Lorenzo Takes Over at SepangTest 2

story and photos courtesy of MotoGP and IMS

MotoGP champ Jorge Lorenzo carves one with the Yami at Sepang

Two-time and reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo led a three-day MotoGP test Feb. 26-28 at Sepang, Malaysia, edging Spanish rival Dani Pedrosa by nearly three-tenths of a second. Lorenzo posted the top time of the test, 2:00.282, on Feb. 27 on his Yamaha Factory Racing machine. Pedrosa turned his best lap, 2:00.562, on Feb. 28 on his Repsol Honda. As with the previous Malaysia gathering of three weeks earlier, the weather played a part as rain rooted riders to their garages at some points, with this morning being no exception as many waited for the track to dry after heavy rain overnight.

“I could be strong from the start; a second and a half quicker, and I think I beat my record time here in Malaysia,” 2009 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Lorenzo said. “We improved the setting on the bike, and I feel stronger than the first Sepang test, so I’m quite satisfied.” Lorenzo also showed mind-numbing speed consistency Feb. 27, the only one of the three days of testing without rain. His first hot lap was in the mid-2:00 range, and he turned a number of laps around that time during a race simulation.

Two-time Red Bull Indianapolis GP Pedrosa has led five of the six days of testing in February at the Sepang International Circuit, including Tuesday and Thursday at this test.

Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda

Marky Marc Marquez

Repsol Honda rookie Marc Marquez ended up third overall at 2:00.643. Márquez continued to impress while continuing to adapt to the Bridgestone tires and suspension settings, and falling just 0.081s short of Pedrosa’s lap on the final day.

Cal Crutchlow kicks it out

Cal Crutchlow was fourth overall – and the quickest non-factory machine – at 2:00.907 on his Tech 3 satellite Yamaha. Seven-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi rounded out the top five at 2:01.062 on his Yamaha Factory Racing bike, returning to the team after two disappointing seasons at Ducati. On the final day, Rossi opted to test rear-tire grip over doing long runs for race-pace.

Rossi is focussed on the Yamaha

“The difference today was Lorenzo, especially his pace: 00s, 00, 00, 00, 00,” Rossi said Feb. 27. 2008 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Rossi was third overall during testing Feb. 5-7 at Sepang. But he slipped during this test due to minor electrical problems on his Yamaha M1 and setup problems that exacerbated tire wear. Still, Rossi left Malaysia upbeat because he is less than a second away from the leaders, which almost never happened during his disastrous stint at Ducati in 2011-12. “We tried to improve our performance and we fixed some problems but not all. The balance is positive. We have had another three days with the bike and ridden more kilometres to take the bike back to the top and closer to the limit.”

Kentucky Kid Nicky Hayden

2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden led the three American riders with a top lap of 2:01.778 on his Ducati GP13, good for ninth overall. Hayden and new teammate Andrea Dovizioso made progress as the team tries to claw closer to the pace-setting Yamaha and Honda machines. “Overall, I leave here more positive than after the first test,” Hayden said. “We’ve seen some progress in terms of both the time and the consistency, and I had a better feeling with the bike and was able to improve a little more as the days went on. We closed the gap a bit, and I had a much better feeling in the rain. The turning is still the main area where we need to improve, but although we knew the beginning of the season was going to be tough, we have to stay focused and keep the course.”

Ben Spies was the second-quickest American. His top lap of 2:03.055 on an Ignite Ducati was good for just 16th overall, but Spies continues to recover from major shoulder surgery after last season. Spies only participated in two of the three days of testing earlier this month due to persistent weakness in his surgically repaired shoulder. He was able to ride all three days at this test. “I am not yet at full condition, but considering the situation of three weeks ago, I am satisfied with what has been done in this second phase of the winter tests,” Spies said. “I could not ride the last hour of the day because of a small problem with the fork, but I have some more specific ideas about what changes should be made. I rode consistently focusing on the reactions of the bike in a variety of settings.”

American Colin Edwards was 21st overall at 2:04.102 on his Forward Racing FTR-Kawasaki. Edwards rides production-based Claiming Rules Team machinery, which lacks the horsepower and some of the sophisticated parts of prototype bikes. But Edwards made significant progress with the bike’s chassis at this test, and he and the Forward team continue to hone the all-new Magneti Marelli electronics on their bike. “This second test at Sepang was way better,” Edwards said. “Every time we have made a change on, we could actually feel the difference, and that is always a good sign.

“The main thing here is the electronics; they are kind of inducing a few problems that we are currently having. We are taking it step by step. Electronics is our biggest issue right now; we are trying to figure out how to get it to be consistent. The chassis feels great; we still have a couple things that we can play around with the chassis. The engine feels strong. The bike is good; we just need to refine a little bit.”

The last official MotoGP preseason test is scheduled for March 23-25 at Jerez, Spain. The 2013 MotoGP World Championship season opens April 7 at Qatar. The sixth annual Red Bull Indianapolis GP is scheduled for Aug. 16-18 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.