Stoner leaves Sepang with an aching back and not more than 50 laps under his belt, but the defending champ still busted the standing record – the first MotoGP rider to dip under the two minute mark at the Malaysian circuit.
Casey Stoner completed the season opening Sepang test in record-breaking fashion. The defending MotoGP champion piloted his RC213V to the fastest ever lap on the Malaysian circuit, his 1’59.607 time the first under the two minute mark. Stoner paced a full half-second ahead of his nearest rival, 2010 champ Jorge Lorenzo. Respol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and Factory Yamaha’s Ben Spies followed their front-running teammates on the charts, in third and fourth. Valentino Rossi rounded out the top five, his Ducati GP12 1.217 seconds adrift of the leader.
Stoner’s best came early, on just his second of 18 laps. Making chassis comparisons on Day 2, Stoner focused on shock settings and tire testing on Day 3. The Australian has turned less than 50 laps total at the opening test, having missed Day 1 after throwing out his back during warm-up. Disheartening for his rivals, Stoner’s record-setting pace came at less than full fitness – the champ still struggling with back issues.
“I’m still not feeling great with my back but the bike is ok,” said Stoner in Repsol PR, “so we’ve made progress in reducing the chatter a little more and trying a few different things, some small settings on the shock that we haven’t tried before amongst other points. So far it’s been pretty positive, we’ll just have to wait and see what we have for the next test and hopefully improve a little more.”
Feeling the heat… Rossi and company get to work on the new GP12 at Sepang. The Doctor was more than a second off the pace of his rival Stoner at the conclusion of testing.
Overshadowed by Stoner’s class-leading lap, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Spies all lapped under the existing record of 2’00.518 – set in 2009 by the then Yamaha-equipped Valentino Rossi. Lorenzo and Spies lapped a respective 0.59 and 0.88 seconds behind the leader. Pedrosa finished third-fastest, 0.649 behind his HRC teammate.
As for Rossi, the Ducati rider couldn’t quite match his former record pace on the 2009 800cc Yamaha. Fifth-fastest on the day, Rossi turned 42 laps on the redesigned GP12. Rossi and company slashed 1.568 seconds from Day 1 to Day 3, but the gap to the front runner in that same time has grown from 0.735 to 1.217 seconds. Teammate Nicky Hayden once again put in less laps than usual, owing to his bum shoulder and placed 10th on the timesheet.
Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera was the fastest of the satellite riders in sixth, one-tenth behind Rossi’s best. The Spaniard was followed on the charts by the Tech 3 duo of Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso. Gresini Honda’s Alvaro Bautista was ninth-fastest, with LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradle 11th. Once again Cardon AB’s Karel Abraham was the slowest of the non-CRT GP regulars.
Colin Edwards led the way for the four-rider CRT contingent. The Forward Racing rider carved another second off his pace on the BMW/Suter CRT. Edwards’ best on Day 3 marks a 3.518-second improvement from Day 1. The gap to Stoner is still a massive five seconds, with the nearest non-CRT regular 2.5 seconds away. The Kawasaki-powered Avintia Racing CRT bikes remain further behind Edwards, than Edwards is to the factory bikes. Only Ivan Silva managed to keep Stoner within 10 seconds.
MotoGP teams now get a four-week break before returning to Malaysia for a second pre-season test at the Sepang circuit.
The American running order at Sepang was Spies (11) up front, followed by a battered Hayden (69), then Edwards (5) fighting to close the CRT gap on his BMW/Suter mount.
2012 MotoGP Sepang Test Day 3 Lap Times:
1. Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) 1’59.607
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory) 2’00.198
3. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) 2’00.256
4. Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory) 2’00.495
5. Valentino Rossi (Marlboro Ducati) 2’00.824
6. Hector Barbera (Pramac Racing) 2’00.929
7. Cal Crutchlow (Tech 3 Yamaha) 2’01.108
8. Andrea Dovizioso (Tech 3 Yamaha) 2’01.257
9. Alvaro Bautista (Gresini Honda) 2’01.384
10. Nicky Hayden (Marlboro Ducati) 2’01.729
11. Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) 2’01.894
12. Karel Abraham (Cardion AB) 2’02.218
13. Katsuyuki Nakasuga (Yamaha Factory) 2’02.334
14. Franco Battaini (Marlboro Ducati) 2’03.033
15. Colin Edwards (Forward Racing) 2’04.722
16. Ivan Silva (Avintia Racing) 2’08.225
17. Robertino Pietri (Avintia Racing) 2’09.640
18. Jordi Torres (Avintia Racing) 2’10.184
RIDER QUOTES (Courtesy of Team PR)
Casey Stoner – Repsol Honda – 1st – 18 Laps: “It’s been a good test in general, we only managed two out of the three days unfortunately but the weather has been really good to us and we’ve been able to do what we planned. The day I missed hasn’t affected us too much and we’ve managed to complete our testing program, to be honest I think track conditions on the first day weren’t that great anyway as the lap times were not so fast.
I’m still not feeling great with my back but the bike is ok, so we’ve made progress in reducing the chatter a little more and trying a few different things, some small settings on the shock that we haven’t tried before amongst other points. So far it’s been pretty positive, we’ll just have to wait and see what we have for the next test and hopefully improve a little more. Now I’m looking forward to getting home to Switzerland to see Adriana and await the arrival of our baby!”.
Jorge Lorenzo – Yamaha Factory – 2nd – 35 Laps: “I’m really, really satisfied, I have improved on my best record here in Sepang. We tried a lot of things; some have been a lot better, especially one major improvement. We also know where we have to improve in the future. The electronics are not perfect yet, we still need to make it smoother but the bike has so much potential we are very optimistic. The Yamaha engineers have worked really hard so they have done a good job. I made my best time today at midday which is the hardest time with the conditions so it was pretty good. Let’s see what we can do when we come back.”
Dani Pedrosa – Repsol Honda – 3rd – 24 Laps: “Three days testing here in Malaysia is very tiring. This morning when I woke up I was pretty sore and stiff, but once I got running I was a little bit better. Anyway, it’s been worth it to do a general test of the engine, chassis and tires and overall it is the biggest test we have done on this bike and we have good data to analyse and can start to build up points we need for the second test.
“As I said yesterday, the biggest point to improve is on braking, and we are also working on the electronics to improve the management of the power and the grip level. The chatter is still there, I know it’s something very difficult to fix, but I’m sure Honda is working hard on it. In general, it’s been a positive test for us and we will come back here in three weeks with new ideas.
“This bike is physically more demanding, you feel the power in the acceleration, the speed under hard braking and also the extra weight, but it’s alright. I will keep working hard physically to prepare for the second test”.
Ben Spies – Yamaha Factory – 4th – 16 Laps: “It’s been a good test, we’ve got a lot of things accomplished, we’re definitely moving in the right direction with my bike. I tried the Yamaha test rider’s bike today which had a slightly different set up to make a fair comparison with mine. I made a small mistake, losing the front but that’s testing; it can happen when you’re working out the good and bad! All in all it’s been great and I’m really happy and looking forward to coming back and seeing what’s new.”
Valentino Rossi – Ducati – 5th – 42 Laps: “We on the team are all happy with how this test has gone, especially today. With a 2:00.8, we’re starting to get to a decent time. The two Hondas and the two Yamahas are still ahead of us, but we consider this test to be a starting point. The most positive things we’ve achieved are that the front now lets me ride a little more as I’m able, that the bike reacts well to changes and that we have very clear ideas on what’s still missing. In particular, if we manage to improve the bike’s behaviour on acceleration, we’ll be able to take a consistent step forward. I know that the work has never stopped at Ducati, and now with the information we’ve gathered, they’ll keep working on the areas that we’ve identified. That might take a while, but there’s still some time before the first race. We have to keep improving, so we’re not getting too excited, but I’m pleased with how things have gone so far.”
Cal Crutchlow – Tech 3 Yamaha – 7th: “I am really pleased with the way things have gone at this test and it has been a really good confidence boost to start 2012. Sepang is a track I just don’t get on with or enjoy riding at but I was third on the first day and fifth on the second day. I’m sure I could have been fifth on the final day too but a couple of things didn’t go my way. I had a crash early on at Turn 13 when I basically ran wide and got on the dirty part of the track. It was my fault and that cost me a fair bit of track time and when I was confident I could go a lot quicker at the end it started raining. The pleasing aspect is my times have been consistent and that bodes well for the future. I’m not as fast as Stoner, Spies, Pedrosa or Lorenzo but for consistency I’m the best of the rest. The new 1000cc YZR-M1 has kept the strong points of the 800 with good corner entry and turning. But we do need to look at improving the bike on corner exit. Being in the top five on the first two days and not far away on the final day is a great start but I’m not going to get carried away. This is only the first test and while testing is really important, it is what happens in Qatar on April 8 that is really important.”
Andrea Dovizioso – Tech 3 Yamaha – 8th: “I am really happy just to have been able to come to this test and ride because beforehand a lot of people said it would be impossible. The collarbone was very badly broken but this test is very important and I want to thank everybody that helped me in my recuperation in Italy that made it possib le for me to ride. You can do a lot of good work here even if it is very bad for my body, but I am happy because I could ride on each day and my feeling with the Yamaha is coming much better than the first time I tried the bike in Valencia. I understood much more about this bike here and what I realise is that I have to change my style more. There is a big difference in the characteristic of the Yamaha and the Honda I rode for the last four years, so I have to learn to use the good points of the M1 more. But it was not so easy riding in my physical condition. Braking for the right-hand corners was hard but changing direction was an issue because I don’t have 100% strength. I am looking forward to the next test now where I will be a lot closer to being 100% fit.”
Alvaro Bautista – Gresini Honda – 9th – 34 Laps: “The first test is over and we come away with a positive feeling. I took another step forward today, improving my rhythm more than anything, and overall we have done a good job and established a good feel for the RC213V. Now we have a little time before the next test here at Sepang to process the information we have gathered here over the last three days. We need to get everything right for the next visit to Malaysia but I am happy, satisfied and confident about the future. The relationship with the team and with Honda is great and this will help us achieve results. I have to say the most impressive thing about the RC213V is the electronics, which delivers the power in such a linear and progressive way that you can really make the most of the 1000cc.”
Nicky Hayden – Ducati Team – 10th 19 Laps: “Obviously, I’d like to have done more. I can’t really say it was a real test for me, but I did a few laps each morning in order to at least get a feel for the new bike, get a little data and understand a couple of things. Even in that limited time, I was able to make small improvements and go quicker each day. Ducati did an amazing job with this bike in a short amount of time. It’s smoother than any other Ducati I’ve ever ridden, it looks slick and it’s good to work on. It’s got good power, and the front end is working well, but with the extra power, now we’ve got to find better rear traction at the first touch of the throttle. With the few adjustments we’ve made, everything seems to be going in a good way, so now I just need to get healthy.”