Gordon Hatch MotoGP correspondent
Factory Hondas return to the top despite missing full day of testing
Repsol Honda riders Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa picked up where they left off on day one of testing at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia despite both riders missing out on day two of the test yesterday due to all Honda machines needing engine tests.
While rain affected the first two days of testing that included a thunderstorm yesterday, track conditions today were much better and many riders opted to pursue race simulations to assess how their machine set up and the new Bridgestone tyres would work together under constant race pace.
We've been trying a few different things, in general we are happy with the bike.
Stoner and Pedrosa however focused mainly on their chassis set up and some electronics for the final day as the Japanese manufacturer aims to dial out the chatter that both riders are experiencing on board their RC213V machines. The two factory teammates finished closely today with Pedrosa just .175s off Stoner in the end.
Setting a best time of 2m 473s, Stoner was content with his test but also stressed that he and his team are heavily focused on removing the issue of chatter on his machine. “Again we've been unable to profit from the full three days of the test here in Sepang, the first day we only managed about 16 laps before the rain came and then yesterday we weren't able to get out at all,” said the reigning World Champion while continuing, “So today it's been good to have some nice weather, get out on track and find some different solutions on the bike, we've been trying a few different things with electronics to have the engine character the same way we like it.
We've also tried shortening the wheelbase, aiming to reduce the chattering and we've been successful in decreasing it slightly but at the moment we're unable to eliminate it completely, so we still have quite a lot of work to do. The chassis balance feels good as does the traction on the bike, it's turning well but we really need to get rid of the chatter, in general we are happy with the bike,” Stoner added.
Pedrosa’s best time today was 2m 648s and leaving the Sepang circuit content with his test Pedrosa said, “In general we've been working a lot on the chassis at this test, to find the best compromise. We tried different ideas and set ups and we leave quite happy with the feelings. This is a very specific track, so it's important to have clear ideas for the future. We also made some progress on the braking and the chassis feels a little better because we have a less chatter compared to the first test.
We need to keep improving on entry and middle of the corner, but I think that we can expect improvements when we start to work more in depth with the engine and the electronics, which we will do in the Jerez test. Today I also used a different screen to be more comfortable on the straight which felt better,” he added.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Andrea Dovizioso once again was third fastest following on from yesterday. The Italian set a best lap today of 2m 802s and was content with what he tested and tweeted on his official Twitter page that he was, “very happy for today test! My feeling with the M1 is improving. We have to work on the race pace.”
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo worked tirelessly today and completed a race simulation where he lapped consistently within the 2m 1s bracket on his YZR-M1 and eventually setting a best today of 2m .877s that was good enough for 4th fastest. Second of the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 riders, Cal Crutchlow, also left the Sepang circuit content with his test and recorded a best time of 2m 986s. Hector Barbera (Pramac Racing) once again has bragging rights of top Ducati rider when he finished in 6th fastest with a best lap of 2m 1.231s.
Finishing the test in 7th was Alvaro Bautista who also had to sit out the second test day with his San Carlo Honda Gresini machine undergoing checks by Honda. Bautista’s time of 2m 1.275s was enough to put him in front of yesterday’s quickest man Ben Spies for the Yamaha Factory Racing team, who despite a small crash late in the day, set a best lap of 2m 1.432s. MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) was next on the timing sheets in 9th with a best lap of 2m 1.492s despite the German rider also having to sit out day two of the test for checks on his Honda machinery.
Seven times MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi was next up on his Ducati Marlboro GP12 in 10th place with a best time of 2m 1.550s, Rossi later said that he was having problems with understeer and corner entry that he will work on at the next test in Jerez at the end of March. Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden was next in line with a best time of 2m 1.609s while Ducati test rider Franco Battaini finished in 12th with his best lap of 2m 3.490s.
The Claiming Rule Teams were back out in action once again and like the previous two days it was Colin Edwards who was best CRT rider for the Forward Racing Suter-BMW team with a best time of 2m 3.681s while Avintia FTR-Kawasaki teammates Yonny Hernández (2m 6.632s) and Ivan Silva (2m 6.785s) ended their test much where they started, with a lot of work to do to get up to speed. Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) pulled out of the test on day one after aggravating an healing injury and will be ready for the next test in Jerez between 23rd until 25th March.