Photography By: Gold & Goose
For the almost the entire final day of the three-day MotoGP test at Jerez in Spain it appeared as though someone other than Casey Stoner was going to come out of this one with the fastest time. But it turns out Stoner was just messing with ‘em, waiting until there was just 10 minutes left in the session to bust out his fast lap to leave the final pre-season test at the top of the heap. Again.
Stoner and his Repsol Honda RC213V ended up besting Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo by .173 of a second with his 1:38.780, though the Spaniard leaves the test with much to be happy about as his race simulation was fast and consistent, putting him in a good frame of mind prior to the first Grand Prix in two weeks time in Qatar.
By ending up on top in Jerez, Stoner did the pre-season trifecta, leaving all three tests with the fastest lap times (two Sepang tests and Jerez). Stoner's best was also .951 inside Dani Pedrosa's lap record, set during the 2010 Spanish Grand Prix on the 800cc RC212V. The only hiccup in Stoner's day was some front-end chatter while running his race simulation. His rivals won't find much comfort in the fact that Stoner says he can still improve.
"Today we were really pleased with the lap times we're running, but I think we can still improve the bike quite a bit before the race here," Stoner said. "Anyway we feel like we've made some progress on a track like this for us. Towards the end of the day we had some chattering, but we have an idea what caused this and it's not the same as in Sepang. We did a lot of laps and a longer run to get a little more understanding of fuel consumption and things like this and in general we're satisfied with how the whole test has gone for us. Now we can go racing which is what we really enjoy."
Lorenzo was pleased with the improvements in the Yamaha and he was the only rider to join Stoner in lapping under the 1:39 barrier.
"I'm really happy because we tried to make some good lap times so we put new tires on the rear this morning to make the 1:38.9 which is a good time," Lorenzo said. "This afternoon we improved the bike for a race simulation, which went really well. In general we are very happy, it's not just me, Ben [Spies] is also very close to the competition as are Cal [Crutchlow] and Andrea [Dovizioso]. We need to improve our braking a little. If we can do that we could gain some more tenths of a second."
Stoner's teammate Dani Pedrosa ended up third, .377 behind the Australian.
"We've been working a lot with the chassis in the morning to prepare the race simulation," Pedrosa said. "But by the time we were ready, we had to stop twice in the box for an issue with the rear brake. Finally, on my third exit, I could make it. I did the full race distance, 27 laps, and I'm quite satisfied with the result, the lap times were pretty good even though it was very windy in the afternoon, it's also been also good physical training for me. In general, I think we've done a good pre season, we only need to improve a little more on braking and corner entry. It would help us for the first race of the season."
Fourth fastest today was Lorenzo's teammate Ben Spies, the Texan lapping at 1:39.495 and also pleased with the progress Yamaha has made with its M1.
"I'm happy with how the test went," Spies said. "Both Jorge and I worked really methodically on getting through a number of different things. I think we're quite happy with the bike going to Qatar; it's been good here and good in Sepang. A couple of the areas where we had problems last year seem to be a lot better. We can't say if they are completely fixed until we go to more tracks, but we are happy with the balance of the bike and I think we have a very competitive bike for 2012."
Cal Crutchlow also had a good test, the Brit adapting well to the 1000cc Yamaha and showing that he may just be a factor when the racing gets started.
"I'm really happy to finish this test in the top five with a very fast pace because we worked through a lot," Crutchlow said. "Today I only used three sets of tires in 83 laps, yet I was fast and consistent all day, so it shows we are getting good endurance from the soft and the hard options. The different electronic set-up also helped in acceleration, so it was a very positive and productive day after the rain washed out yesterday. The good thing is we know the bike works very well on a completely different track. The tests in Sepang were crucial, but we needed to come to a completely different circuit like Jerez to understand if the bike has a good base level for a tighter and shorter track. Yamaha has done a great job because the YZR-M1 works very well. Finishing behind Stoner, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Spies is obviously good for my confidence and now I'm looking forward to going to Qatar and racing. I feel ready and much better prepared than last year."
Sixth fastest today was Ducati Marlboro's Valentino Rossi - a big improvement over the Friday's first dry day.
"Today went much better than Friday, and I'm pleased... we're pleased," Rossi said in a Ducati release. "Unfortunately, we made some mistakes at Sepang 2 chasing a bad setup, and we paid for that a bit on Friday because we started from that base. Then Saturday's rain cost us an entire day, but today we finally worked well all day long. Step by step, we arrived at our current potential: I'm sixth, and I did a 1:39.7, which is a good time considering that we've only really ridden this bike for six or seven days. We changed the setup, first the rear and then the front, and now I enter the corners pretty well again. I'm able to lean and I can ‘risk' a bit more. Although we know very well that we still have a long road ahead, if we look at the gap to the front we can say we're ready for the first race."
Crutchlow's Monster Energy Tech 3 Yamaha's Andrea Dovizisio was seventh fastest, followed by Nicky Hayden in eighth.
"It's been a very, very busy day," Hayden said. "With my injury affecting the last tests, we needed to squeeze a winter's worth of testing into this weekend, and yesterday was basically a wash. Today we got to try some stuff on the bike and learned a few things. I'm not thrilled with my lap time because I thought I could go a bit quicker, but I struggled a little with the fast corners. We've clearly got some work to do, but now it's time to get ready for Qatar and I look forward to starting the season. I definitely feel better after coming here and getting to ride at close to 100 percent and getting to understand the bike a bit more. Now it's time to see what we've got when we put the cards on the table."
The best of the CRT bikes was the Power Electronics Aspar Aprilia of Randy de Puniet in 13th. Colin Edwards ended up 17th on his NGM Mobile Forward Racing entry.
Jerez Test Day 3
1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:38.780
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:38.953
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:39.157
4. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:39.495
5. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:39.585
6. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:39.733
7. Andrea Dovizisio (Yamaha) 1:39.860
8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:39.919
9. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:40.017
10. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1:40.098