Melandri on top early at Sepang

The last pre-season tests during the month of February for the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) resumed today at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia where Marco Melandri set fastest time on his factory Fortuna Honda. Spaniard ...

The last pre-season tests during the month of February for the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) resumed today at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia where Marco Melandri set fastest time on his factory Fortuna Honda.

Spaniard rider and rookie in MotoGP, Dani Pedrosa, was the surprise of today's journey by taking second best in his first time on the new RC211V of Repsol Honda.

The 45C heat on the circuit made the day a hard one to work on. As usual in Sepang, a light rain in the afternoon changed the track from dry to wet and cut the activity until later at six o'clock, local time.

Italian rider Melandri suffered a crash in the morning that made him change to a different bike. The 2005 sub-champion set a time of 2m01.65 after 74 laps to take best time of the day.

"We still have a lot of work to do on the new bike. The positive point is that I'm quite fast on the single lap whereas we don't have enough traction to have the rhythm I'd like to have for the race", commented Melandri.

Pedrosa showed his adaption to the RC211V by being fast, the reigning 250cc World Champion marked 2m01.89 for the Repsol Honda team that used the opportunity to unveil the colours of the bike for 2006.

"Today was not too bad. At the beginning the track was a little bit slippery but it got better. We were working on chassis and suspension settings in the morning and then after lunch we tested some tyres for Michelin until the rain stopped us", stated the Spaniard.

Pedrosa keep adding confidence at the wheel of a MotoGP machine, which helped him to improve his laptime quickly. "We have tested here three times and I'm gaining good experience. I still have to work on my strength and fitness, but I think with the time we have we can achieve it. And I've now got a riding position I'm happy with", he said.

The Camel Yamaha team completed the top five with Colin Edwards in third and seven times World Champion Valentino Rossi in fifth. The Suzuki MotoGP rider, John Hopkins, got in the middle with fourth best.

The Yamaha pair had as their principal aim to correct the vibrations problems that the team suffered in the recent Qatar tests.

"It was seriously hot out there today and pretty exhausting! Today we concentrated on fixing the little bit of chatter we've had and played around with some front fork settings, just trying to dial it in", Edwards mentioned.

"We made some good progress and we have a new front-end setting to try in the morning; we hope that this will be the final key", the American added.

Rossi was happy with the work done on track and the advancements made by the team with the vibration issue that complicated the development of the 2006-spec YZR-M1.

"We worked almost entirely on trying to solve the vibration problems that we have had. Yamaha has done a great job and the potential of this bike is very high, it's a big improvement to last year's M1 and I am sure that once we've solved this one remaining issue, things will be very good", the Italian commented.

American rider Nicky Hayden took eighth place with the Repsol Honda working on Michelin tyres and with the new bike. "I'm not completely satisfied with the day to be honest with you", Hayden said.

"At the start I just didn't have a good feeling with the traction. As the day went on we kept working hard and chipped away and found some stuff and I was able to get into the 2m 02s when it was still really hot, so that was positive, but we weren't where we needed to be today", he continued

Australian rider Casey Stoner retired from the test as he was still feeling the ill-effects of his shoulder injury suffered last week whilst practicing at Phillip Island. Stoner only lapped in the morning and went later to the hospital in order to undergo x-rays, he will know the results on Wednesday.

Ducati Marlboro had a difficult day with mechanical problems for Sete Gibernau that didn't allow the Spaniard to complete his program. However, Loris Capirossi was able to continue with the development of the Desmosedici GP6, which will carry on tomorrow.

Almost all the field of the MotoGP Circus will continue on Tuesday testing with their minds set on the season opener on March 26th in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Loris Capirossi , Valentino Rossi , Colin Edwards , John Hopkins , Marco Melandri , Casey Stoner , Dani Pedrosa , Phillip Island