Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V) got the testing season off to a fast start by leading a strong Honda charge on the first day of 2011 MotoGP testing on the sultry Sepang Circuit in Malaysia.
In only his second ride on the Repsol Honda RC212V, the 2007 MotoGP World Champion immediately adapted to the updated machine. The fastest of his 52 laps of the 5548m track was 2m., 1.574s., just .037s off the pole position time from the 2010 race. His gap to the second fastest rider, world champion Jorge Lorenzo, was a healthy.403s.
The Australian wasn't the only Honda rider to start strongly. Team-mate Dani Pedrosa finished the day with the third fastest time as he continues to recover full strength in the shoulder he injured in last year's Japanese Grand Prix in Motegi. Pedrosa was only .027s behind the pace of his fellow Spaniard, Lorenzo.
The three-rider Repsol Honda team worked well together, with Stoner and Pedrosa testing the 2010 fork, while Andrea Dovizioso, the third member of the team, tested the 2011 version.
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Gresini Honda RC212V) finished with the third fastest time in his new role as team leader. Simoncelli, now paired with his 250cc rival Hiroshi Aoyama, put his RC212V to good use. His best lap among the 52 he completed put him solidly in fourth place, giving Honda three of the top four spots. It also consolidated the momentum he began building at the end of the 2010 season, which he finished strongly.
Aoyama had a very successful first day on the San Carlo Honda Gresini team. The final 250cc World Champion finished the day seventh fastest. Aoyama's 2010 campaign was interrupted by a broken back suffered in a practice crash at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The Japanese rider is now healthy and hopes to remain so throughout the season.
Dovizioso was less than a quarter second off the pace of Aoyama while testing both a new engine and new chassis. Though he finished eighth fastest, the placing was deceptive: When everyone was on the harder race tyres, Dovizioso was up among the leaders.
Toni Elias, the 2010 Moto2 World Champion, began his return to the premier class by finishing with the 17th fastest time as he reacclimatizes himself to the power of the LCR Honda RC212V. Elias immediately felt more comfortable than when he first rode the bike at the end of last season in Valencia and expects the process of adapting to the premier class to continue smoothly.
HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V): 1st, 2m, 1.574s "Very positive day. At the beginning it took some time to get used to the bike again, but I soon felt comfortable and we had a good day. We didn't change the set-up too much compared to the one we had in Valencia and I am pleased to see that even if the circuit is different, it still works pretty well here in Sepang. We did some work later on with the engine braking to decrease some chattering and looks like we found a good solution. In the next two days we will start testing something new, but anyway for me, it was a very good way to come back on track after the winter break."
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V): 3rd, 2m, 2.024s "I 'm pretty happy with how things went today. My priority was to see how I was on the bike after so long without riding and the feeling has been positive. Obviously, I still have less strength under braking and lack of stability in the shoulder with the direction changes, but the cramps have gone and this is very positive for me. We have time to continue with my physical training and gain the strength that I need for when the season starts. I honestly didn't expect to do so many laps today. I started with the 2010 bike to get the feeling back, because in the second half of the season our bike was competitive and we want to begin improving from there. Then I tried a new swingarm and a new chassis, in the last two runs, and my best lap time has been with the new parts, so it's also positive. The plan for tomorrow is to test the new engine."
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Gresini Honda): 4th, 2m, 2.295s "I am really happy. My difficult first outing at this circuit last year is now a distant memory. I felt good straight away with the new RC212V and I was immediately able to push hard. I was consistent all day and that is very positive. We tried a new position for the rear brake lever on one of the two bikes and we will try a new system tomorrow. Obviously the goal is also to keep working on the setting to try and improve the feeling with the 2011 version, although the first impression is that it is fast, powerful and performing well. We couldn't have started out any better!"
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Gresini Honda): 7th, 2m, 2.483s "It is always difficult to get back on the bike after a two-month break, but I have to say that today went well. The bike has shown good power, good acceleration and a character that allows you to be decisive. I have already got a good feeling with the guys and that is one of our main objectives for this test. Tomorrow we will continue to work on the set-up and try to improve it again. It has been a positive first day and it has made me optimistic for the season ahead because I want to make up for lost time in 2010, when I missed six races through injury."
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V): 8th, 2m, 2.507s "I'm happy because this year we are starting from a very good base. All Honda riders are very competitive so I'm confident and this is an extra boost for me. Today we tested the new engine; it has more power in the low revs and this helps me with the line. We also tested the new chassis and it has some positive and negative points and we need to understand it better. We did a comparison work with the 2010 and 2011 fork. The stability in the front has improved but we must rectify some vibrations in the middle of the corner, together with work on the suspension. I'm satisfied with the fact that it was easier to find the rhythm and with hard tyre I could lap consistently on 2.02.5. I lapped at two-tenths from the first riders when they were using the same tyre, choosing not to use the soft tyre in the end because we focused on understanding the new machine."
Toni Elias (LCR Honda): 17th, 2m, 4.238s "I feel more comfortable now compared with the first run out in Valencia. We still have a lot of things to improve, but actually my position on the bike is good and I could lap with more stability. I lapped 30 runs on hard tyre and further 30 laps on softer compound with small improvements lap by lap. We knew that the adaptation period to this new bike takes some time, but we are positive and we are working hard to find the right chassis regulations to improve the pace."