Stoner Fastest in Sepang MotoGP Test

Cycle News Staff | February 1, 2011

Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner finished the second three-day MotoGP test in Sepang as he had the first, on top.The Australian, who became a father for the first time less than two weeks ago, quickly made up for lost time after missing the second day of the test. (All four Honda riders sat out Wednesday while Honda analyzed Dani Pedrosa’s day one engine failure.)Thursday was hot and dry, the only day of the three when the riders had a full day of testing. Stoner put in 34 laps, working on chassis and electronics improvements to reduce the front end chatter that’s plagued the Hondas, and most everyone else, since the beginning of the 1000cc era.Despite being on track all day, Stoner couldn’t make up for the loss of track time on Tuesday, when rain limited him to 16 laps, and Wednesday. His best lap of 2:00.473 was off the mark of 1:59.607 he’d set in the first test in Malaysia at the start of the month.”Again we’ve been unable to profit from the full three days of the test here in Sepang,” Stoner said. “The first day we only managed about 16 laps before the rain came and then yesterday we weren’t able to get out at all. So today it’s been good to have some nice weather, get out on track and find some different solutions on the bike.”We’ve been trying a few different things with electronics to have the engine character the same way we like it. We’ve also tried shortening the wheelbase, aiming to reduce the chattering and we’ve been successful in decreasing it slightly, but at the moment we’re unable to eliminate it completely, so we still have quite a lot of work to do. The chassis balance feels good as does the traction on the bike; it’s turning well, but we really need to get rid of the chatter. In general we are happy with the bike.”Pedrosa finished with a best lap of 2:00.648, a gap of .175 of a second to his teammate. Pedrosa also worked to reduce chatter, but said there was more work to do on entry and mid-corner. The Spaniard believes they can continue to improve the chassis and electronics at the final test of the pre-season later this month at the Jerez circuit in southern Spain.”In general we’ve been working a lot on the chassis at this test, to find the best compromise,” Pedrosa said. “We tried different ideas and set ups and we leave quite happy with the feelings.”This is a very specific track, so it’s important to have clear ideas for the future. We also made some progress on the braking and the chassis feels a little better because we have less chatter compared to the first test. We need to keep improving on entry and middle of the corner, but I think that we can expect improvements when we start to work more in depth with the engine and the electronics, which we will do in the Jerez test. Today I also used a different screen to be more comfortable on the straight, which felt better.”Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso upset the factory order by finishing with the third fastest time, ahead of the factory Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo. Dovi’s best of 2:00.802 was a scant .075 of a second faster than Lorenzo’s 2:00.877, and only .329 of a second behind Stoner.”Despite the rain disrupting the first two days, this has been a really positive test and I am very happy,” Dovi said. “I did my first laps in the rain on the Yamaha and I had a very positive feeling. The engine was very smooth and I could manage the sliding, but one very important area was my physical condition. My shoulder was much better than the first test here and this enabled me to understand the potential of the YZR-M1 machine much more. I am much more confident on the bike and I am happy with the lap time and the position and we have done a very good job understanding many things here. I like the new engine because it helps with the corner entry, and this was already a really strong point of the Yamaha. I did a long run of 1 5-laps today and it was important to learn the characteristics of the bike over a longer distance. It was really interesting to understand about tire wear and we have some work to do but the potential of the bike is already at a very high level. Now I am really looking forward to the next test in Jerez because it is a completely different track with different temperature and this will be good experience for me to understand the bike even more.”

Lorenzo had a small crash in the morning in the final corner, then spent the afternoon in a race simulation, rather than working on a single fast lap.”Well, this afternoon was one of the hardest race simulations of my career because the 1000 is more tiring to ride and the rear tires seems to drop a lot after three or four laps,” he said. “After this the feeling stays the same, but it’s very different to last year; it’s almost like racing in the rain trying to control the rear in the corner exits and acceleration. I managed to finish the simulation with a good pace, so all in all it has been a very positive test.”Teammate Ben Spies had his worst finish of the testing season, down in eighth place. The Texan also had a small morning crash, in turn seven, and completed only 28 laps.”Today was good,” Spies said after his lap of 2:01.432. “We unfortunately had a small crash, but we learned a lot and got to test some new electronic settings which were a big improvement. We also tried some different shock settings which were a big step forward. It’s a shame we crashed, but we know from this test that the bike has great potential so we can go to Jerez with confidence.”In between the two Yamaha riders came Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech3) and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista.LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl was ninth fastest, worn out but happy after 54 laps that put him just over a second behind Stoner, and less than a tenth behind Spies.Ducati Marlboro’s Valentino Rossi was .058 of a second behind Bradl, with teammate Nicky Hayden in 11th, another .059 of a second behind. The Ducati team had failed to make the big steps they’d hoped for, but they were closer to the front – in terms of lap times though not position.”One small positive note to the day is that we reduced the gap to the front a little bit,” Rossi said. “It was 1.2 seconds, and now it’s one second. It’s also nice that the new electronics work well, but it hurts being down on the timesheets compared to all the others. We tried a bunch of things in order to take a step forward from the first test, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to do it and were actually worse. It was harder for me to ride well compared to three weeks ago, especially my corner speed. It’s true that this test was more difficult in terms of weather and track conditions, but it seemed to affect us more than the others. Honestly, I expected to do better than 10th. We were also unfortunate because at the best part of the day, when I did a 2:01.5 and we had some tyres to try to lower the time further, we had a problem with the fork that cost us some time. Maybe without that we would have cut another three or four tenths and been further up, but our pace is still about seven tenths back. Honestly, that’s not a huge amount, but anyway we’re still behind. We’re not pleased with how it went this time, but we have to try and work hard and see what happens at Jerez, where the track is very different than this one, with much different weather and temperatures. We’ll see how we do there.”

Hayden was also hopeful of being closer to the front, but was happy with the progress his shoulder is making – and was happy to have not further injured it in a tip-over at the end of the day.”Of course I would prefer to have been closer to the front, but it’s my first real test of the year,” Hayden said. “The bike feels better on braking and into the corner, and I like the feedback it gives me. Also, the lap times don’t seem as affected when the track gets hot and greasy. We need to work on some chatter and on corner exits. We have plenty of ideas, as there are a lot of things we didn’t get to try this week because of the weather. Toward the end, I lost the front end in Turn 1 and crashed, but it was an easy one and I’m fine. I’m happy with how my shoulder is coming along. I hope that with three more weeks of recovering and rehab, it should be close to 100 per cent for Jerez.”Colin Edwards was again the fastest of the three CRT machines. The NGM Mobile Forward Racing BMW/Suter rider had the 13th fastest time, closing the gap to Stoner to 3.208 seconds.

Day Three:

1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 2:00.473

2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2:00.648

3. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 2:00.802

4. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2:00.877

5. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 2:00.986

6. Hector Barbera (Aprilia) 2:01.231

7. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 2:01.275

8. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 2:01.432

9. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 2:01.492

10. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 2:01.550

11. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2:01.609

12. Franco Battaini (Ducati) 2:03.490

13. Colin Edwards (Suter) 2:03.681