Pedrosa Leads the Way in Sepang

Henny Ray Abrams | October 21, 2011


 Hondas ruled the day during Friday practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix, with Honda’s top two teams taking the first five spots for the first time this season.The 3.447-mile Sepang International Circuit is the perfect venue for the Honda RC212V motorcycle. The track has two long straights followed by two first gear hairpins, which lets the Honda riders make the most of their advantage in both acceleration and top speed.Repsol Hondas finished one through three, with team San Carlo Honda Gresini taking the next two spots. The first non-Honda was Colin Edwards, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider who spent most of the session in the top four before being dropped to fifth at the end.Dani Pedrosa was the fastest of the Repsol Hondas in what was his most dominant session of the season. Pedrosa set the early pace and kept it, rebuffing any possible advance by the new World Champion, teammate Casey Stoner. Pedrosa was so strong that he finished the session with a cushion of .820 of a second on Stoner, with Andrea Dovizioso another half second back on the third of the Repsol Hondas. Dovi was one of only two riders not to improve on his morning time.

Pedrosa has extra motivation in Sunday’s penultimate round of the MotoGP World Championship. Though he missed three races, he trails Dovi by only four points for third in the championship and would very much like to finish ahead of the Italian. Dovi recently announced that he’d be replacing Edwards on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 bike.

Marco Simoncelli made it four factory RC212Vs in a row by finishing just behind Dovizioso and only narrowly in front of his departing teammate, Hiroshi Aoyama. Aoyama has two races left in MotoGP before moving to World Superbike with the Ten Kate Honda squad.Edwards had to be happy with his performance as Yamaha’s front-runner. The factory team was at less than full strength. Jorge Lorenzo was home in Majorca recovering from the severe finger injury he suffered in last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. And Ben Spies was also suffering from injuries sustained at Phillip Island. Spies had a nasty qualifying crash and withdrew from the race. Spies, who continues to suffer with damaged ribs, was ninth fastest.Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Yamaha’s 30-year-old test rider who replaced Lorenzo, crashed during practice and didn’t improve on his morning time in the afternoon, finishing 4.140 seconds from Pedrosa.Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista was seventh fastest, while teammate for the weekend John Hopkins was down in 14th.Following Bautista were Pramac Racing Ducati’s Randy de Puniet, Spies, and Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham, who led a quartet of downfield Ducatis. Nicky Hayden was the first of the Ducati Marlboro riders in 11th, Loris Capirossi was 12th on the second Pramac Ducati, and Valentino Rossi was 13th and nearly 2.5 secs. slower than Pedrosa.Friday Combined MotoGP Practice:1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2:01.250

2. Casey Stoner (Honda) 2:02.070

3. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 2:02.590

4. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 2:02.823

5. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 2:02.951

6. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 2:02.991

7. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 2:03.123

8. Randy de Puniet (Ducati) 2:03.159

9. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 2:03.312

10. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 2:03.318

11. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2:03.445

12. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 2:03.595

13. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 2:03.677

14. John Hopkins (Suzuki) 2:03.885


Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.