Casey Stoner began the 2011 testing season by setting the pace on the first of three days of testing at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia.In his first ride in Repsol Honda colors, the Australian topped the 17-rider field comfortably. His best lap of 52 of the 3.45-mile track outside the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur was 2:01.574 mins., just above Jorge Lorenzo's pole time of 2:01.537. Valentino Rossi holds the outright lap record of 2:00.518 mins. from qualifying in 2009."Very positive day," Stoner said. "At the beginning it took some time to get used to the bike again, but I soon felt comfortable and we had a good day. We didn't change the set-up too much compared to the one we had in Valencia and I am pleased to see that even if the circuit is different, it still works pretty well here in Sepang. We did some work later on with the engine braking to decrease some chattering and looks like we found a good solution. In the next two days we will start testing something new but anyway for me, it was a very good way to come back on track after the winter break."The 2010 MotoGP World Champion Lorenzo finished the day with the second fastest time at a deficit of .403 secs. to Stoner."It's been a good start today," Lorenzo said. "We tried a few things and it seemed for everything we tried it was a little bit better, not big improvements. But as I said in Valencia at the test last year, the 2011 bike seems to have less wheelie so we can open the throttle earlier in the corners and in some corners I have better corner speed as well. Today was my first ride wearing Alpinestars so there were a lot of things for me to get used to. We pushed a bit more towards the end of the session and got faster, we will continue to make the step tomorrow."Pedrosa finished third face while rounding into physical shape. The Spaniard still doesn't have full strength in the shoulder and collarbone he broke last year at Motegi. Pedrosa rode late in the season, but his physical condition continues to affect his performance."I 'm pretty happy with how things went today," he said after completing 61 laps. "My priority was to see how I was on the bike after so long without riding and the feeling has been positive. Obviously I still have less strength under braking and lack of stability in the shoulder with the direction changes, but the cramps have gone and this is very positive for me. We have time to continue with my physical training and gain the strength that I need for when the season starts."I honestly didn't expect to do so many laps today. I started with the 2010 bike to get the feeling back and because in the second half of the season our bike was competitive and we want to begin improving from there. Then I tried a new swingarm and a new chassis, in the last two runs, and my best lap time has been with the new parts, so it's also positive. The plan for tomorrow is to test the new engine."San Carlo Honda Gresini's Marco Simoncelli finished fourth. Simoncelli has a full factory RC212V for this season, in which he's paired with his 250cc rival Hiroshi Aoyama. Aoyama finished seventh fastest.Ben Spies was fifth fastest on the factory Yamaha, despite destroying one of his race bikes very early in the test. Spies tucked the front on an out lap this morning in the slow Turn 14 without explanation. "Today was good," he said. "The weather forecast wasn't so great so to get as much time on the bike as we had was good. We set out to not do too many laps to avoid getting tired, it's easy to overdo it on the first day. We did enough to get my head up to speed then relaxed as we have a lot to look at over the next two days for Yamaha and Bridgestone. It's my first day with the new team and they were fantastic, everybody worked together really well. We ended up going faster than we did here last year in the race which shows my confidence in the bike and the team. There's more to come from the bike and from me too, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow."Rizla Suzuki's Alvaro Bautista was a strong sixth on day one. The Spaniard was impressed with the power of the new Suzuki GSV-R800 engine, as well as the 2011 Ohlins forks."It's been a long time since Valencia and on my first laps I thought Suzuki made a mistake and fitted a 1000cc engine in the bike, it feels so fast after a long break," he said. "But, after some easy laps, I began to get my rhythm and to ride comfortably. We did some interesting testing, but to be honest the main thing today was just for me to get back to a normal level, and in the end the bike felt nice and we went quite quick, so I'm happy. I hope the weather stays dry, we have a big list of stuff to test and I know the guys will be working late tonight to prepare everything for tomorrow - thanks to them and I am looking forward to continuing our work."The third member of the Repsol Honda team, Andrea Dovizioso, finished the day with the eighth fastest time, just behind Aoyama. Dovizioso tested a new engine, with more power in the low revs, as well as a new chassis. The Italian also did a back to back test of the 2010 and 2011 forks. His take was that "The stability in the front has improved, but we must rectify some vibrations in the middle of the corner, together with work on the suspension. I'm satisfied with the fact that it was easier to find the rhythm and with hard tire I could lap consistently on 2.02.5 mins. I lapped at two-tenths from the first riders when they were using the same tire, choosing not to use the soft tire in the end because we focused on understanding the new machine."Colin Edwards was ninth fastest on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 bike, with teammate Cal Crutchlow 16th.Ducati Marlboro teammates Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden got off to slow starts. Rossi was 12th fastest, just in front of Hayden."Rarely have I been this happy with a twelfth place, because after the test at Misano, we were pretty pessimistic considering how bad I felt there," Rossi said. "It went better here though, especially in the morning, and we were able to do 20, 25 laps at a decent speed. Although we still have a lot of work to do, we did a lot today: we worked on the riding position, and we're starting to understand, among the many details that we can adjust on this bike, what the best solutions are."The Ducati's DNA doesn't need to be changed; we have to take advantage of the positive aspects and improve the others. Unfortunately, it became more difficult when I lost a lot of strength in the afternoon, but in the end I was able to do about fifteen more laps. Let's say that at the moment, I have quite a bit of pain and not much strength, whereas the opposite would be preferable! The hardest parts are the straights and on hard braking into right corners, like Turn 1 and Turn 4; there alone I lose about a second, whereas the rest of the lap is okay, because compared to Valencia, I'm able to ride much better."It will be important to be able to rest well tonight in order to regain some mobility so that I can do 30 or 40 laps tomorrow. I'll have a relaxing massage and put ice on it."Hayden was less upbeat, saying "It wasn't spectacular. Obviously, being two seconds off the pace isn't how you want to start the first official testing, but you've got to get started somewhere. We had a lot of little things to try-two bikes were brand-new. We know you don't just roll the Ducatis out of the crates-they need some tuning to get them to work. We had an electrical issue on one bike, but there wasn't any major drama-just wasn't quite able to go as fast as I wanted. We had a lot of chatter, especially in the fast corners. In the long corners here, there's a lot of long corners here where you can lose a lot of time. Those corners, I was losing a lot."

Results:

1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 2:01.574

2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2:01.977

3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2:02.024

4. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 2:02.295

5. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 2:02.332

6. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 2:02.422

7. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 2:02.483

8. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 2:02.507

9. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 2:02.514

10. Randy De Puniet (Ducati) 2:03.152

11. Kousuke Akiyoshi (Honda) 2:03.224

12. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 2:03.365

13. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2:03.508

14. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 2:03.695

15. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 2:03.767

16. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 2:04.009

17. Toni Elias (Honda) 2:04.238

18. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 2:04.470

 


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By Cycle News Staff

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