First MotoGP Test of 2011 ends with Simoncelli on top
The first on-track MotoGP action of the year concluded at Sepang on Thursday, and in an exciting opening chapter of the pre-season period it was Marco Simoncelli who topped the third and final day's timesheet in Malaysia. The San Carlo Honda Gresini rider posted a 2'00.757 on his second of 42 laps, an effort that registered the best time of the entire Test and which was just 0.239s off Valentino Rossi's 2009 circuit best lap.
The Ducati rider has also been one of the main focuses of attention throughout these three days, and he ended Thursday tenth in the timings with a lap of 2'01.842 -- 1.085s off his fellow compatriot's scorching marker.
Casey Stoner has been in fine form throughout this Test and the new Repsol Honda recruit was one of four riders to join Simoncelli under the 2'01" mark on the final day. The Australian's effort of 2'00.811 was noted on his 38th of 42 laps, thus continuing his pattern of setting his best time late in the day and showing no lingering effects of a fall at Turn 5 earlier on.
World Champion Jorge Lorenzo was just 0.088s off Simoncelli as he placed his factory M1 as the highest Yamaha of the day. The Spaniard, who performed a tyre test in the afternoon, was precisely 0.1s faster than Andrea Dovizioso, whose Repsol Honda machine was the third RC212V inside the top four by the close of play.
Ben Spies' integration into the Yamaha Factory Racing Team set-up maintained its smooth rate of progress. The American, using this Test to bond with his crew, finished Thursday with a time of 2'01.002 having ridden 60 laps, his best effort coming on the sixth of those. A brace of Hondas then followed, with Dani Pedrosa (+0.484s on Simoncelli) rounding off what has been an encouraging Test for the Repsol Honda rider who came into the Test hoping for no major problems with his collarbone. His best time from Wednesday also stood as the second fastest of the Test overall. Hiroshi Aoyama (+0.596s) appears to be making a slick transition to the San Carlo Honda Gresini set-up, and completed the highest number of laps of any rider with 63.
The highest placing Ducati on Thursday was that of Nicky Hayden. The factory team rider tried out different race settings on the GP11, and he and fellow American Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) were the last two to come within a second of Simoncelli's top time.
Rossi then led a group of five Ducatis, the Italian running a new set-up on the final day and managing to deal with the chatter issue that had been affecting his GP11. Hector Barbera (Aspar Team), Loris Capirossi and Randy de Puniet of Pramac Racing, and Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) occupied positions 11 to 14.
British rookie Cal Crutchlow put in 44 laps on the last day, setting a time of 2'02.717 on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine, with Toni Elias (LCR Honda) completing the MotoGP riders on track. Alvaro Bautista was absent from the final day due to illness, leaving Suzuki Test rider Nobu Aoki to carry out the Japanese factory's scheduled workload.