Casey Stoner Fast on Day One in Sepang Test

Cycle News Staff | February 28, 2012

Photography By: Gold & Goose

Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner picked up where he left off four weeks ago by setting the pace at the second MotoGP test of the season in Sepang, Malaysia. And he might have been even more dominant had afternoon showers not curtailed testing.

Stoner set the pace early on and was never seriously challenged. He went to the top of the list on his third flying lap before pitting. On his next run, he laid down three successively faster laps, finishing with a best of 2:01.761. On each of his next two three-lap runs he was nearly as fast: When he finished after 16 laps-12 at speed-any one of six laps would have stood up as the fastest.

Stoner’s time was well short of the 1:59.607 lap he’d set when the first test here concluded on February 2. Part of that was the shortened track time and part track conditions; a car race last weekend did the surface no favors.

“It was really hard to leave Switzerland,” Stoner, who became a father for the first time earlier this month, said. “Ally woke up for a feed at the same time as I was leaving for the airport and I didn’t really want to leave.

“The first day of testing has gone well. We started off where we left last time, but the track conditions have been a little worse. We have some work to do. This morning we managed to compare a few things back to back. We’ve tried a new set of brake disks to try and reduce the brake fade that I’ve been having at the last test, so that’s been an improvement. We’re trying a few other things with set up to shorten the wheelbase and get a little more traction. We have a couple of things we can try to change the stiffness and also move the weight around a little bit to try and upset the chatter and reduce the frequency. This afternoon I have no doubt we would have gone a second or a second and a half faster, but the rain came out and the track didn’t dry up enough to warrant going out, so we’ll wait until tomorrow.”

Stoner’s Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa was .244 of a second slower than Stoner after putting in 36 laps. The ambient temperature of 99F was hotter than it had been at the previous test, with attendant 133F track temperatures taking their tolls on bike and rider. Then came the afternoon rain, with Pedrosa making the most of the conditions to learn something about the wet set-up. His day ended early after an engine problem stranded him on the track.

“It was a good test for us; we made a couple of good runs,” Pedrosa said. “The track was very dirty at the beginning of the practice and you could feel the grip level was not so good, but it’s been improving little by little during the day and we could work through our testing program.

“It was much warmer than in the last test; after the first run I was sweating more than in the three days we came here last time. Today we did some tests on the engine to see how can we manage the power delivery, and also worked on the chassis. Also, on the rider position to work on the balance and it was positive. In the afternoon I did some laps in the rain, but on my second run it started to dry up quickly, so we finished earlier.

“On my last run, I had a small issue, I saw a red light on the dashboard, so I took the clutch and stopped. We have to analyze now what it was.”

Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies followed the factory Hondas. Lorenzo was .431 of a second behind Pedrosa and .383 in front of Spies. Both riders spent time analyzing different engine specs and trying to solve the chattering problem of the control front Bridgestone tires.

“We started with a different engine spec to the one we used in the last test,” Lorenzo said. “Today it was difficult to make any comparisons as the track was in much worse condition than last time and the lap times were much slower. The rain also meant we couldn’t finish everything we wanted to today on the track so we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”

Said Spies, “Everything was good this morning; we were just waiting for the weather to improve in the afternoon. The Yamaha engineers delivered a lot for us to test again. It’s important we go the right way with the parts and not worry too much about what everyone else is doing. We have to focus on the task at hand which is what we’re doing and getting through all the updates methodically. We will keep working and hope for some good weather in the next two days.”

San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista broke up the factory order by finishing with the fifth fastest time on the satellite RC213V. Like everyone, the Spaniard found the track conditions challenging and was also affected by the lack of dry track time. Early in the session he nearly crashed-he saved it with his elbow-and decided not to take any further chances at the end of the day.

“The rainfall brought our day to an early conclusion because with the already precarious conditions it was better to leave everything else we had planned until tomorrow,” Bautista said after a best lap of 2:02.959 mins. “I had a miraculous escape this morning in turn five when I basically crashed but managed to keep the bike upright on my elbow.”

Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden made a successful return from recent shoulder surgery to clock the sixth fastest time on his first true test of the Desmosedici GP12. Hayden wasn’t sure how the shoulder would react from the operation, performed three weeks ago, but he was pleasantly surprised. Not only did he put in more laps than in the previous three-day test, but his 55 laps were the most of any rider by 16.

“I’m obviously still not at 100 percent, but considering I had shoulder surgery three weeks ago, it went better than I expected,” he said after his best lap of 2:03.132. “I felt much better than at the last test and was able to give some good feedback, so I owe a big thanks to Dr. [Arthur] Ting and his staff.

“This is the first time I could really ride this bike well, and I enjoyed it. The chassis gives you a lot of feedback, and it’s easier to understand the limit. We made some changes throughout the day and I pretty much got quicker every exit. It would have been nice to ride in the rain, but I didn’t want to do something silly and crash on the shoulder. Hopefully it’s not too sore when I wake up so I can do another half-day or so tomorrow.”

Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow was just behind Hayden, with Valentino Rossi eighth fastest on the second Ducati Marlboro machine. Rossi was eager to get going, too eager, it turned out; the morning conditions didn’t allow him to get the best of his the improved Ducati.

“Paradoxically, we actually started too early this morning,” Rossi said. “It would’ve been better to start at 11 like the others, because before that the asphalt was quite dirty, and by the time the conditions started to improve, the tire already had about fifteen laps on it. We decided to save the second tire for the afternoon, but it started raining after lunch. As a result, we didn’t get much done today. We didn’t even start working with the new software that we have available for this test.

“On the plus side, we were able to confirm that the feeling in the wet is still pretty good with the GP12. Weather permitting, and with a couple more tires at our disposal, I think that tomorrow we’ll be able to work a little more comprehensively and understand things a bit more.”

NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards was again the fastest of the CRT machines and not far off the prototypes. Riding the BMW/Suter, the Texan finished 12th at a gap of 1.680 seconds to 11th fastest Andrea Dovizioso (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and 3.749 seconds to Stoner.

Day One:

1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 2:01.761
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2:02.005
3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2:02.436
4. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 2:02.819
5. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 2:02.959
6. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2:03.132
7. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 2:03.213
8. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 2:03.245
9. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 2:03.612
10. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 2:03.820
11. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 2:03.830
12. Colin Edwards (Suter) 2:05.510