Pedrosa finishes Sepang Test on Top

2013 pre-season MotoGP test in Sepang

story and photos courtesy of MotoGP

Dani Pedrosa

Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa heads into the two-week break as the man to beat after ending the final day of the Sepang test on top, as riders across the field dropped their laps times once more. “We can leave Sepang with a good feeling because we had good lap times on all three days,” said Pedrosa, who won in 2010 and 2012 at Indianapolis. “We were able to put in a lot of laps and, above all, try out some important things with the engine and the bike weight to adjust to the 3 kilos more for this season, dictated by the new rules.

“Today we focused on rear tires, in particular the new Bridgestone hard compound. It is similar to the old one with a little more grip in some areas, but it also creates more chatter. We finished the test well and hope to continue like this in the following ones.”

Pedrosa’s rookie teammate Marc Márquez gave everyone a scare in the morning as he crashed in the final turn at speed, although he walked away unscathed and could continue his work on his second bike. He stated that he tried to turn in despite missing his braking marker and lost the front. “I had the first crash with a MotoGP bike,” Marquez said. “But we know why I crashed, and the important thing is to understand it. We knew the first crash would come eventually. And now I know a bit better where the limit of the front tire is. So bit by bit we are learning about everything.”

Champ Jorge Lorenzo looking stealthy on the Yamaha

A record lap set by Spaniard Pedrosa of 2:00’100 was not beaten all day, as Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo ended just over three tenths off, himself focussing on a race simulation later in the day. His Italian teammate Valentino Rossi also showed that he could get below the 2:01 mark, leaving it until just before lunch to post his fastest time that saw him end the day in third behind his teammate. Spaniard Márquez, despite going quicker again today, was this time unable to finish in the top three as he put in a lengthy run at the end, yet stayed a close fourth, challenged by the impressive Cal Crutchlow, the last rider below the 2:01 mark, on his 2012 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine. The Brit said afterwards he hoped to receive some of the upgrades the factory team is testing, as he feels there is some more speed to be found.

Cal Crutchlow on the Tech 3 Yami

LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl just missed out on that feat with a time of 2.01’003, although the German looked on good form as he went quicker once more on his RC213V. Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Spaniard Álvaro Bautista improved over yesterday’s time, getting more dialled in to the bike’s geometry and Showa suspension, with British Tech 3 rookie Bradley Smith continuing his steep, but progressive, learning curve in eighth. Smith also undertook a race simulation early in the day before setting his best time.

The Ducati Team showed some progress, with US rider Nicky Hayden gaining over a second over the three days, as he ended the day in ninth, with Italian teammate Andrea Dovizioso less than a hundredth behind. “We obviously can’t be happy when our times are that far off of the top guys, but we knew it was going to be tough,” Hayden said. “Sepang has never been a particularly good track for Ducati. We raced here in October, and the bike hasn’t changed much since then. We found a couple little things over the course of the test, which allowed us to improve our consistency on day three, but I think we need something big.

“Anyway, it was nice to be back on the bike and working with the guys. The team has worked extremely hard, and we just have to stay motivated and keep giving them the right information so that we can hopefully start making some real progress soon.”

The test also was disappointing for American Ben Spies, who only managed the 15th best time of 2:03.002 on his new Ignite Pramac Ducati machine. His sub-par performance wasn’t totally unexpected. Spies is returning from major shoulder surgery and said he is still not back to 100 percent fitness. He missed the final day of the test.

“I woke up this morning and felt a little bit sore from the two days of riding, and, with only starting rehab two to three weeks ago, it’s not just my shoulder but my general physical fitness is nowhere near where it needs to be,” Spies said. “We need to be smart and do things the right way. We’ve had enough setbacks in the last few months. It’s important not to go over the limits and do anything silly, or make any mistakes and dig ourselves in a hole physically instead of building forward for the next test.”

Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga was the first outside of the top ten, in front of Power Electronics Aspar’s Spaniard Aleix Espargaró, who put in a tremendous effort to place his CRT 12th, and just over 2.5s off the top. He ousted Pramac Team’s Italian rookie Andrea Iannone into 13th.

HRC test rider Kosuke Akiyoshi headed Paul Bird Motorsport’s Brit Michael Laverty, who has improved by nearly 3s over the three days on his MotoGP™ debut. He beat established French Aspar rider Randy de Puniet, who finished ahead of Yamaha test rider Wataru Yoshikawa, Avintia Blusens’ Héctor Barberá and HRC test rider Takumi Takahashi. Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci ended the day in 20th, in front of Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham, Avintia’s Hiroshi Aoyama, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Claudio Corti and Ioda’s Lukas Pesek. Rounding out the back of the grid are PBM’s Yonny Hernandez, who is still trying to fix chatter issues, as well as NGM’s Colin Edwards and Gresini’s Bryan Staring. Edwards was left frustrated by the lack of progress, but said that the work had now been done to come to the second test with a much more complete package. He was hampered by a sore neck and a new motorcycle that was far from being sorted out before the test.

Next on the calendar is the Moto2/Moto3 test Feb. 12-14 in Valencia, Spain. The MotoGP riders return to Sepang for a second test session Feb. 26-28.

The 2013 MotoGP season starts April 7 with the Grand Prix of Qatar. The sixth Red Bull Indianapolis GP is scheduled for Aug. 16-18 at IMS.

Pedrosa leads Sepang Test

Leg out, back wheel up—Dani Pedrosa steams into a Sepang corner

On the second day of MotoGP™ testing in Sepang, which was narrowly cut short by rain, it was Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo that led an ever-improving grid.

Champ Jorge Lorenzo looking stealthy on the Yamaha

Whilst the two Spanish front runners were edging ever closer to Lorenzo’s record set last year, with Pedrosa posting a 2.00’549, just 0.019s ahead of his compatriot, it was the mid-section and back-end of the group that showed the greatest improvements, with the likes of Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s rookie Brit, Bradley Smith, improving by 1.5s over yesterday to come eighth and Ducati Team finding well over half a second more.

But the main contenders remained the same as yesterday, with Pedrosa and his rookie teammate Marc Márquez, who placed third, working on the RC213V’s electronics package and weight balance, with both putting in impressive times. And it was the same story for Yamaha once more, as Italian Valentino Rossi continued his form from yesterday, improving his time as well, though not making ground on the top three. Lorenzo and Rossi continued to evaluate the 2013 M1, in a bid to decide which parts are an improvement over last year’s title-winning machine.

Cal Crutchlow on the Tech 3 Yami

Behind Rossi in fifth, Tech 3’s British hopeful Cal Crutchlow once again proved he is continuing where he left off last year, finishing just over seven tenths off the top working on corner enrty, whilst LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl had a less than ideal day evaluating his new machine, after doing fewer laps due to feeling unwell in the morning. He finished one position lower than yesterday, albeit still managing to keep Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista at bay in seventh, as he continues on his quest for the best Showa suspension set-up and bike geometry.

Tech 3’s Bradley Smith ultimately came in just over 1.3s below Pedrosa, with Ducati’s American Nicky Hayden and Italian Andrea Dovizioso in tow, as the pair managed to significantly improve their pace from yesterday. Looming just behind were HRC test rider Kosuke Akiyoshi and Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga, who managed to finish ahead of Pramac Racing’s US rider Ben Spies, who not only put in more laps today after shoulder issues, but also upped his pace significantly. He did however state that he can’t push the bike to the limit, and as such is not touching the settings until he can ride the bike to his full capabilities. Splitting him from his also improved Italian rookie teammate Andrea Iannone, by over 1.3s, was Yamaha test rider Wataru Yoshikawa.

The Power Electronics Aspar pair of Spaniard Aleix Espargaró and Frenchman Randy de Puniet led the CRT field once more, as both riders evaluated a new chassis and swingarm, with Came IodaRacing Project’s Italian Danilo Petrucci, who worked more on the ECU, and HCR test rider Takumi Takahashi in tow. Avintia Blusens’ Japanese entry Hiroshi Aoyama looked had fewer ill effects from his broken left wrist as he improved to 20th, ahead of teammate Héctor Barberá, who was working on the electronics and trying to overcome chatter issues.

Cardion AB Racing’s Karel Abraham, sighting chatter issues with his ART, headed a much-improved Michael Laverty on the Paul Bird Motorsport ART bike, who managed to beat teammate Yonny Hernandez by two places, as the Colombian struggled with chatter as well. Splitting them was NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Claudio Corti, with teammate Colin Edwards and Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Bryan Staring completing the line-up.

The test was dry until the final hour, after which rain stopped proceedings for the day. Track time will resume tomorrow morning at 10am local time.

Pedrosa, Rossi & Márquez shine in Sepang

Marky Marc Márquez

The first day of MotoGP™ testing was a close-fought affair with the top seven riders within almost eight tenths of each other, while the top three of Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and rookie Marc Márquez were less than four hundredths apart, with Italian Valentino Rossi showing he has not lost his spark.

As teams set out to put in track time to bed in their new or upgraded bikes they were fortunate with the weather as the forecast rain did not appear, giving riders a full day’s worth of running. And it was Repsol Honda Team’s Pedrosa who put his RC213V top with a 2:01’157 late in the day as he set out to test the latest evolution of the bike, in particular focussing on longevity of the engine. Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo, who holds the record for the fastest lap at the circuit from 2012 with a 2.00’334, had a final push with his new Yamaha, featuring a different chassis and upgraded engine, and got within 0.008 seconds of his compatriot. The upgraded machine is set to cure pumping and give better acceleration out of corners.

The Doctor back on a Yamaha

Yamaha and fans alike got their first real glimpse of Valentino Rossi back on the Japanese machine, with the Italian not disappointing with a time just over four-tenths off Pedrosa in fourth. He stated he was “very happy” with the Yamaha, sighting that he felt comfortable from the first lap. However, the story of the day was arguably Pedrosa’s teammate Marc Márquez, who was only 0.036s slower than Lorenzo, putting himself third, and increasing his credentials as one of the favourites this year.

It does however look like LCR Honda MotoGP’s German Stefan Bradl, who is running a RC213V with the same spec as the HRC team in Valencia last year, will also have a say this year, after ending the day in fifth, just two tenths off Rossi. He was working on a raft of things from traction control, to suspension and brakes. Behind him was Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Brit, Cal Crutchlow, who improved steadily across the day, on board his 2012 machine. And rounding out the top seven was Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, who continued his quest to find the best set-up with his Showa suspension, finishing 0.824s off the top.

Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga and HRC test rider Kosuke Akiyoshi put in good performances to make the top ten, in front of Ducati Team’s American Nicky Hayden, who kicked off the team’s new era by finishing tenth, over two seconds off Pedrosa though, in front of Yamaha test rider Wataru Yoshikawa.

Tech 3’s British rookie Bradley Smith was getting used to his machine, ending the day in twelfth, around 2.3 seconds off the front, in front of Ducati’s Italian hopeful Andrea Dovizioso, and the Power Electronics Aspar Team of Spaniard Aleix Espargaró and Frenchman Randy de Puniet. Pramac Team’s Italian rookie Andrea Iannone made steady progress on his Desmosedici making it into 16th by the end, ahead of US teammate Ben Spies, who put in a few hours on his new Ducati this morning, although had to stop due to shoulder pain.

HRC test rider Takumi Takahashi headed Avintia Blusens’ Héctor Barberá, who was focussing on electronics, as well as Paul Bird Motorsport’s Colombian Yonny Hernandez, Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham, Came IodaRacing Project’s Danilo Petrucci, Avintia Blusens’ Hiroshi Aoyama and NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Claudio Corti. MotoGP™ newcomer Michael Laverty lapped on an ART bike to get used to the Bridgestone tyres and carbon discs, and was followed by Ioda’s new Czech rider Lukas Pesek, Bautista’s Australian teammate Bryan Staring, whilst NGM’s Edwards suffered bike issues and finished the day last, putting in only 25 laps.