By: Gordon Hatch - MotoGP correspondent
MotoGP Winter Test at the Sepang circuit ends with Casey Stoner breaking the track record
Factory Honda rider Casey Stoner smashed the two minute barrier on final day of the second official MotoGP winter test at Sepang, Malaysia as did his teammate Dani Pedrosa with San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli ending the final day in third.
Stoner set a stunning time of 1m 59.665s on just lap two of day three on his RC212V and amazingly the 2007 MotoGP champion was still testing a number of settings while posting the time - the fastest ever MotoGP time around the Sepang circuit.
"The test here has been very productive for us, we did a long run here today - almost race distance - and gathered some key information," said Stoner who is also happy to have finally chosen single chassis for the season ahead.
"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. 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.
"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. 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. I'm feeling more and more comfortable on the RC212V and I can't wait to get to Qatar," Stoner added.
Dani Pedrosa also came away from the second three-day test in good spirits after working extensively on the RC212V's chassis and the electronics package. He set a best time of 1m 59.803s, the only other rider to break the two minute mark.
"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. 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 the final decision there," said Pedrosa.
But the cool-headed Spaniard also said he is not getting carried away before the start of the season. "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."
Stoner, Pedrosa and Simoncelli were then followed by the third factory Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso after he set a time of 2m 0.541s to consolidate the Japanese manufacturer's dominance at both Sepang tests.
Dovizioso said, "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."
The best of the Yamahas was new factory rider for 2011 Ben Spies who brought his YZR-M1 home in 5th place (2m 0.678s). Spies was followed up by fellow Texan Colin Edwards on his Monster Yamaha Tech-3 YZR-M1 with his best time of 2m 0.966s.
Spies came away from the test and said that while he and his crew have accomplished a lot, there is still work to do. "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."
The Texan was happy to find a decent pace, however he was also happy to get out of the searing Malaysian heat, "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's final day saw him complete a 20 lap race distance rand he kept a consistent pace throughout to come home in 7th place, this result in turn confirmed the improvements made to his YZR-M1 that he and his crew made.
"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," the reigning MotoGP champion said.
The Suzuki team will come away pleased from Sepang after their lone rider for 2011, Alvaro Bautista (2m 1.194s) finished the third day in 8th place on his GSV-R. The Spaniard was followed closely by the second San Carlo Gresini Honda rider Hiroshi Aoyama (2m 1.328s).
Spain's Hector Barbera once again saved the blushes of Ducati when the satellite rider grabbed the 10th place spot on his Aspar Ducati with a time of 2m 1.346s.
'Barberix' finished just ahead of Ducati Marlboro rider Valentino Rossi who returned to resting today after sitting out day two after falling ill with a fever.
The Italian's team fell behind somewhat due to Rossi's illness and neither he or his team are under any illusion on the mountain they now have to climb.
"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," Rossi confirmed, "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."
While the Ducati team worked extensively on Rossi's GP11 some areas are better than others as the six-time MotoGP champion elaborated further: "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."
Rossi's teammate Nicky Hayden followed the 'Doctor' home in 12th spot on a time of 2m 1.469s while Pramac Racing Ducati's Loris Capirossi finished in 13th position.
MotoGP rookie Cal Crutchlow saw a return to form somewhat today after battling illness throughout the week to finish 14th ahead of Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) and Toni Elias (LCR Honda) in 15th and 16th respectively. The last of the 2011 MotoGP riders was rookie Karel Abraham on his Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati.
The third and final 2011 pre-season test will be held at Qatar on 13th and 14th March.