Hondas Power to Top in Sepang

Cycle News Staff | February 2, 2011

The second of three days of testing in Malaysia was dominated by Hondas, with five of the top six spots taken by Honda riders led by Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda).Pedrosa made an early impression, becoming the only rider to dip under 2:01 when he lapped the 3.45-mile circuit in 2:00.770 mins. on his fourth lap. Pedrosa is still recovering full strength in the shoulder and collarbone he injured in last year’s Japanese Grand Prix and only completed 39 laps. Still, he was far and away the fastest rider.”I think it’s the first time I’ve ridden so fast on this track, but you’re just fresh in the morning and I did four very good first laps,” Pedrosa said. “I was not looking for a time, but I saw that the track conditions were good and I pushed. The closer you get to the limit, the clearer the changes you are doing on the bike become, which lead you in the right direction. Today I tried the new engine, which has improved from Valencia, some chassis configurations and rear shocks. Tomorrow the plan is to continue comparing both bikes and it would be great to come away with the chassis and engine decided for the next test.”Teammate Casey Stoner slipped to second today after dominating the opening day of the test. Stoner’s 43rd of 44 laps was a 2:01.434, a full .664 secs. slower than Pedrosa.”Yesterday we really didn’t expect the best time, today we expected a bigger difference with the soft tire- but with the chassis we chose we just couldn’t get the best out of the tire,” Stoner said. “Tomorrow maybe we can focus a little more to compare the chassis again and then see which direction to go from there. We’ve got a few other small things here and there but they can wait until the next test. Now I’m starting to understand the bike a bit better and when I ride it, it feels more like home.”Stoner didn’t have as comfortable a cushion on the tightly bunched field. One second covered the ten riders from the Australian through 11th fastest Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro).The Honda dominance was broken up by third fastest Yamaha’s Ben Spies. Spies had a more successful day than he’d had on Tuesday, when he wrecked his factory YZR-M1’s very early in the day. Today he improved his lap time by .824 sec. while completing 60 laps. His lap of 2:01.508 mins. was .074 sec. off Stoner’s pace and a scant .004 sec. faster than third Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso.”Today went really well,” Spies said. “We started out and got right up to speed. We worked pretty much just on electronics and also evaluated a couple of different engine configurations, both of which worked really well. The lap times were pretty similar so we need to work out which direction we want to go.”We got a lot accomplished today, tomorrow we’ve got a couple more things on the engine to look at and we’re going to try some tires for Bridgestone.”Dovizioso improved from eighth yesterday to fourth today while testing the 2011 Ohlins forks.“I’m satisfied with the work done today,” Dovizioso said. “We have a good base that works well on different tracks.  We started comparing again the 2010 and 2011 front fork and decided to stick to the 2011 version because it allows me to brake harder even if a small vibration still remains in the middle of the corner. I’m very happy with the pace I had today, but I am still not happy with my ability to improve my lap time when I try to push harder on the softer tire.”San Carlo Honda Gresini teammates Marco Simoncelli and Hiroshi Aoyama were next, the former 250cc World Champions within .022 sec. of Dovizioso.”I am really happy with today and, apart from the ‘stratospheric’ time set by Pedrosa, in race set-up I have been consistently amongst the best,” Simoncelli said. “We have improved the set-up compared to yesterday and experimented with some different electronic solutions. I can say that the base set-up of the bike is good and everybody, myself and the team, is finding that with more experience we are able to consolidate our work more. Last year when we spoke with the telemetry engineer from Honda we were struggling to understand but now everything is easier. After a positive first test at Valencia this is good confirmation for us at a track I have never really been fast at. So I am confident about the future and tomorrow we will try a race simulation, my physical condition permitting of course because as usual here in Malaysia the heat is tremendous!”Next came world champion Jorge Lorenzo. The Yamaha rider used a new chassis on his YZR-M1 to finish seventh fastest and .793 sec. slower than Pedrosa.”Today we continued to work on the bike, we found some positive things and some not so good,” Lorenzo said. “I think we have found more traction but maybe a little vibration we need to resolve. I’m happy with the day, but it was very hot and I’m pretty tired. We’ve improved a lot of little things, I have to continue to work on improving my riding as well and to give the team the best explanations I can on the developments to help them move forward.”Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista continued his good run of pre-season form by finishing with the eighth fastest time of 2:01.687 mins., a personal best for Sepang, while completing a day’s best 63 laps. Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards only turned 33 laps, finishing .035 sec. from Bautista while testing new tires for Bridgestone.”Immediately I left the pit lane this morning the feeling was more normal than yesterday – after my first day back at work it was easier to understand everything,” Bautista said. “On my first run I set a good lap-time and this was very close to the fastest guys, except Dani who made a real qualifying lap! Much more important was that I could make high 2.01 lap-times with very old tires, and my rhythm felt good. Also, I tried three different chassis today and the results of that test were quite clear, and we have made an improvement to front feeling and turning. The engineers have also done some good work with the traction control and this is helping me get out of the corners more smoothly.”The Ducatis were mostly bunched up behind Edwards, led, surprisingly, by Aspar Team’s Hector Barbera. The second year MotoGP rider was a comfortable .286 sec. in front of Ducati Marlboro’s Hayden, with Pramac Racing’s Randy De Puniet a touch slower after crashing in the final hour. Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro) continued to struggle with his surgically repaired shoulder, finishing 13th fastest and 1.827 secs. from Pedrosa, though he was encouraged that the shoulder strength hadn’t suffered from Tuesday’s riding. On his Twitter feed, Rossi mechanic Alex Briggs quoted Rossi as saying, “I’m like an old mobile phone, charge 4 half an hour and then I only work for a few minutes! ” Added Rossi, “I’m happy because I was able to ride again today. I did another 42 laps, which is reassuring. Even when I work my shoulder hard, I’m finding that it doesn’t get worse, and I don’t suffer too much, to the extent that I was able to start again this morning without having lost anything compared to yesterday. Actually, the shoulder is even getting better as I ride, and I’m able to make the movements that are required. Obviously, it’s still a handicap, because eventually I begin to lose strength and the pain increases, but we were able to do some good, consistent work.”We tested some new fairings, trying out the aerodynamics. There’s still a little vibration at the front that we weren’t able to eliminate, but we have some cards we can play tomorrow to address that. We have to get a little more experience to better understand the bike’s reactions when we change tires, from soft to hard and vice versa. If the weather stays nice, the track conditions will continue to improve, and I think lap times could drop a bit. Naturally, beyond feeling increasingly comfortable on the bike, one of our goals is to be able to ride it more easily. We’re satisfied with the progress we’re making.”Hayden had an opposing view. “I can’t say we found a whole lot. Things definitely went a little bit smoother today-dropped over a second from the lap time-but still the gap to the front is a lot. I had a big problem today with chatter, vibration, whatever you want to call it, and spent a lot of time just trying to get rid of it. There was one stage in there I couldn’t even hardly ride I had so much chatter in the fast corners. We dialed it out a bit, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”Hayden recognized that all the Ducatis were struggling, but didn’t see that as an excuse for his times.”I think we definitely have a lot of stuff to test, but I should be closer to the front,” he said. “I don’t want to speak for everybody else, but our bike’s not that much different. We’ve got to understand. But it’s still early, but I’m not happy to be so far off the pace.


1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2:00.770

2. Casey Stoner (Honda) 2:01.434

3. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 2:01.508

4. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 2:01.512

5. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 2:01.522

6. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 2:01.534

7. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2:01.563

8. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 2:01.687

9. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 2:01.722

10. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 2:02.093

11. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2:02.379

12. Randy De Puniet (Ducati) 2:02.426

13. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 2:02.597

14. Kousuke Akiyoshi (Honda) 2:02.619

15. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 2:03.032

16. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 2:03.466

17. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 2:03.466

19. Toni Elias (Honda) 2:04.026