Spies Fast, Hondas Sit

Cycle News Staff | February 29, 2012

Photography By: Gold & Goose

Yamaha riders Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo took advantage of the absence of the Repsol Honda team to set the fastest times on the second day of MotoGP testing at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

All four Honda riders – Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista, and LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl – were forced to the sidelines by a late Tuesday engine failure suffered by Pedrosa’s RC213V. The engine was shipped to Japan, where it was inspected on Wednesday, as the teams awaited an answer. But by the time the teams were given the all-clear, the circuit was drenched and there was no point going out.

That left only 11 riders on the track, the fastest of which was Spies with Lorenzo in his shadow. Spies’ best lap time of 2:01.285 was faster that Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner had gone on Tuesday, but well off the 1:59.607 Stoner had run at the previous test earlier this month. Spies was denied a chance to challenge Stoner’s times when rain hit following the lunch break. Both he and Lorenzo took advantage of the rain to test wet weather settings for the first time.

“Today went well,” Spies said. “The rain caught us out again, but we got everything we needed to do done before lunch, including some different chassis set ups and some electronics which we were pretty happy with.

“The rain started to come down, so we waited until it subsided a little bit but with still a full wet track with standing water which we needed. We haven’t ridden the thousand in the rain and I’ve never ridden this track in the rain, so it was good to get some laps in. I had quite a good feeling with the bike in the rain; straight away it felt pretty good so we rode in full wet conditions and stayed on wets when it dried out a little and was greasy. We’ve got a lot of stuff to do tomorrow so we’re hoping for a dry day.”

Lorenzo was only .008 of a second slower than Spies after completing 26 laps to Spies’ 35.

“Today we improved a little the connection with the throttle and the engine; it’s much smoother and easier to ride, a big step forward from yesterday,” Lorenzo said. “We were able to try the 1000cc M1 on the wet for the first time and we went very fast, so it’s been a positive day and we are very motivated to improve the bike more. We managed to complete everything we wanted to test, so it’s been good.”

Monster Energy Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso was third fastest, at a gap of .229 of a second to Lorenzo, with teammate Cal Crutchlow .410 of a second.

Then came the first of the Ducatis ridden by Nicky Hayden. For the second day in a row, Ducati Marlboro’s Hayden ran the most laps – today he was tied by Yonny Hernandez at 39 after completing 55 on Tuesday – while continuing to recover from shoulder surgery three weeks ago. Hayden might not have been able to do many more laps because of his physical limitations, but having mostly missed the first test here with the shoulder injury, the Kentuckian was eager for as much seat time as possible.

“The weather hasn’t been kind to us,” Hayden said. “With my condition, maybe I wasn’t going to be able to do many more laps anyway, but we have a lot of stuff to try. It was definitely cooler today, with more rubber on the track, and we went faster. We made a couple of small steps and I would say today was the most competitive I’ve been all year. I like the changes to the electronics, especially at the first touch of the throttle. We talked about going out in the rain, but the risks seemed to outweigh the rewards. I look forward to tomorrow. Hopefully we can put together all the pieces we’ve learned and do some good lap times.”

Behind Hayden came the other three Ducatis. Hector Barbera (Pramac Racing Ducati) was sixth, but also crashed after aquaplaning in the wet, followed by Ducati Marlboro’s Valentino Rossi. Rossi completed only 18 laps and finished .845 of a second from Spies.

“Another day practically lost, which is really a shame because for us it’s very important to ride as much as possible, and today’s track conditions were much better than yesterday’s,” Rossi said. “Given that we knew rain was predicted for the afternoon, we tried to focus as much work as possible in just the first twenty or so laps this morning. Using both bikes, we tried the new traction control, some software updates with the wheelie control and other small details that have to do with the seating position. I had good impressions with all of those, so we put it all into the setup of just one bike and put on a new tire, only for it to start raining. Game over. On the plus side, I had a good feeling with all of the new stuff, so I hope we can work a little longer tomorrow.”

Behind Rossi came Ducati test rider Franco Battaini on the Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati of the injured Karel Abraham. Abraham withdrew from the test on Tuesday after completing only three laps. The Czech rider found he wasn’t fully recovered from back injuries suffered in a testing crash in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain last week.

NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards was again the fastest of the three CRT machines. Hit with a bug in his electrical system, the Texan rode the BMW/Suter for only 14 laps and finished 3.686 secs. behind Rossi and 4.531 secs. slower than Spies.

Day Two:

1. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 2:01.285
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2:01.293
3. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 2:01.522
4. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 2:01.695
5. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2:01.748
6. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 2:01.989
7. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 2:02.130
8. Franco Battaini (Ducati) 2:03.566
9. Colin Edwards (Suter) 2:05.816
10. Ivan Silva (FTR) 2:08.213