Rossi – Again – Leads The Way

Paul Carruthers | February 25, 2010

Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi once again showed who is boss in the world of MotoGP as the Italian led pre-season testing in Sepang, Malaysia, today after also leading the way during the previous test at the Sepang Circuit.The 31-year-old Rossi ended up turning in 41 laps on a hot day in Malaysia, the defending World Champion lapping at a best of 2:01.068 to best Marlboro Ducati’s Casey Stoner by .151 of a second.”We started well today and we’re already very fast, so we’re quite happy about this,” Rossi said in a team release. “We’ve confirmed that the work we did at the last test was good and it’s clear we’re in good shape at this track. We worked on two or three different settings and today we’ve more or less made a decision about the right way to go with balance, suspension, etc., so this is good progress. We also tried some new electronic maps, to try to improve acceleration, but we need to do more work on this again tomorrow. It’s good to be fast at this stage and now we’re really just waiting to go to another track, to see how this new M1 will perform there. Tomorrow we will do a long run, maybe not race distance, but just quite a few laps together, which will be the final part of our work at this track.”The top MotoGP men were all close with the top 10 – from Rossi to Gresini Honda’s Marco Melandri – separated by just a tick over a second.Stoner was close to Rossi’s best – just .151 off – and said the team made good progress from the last test at Sepang to this one.”Today went really well, we have taken a good step forward since the last test three weeks ago,” Stoner said in a team release. “We didn’t make any major changes to the bike at the start, preferring to make small adjustments as the day progressed, working in particular on the suspension. I’m satisfied – the bike feels well balanced and the characteristics of the new engine make it easier to ride in general. We definitely have room for improvement in terms of the set-up – we could find some more traction, for example, although we are still better off in this respect than we were here last year. We could also improve the bike under braking, especially in the hard braking zones, and find some more edge grip but it is a case of refining a few details. We have a good base to work from so I’m happy for today.”With Stoner second on the factory Ducati, third was somewhat of a surprise as Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso upstaged his teammate Dani Pedrosa, with Pedrosa ending the day in seventh.”I’m very happy about this first day of testing,” Dovizioso said in a team release. “We have the third fastest time, but the most important thing is that we were able to consistently improve our pace. Every session out of the pits we improved and I could ride consistent and this is encouraging. Of course, there is still a lot of work to do as we have to reduce the gap from the first riders, but I’m confident, and I’m very happy of the work done by Honda. Today we changed my position on the bike with a very positive feeling and then we tested some new electronic set up. Tomorrow we want to do more laps to confirm the race pace.”Fourth fastest was Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi, the Italian just over half a second behind his countryman Rossi. And then came Ben Spies, the World Superbike Champion riding his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha to a best lap of 2:01.843 and ahead of his teammate Colin Edwards as the two Texans finished fifth and sixth, respectively.”It was hot out there today, but I’m happy with how I performed and I feel I’ve accomplished a fair bit,” Spies said. “I automatically picked up where I left off here because my fourth lap today was only three-tenths slower than my best time at the first test. I’m close to half-a-second faster than the last test and I’m more consistent. My fastest laps were all on tires that had done race distance and that makes me happier than anything else. It’s not so much that I got under the 2.02 barrier, but I did it on worn tires and I think that will be one of my big strong points this season. I feel like I’m getting closer to finding the limit of the Bridgestone tires and I’m getting more comfortable on them, but we still need to do more work. Today we played around with the bike a bit more than previously just to understand a few things, but it was nothing major. Some changes were good and some were bad and I feel we made some important progress and I definitely had more grip. Everyday I’m trying to learn something and go a little bit quicker and that’s what I achieved.”Edwards, meanwhile, had a technical issue in the morning that kept him off the track for a while.”After the small problem I had this morning, I had to play catch up pretty quick to the rest of the guys but I managed to do some good laps and I’m happy with my pace,” Edwards said. “It was a productive day and I feel like we’ve learned a few things. Everybody is testing electronics and Yamaha have done another good job because what I tried definitely has some good points and they are moving in the right direction. Yamaha might have dominated last year, but they definitely haven’t just taken the easy option and sat back. They’ve worked really hard on improving what was already a great bike, and some of the improvements have really helped me. I did more work on the new swingarm and I like it. It seems to help the front and the rear of the bike and it gives me a lot more confidence. And it helps a lot with my front feeling, which I had an issue with a bit last year.”Pedrosa was seventh with Pramac Ducati’s Mika Kallio eighth and Capirossi’s new Suzuki teammate Alvaro Bautista ninth. Melandri was 10th.Marlboro Ducati’s Nicky Hayden was 11th – 1.1 seconds behind Rossi on the opening day.”We started out with the setting from the previous test, working a little bit with the geometry, and in some parts of the track we got better but there is still plenty of room for improvement,” Hayden said. “We’ve been working on trying to solve a little front-end chatter and we did that a little by changing the carbon forks. The arm is pretty good but I didn’t want to push it too hard.Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo is absent from the test as he recovers in Spain with the injured hand he suffered in a motocross training accident.

Day One Times

1.                  Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 2:01.068

2.                  Casey Stoner (Ducati) 2:01.219

3.                  Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 2:01.631

4.                  Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 2:01.687

5.                  Ben Spies (Yamaha) 2:01.843

6.                  Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 2:01.897

7.                  Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2:02.036

8.                  Mika Kallio (Ducati) 2:02.038

9.                  Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 2:02.078

10.                  Marco Melandri (Honda) 2:02.086

11.                  Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2:02.221

12.                  Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 2:02.419

13.                  Aleix Espargarao (Ducati) 2:02.447

14.                  Hector Barbera (Honda) 2:02.485

15.                  Randy de Puniet (Honda) 2:02.535

16.                  Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 2:03.254

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.