvements to the front and rear of the bike and I’m pretty happy with a low 2.02. The front felt more stable and while I’d like a bit more rear grip, we’ve made progress in that area as well. Qatar will be another big learning curve for me because I know the track, but I haven’t ridden a MotoGP bike there and I’ve never raced under the floodlights. I’m confident with the set-up changes we made here that I’ll be competitive in Qatar too.”

Toni Elias – LCR Honda – 16th:
“If we consider the three days in total we took a step forward on suspension set-up and chassis geometry. Now that we have a much clearer idea of the direction to go in I am happy with the work we have done. I´m not as happy with my lap time, but we were too busy working through other things. These days we have done several comparative tests and found a different feeling on the bike compared with the first outing here three weeks ago. Now we will check the data we gathered to be more competitive in Qatar for the last test session before the season starts. I want to thank the guys for their efforts because they are helping me a lot to adapt to this bike.”

Source: MotoMatters, HRC, Yamaha Racing, Ducati Corse, Rizla Suzuki, Monster Yamaha Tech 3