The first official MotoGP test of 2013 at Sepang ended Thursday with Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa coming out as the fastest rider for the third day in a row. He was followed by 2012 title-winner Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha Factory Racing in second and Lorenzo’s teammate, Valentino Rossi, in third. Despite previous fears of a turn in the weather, riders were instead faced with what became the hottest and most humid day of the test, a challenge to the endurance of those who performed full race simulations during the session.
Both Pedrosa and Lorenzo set their fastest lap times early in the day, each on their fourth lap, while Rossi put forth his best effort toward the end of the session. Pedrosa’s teammate, Marc Marquez, remained well within reach of the pace-setter, placing fourth just 0.536 seconds off the top time.
Pedrosa put in a total of 44 laps on the day, ending his time on track at lunch, as he continued to work on improving feel aboard the RC213V, acclimating to the additional weight he’s required to carry under new 2013 rules. The Repsol rider also put in laps on the new Bridgestone rubber and gave due diligence to improving engine performance. In testing the new tires, Pedrosa made mention of a problem that plagued the Repsol team throughout 2012; chatter. While it doesn’t seem to have affected his ability to post top times in Sepang, it will likely be an issue for him and his team throughout the coming season.
Jorge Lorenzo (above) and Valentino Rossi (below) finished second and third-fastest on Day 3 at Sepang.
“We can leave Sepang with a good feeling, because we had good lap times on all three days,” said Pedrosa. “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 three kilos more for this season —dictated by the new rules. Today we focused on rear tires, in particular the new hard compound. It is similar to the old one with a little more grip in some areas, but it also creates more chatter.”
Lorenzo trailed Pedrosa by a mere 0.329 seconds, and spent much of the day moving in and out of the top spot. The Mallorcan ran a race simulation in the afternoon as well, contributing to the 60 total laps he completed throughout the day.
Rossi showed gains over all three days, dipping below the 2’01 mark during the final session. If his performance at Sepang is any indication of how the season will go once underway, he will certainly be a much more prominent figure in the battle for the title than he has been in recent years.
“I’m very happy, all three days were very good,” said Rossi. “We worked hard on the bike and improved day by day. The third day was the best, we were able to stay less than half a second from pole position and the lap time is higher which is interesting. Today we finished third in the standings, which is theoretically the front row so I’m very happy with this first test.”
Marquez earned honors as the fastest rookie rider throughout the session, but got his first premier-class taste of the pavement thanks to a crash early in the day. He lost the front-end in the final corner, but was unharmed in the incident and continued testing aboard his second bike. He also ran a full race simulation and left the track confident in the gains made over the three days.
Marc Marquez went down early in the day at Sepang, but bounced back to post the fourth-fastest time on Day 3.
“I am very happy with the results that we have had from these three days, above all because I gradually got more consistent with my times,” said Marquez. “This was what we were looking for from this test. Day by day we improved our times, but this is secondary really. The important thing is that we made our first race simulation, which has helped me to understand the class and the bike better and his given us a lot of information for the next test. We also had a first crash, which luckily was fairly light. I lost the front on the brakes, but I was unhurt and the overall verdict on the test is still very positive.”
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow came in fifth-fastest and spent much of the session gaining speed and consistency on worn tires to help improve his performance over the full race distance. His teammate, Bradley Smith, was a fraction of a second slower than his best showing on Day 2, but came in eighth-fastest nonetheless. He completed a total of 48 laps during the day, marked by a full simulation of his own that proved to be difficult thanks to the sweltering conditions.
“I didn’t come here with any expectations but to be eighth is where this bike needs to be,” said Smith. “I am still not getting all of the potential out of the YZR-M1 but I am gaining in confidence with every lap I complete and it has been mission accomplished in terms of coming here and understanding how the bike needs to be ridden. I still need to be a lot smoother but I am happy to be within two seconds of the fastest time. I knew that was possible but the hard work starts now to close that gap even more. The race simulation was amazing to build up my experience but it was seriously hard work. It was the hottest day and it is very physically and mentally demanding to ride a MotoGP bike at that pace over a long distance. It is hard to concentrate but the best thing was on the last lap I did a 2.02.9 and my best lap was a 2.02.5. So I was consistent and while I need to be faster, I’m really happy to be leaving this test having learned so much.”
(Above) Andrea Dovizioso confers with his Crew Chief, Christian Pupulin. (Below) Nicky Hayden turning laps at Sepang during the final day of testing.
LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl posted the sixth-fastest time, dropping over half a second off his best lap on Day 2. He spent the session working on a host of issues, from traction control to suspension, braking as well as gaining feel for the new Bridgestones. Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista trailed Bradl by half a second, coming in seventh for the day. Factory Ducati’s Nicky Hayden had an almost identical lap time as the one he reached on Day 2, finishing ninth-fastest on the final day. The American rider’s teammate, Andrea Dovizioso, trailed close behind in 10th. Both Ducati pilots struggled throughout the test and will be working hard with their teams to find areas in which to improve the performance of the Desmosedici.
“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,” said Hayden. “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.”
Dovizioso echoed Hayden’s sentiments, “Yes, it was a difficult test but we didn’t expect it to be any different. We’re here to improve the situation and everybody knows the level we are now so we have to improve. We tested as much stuff as we could, because we’re focused on improving the bike. The gap to the others is big, and we pushed a lot to understand the bike. I gave a lot of feedback, maybe too much! We don’t know how the next test in Sepang will be. There’s too short a time between now and then, so it’s difficult to do something big in this time. We still have to decide which parts we can bring to the second test. Unfortunately, we need time to try something big.”
Yamaha Factory test rider Katsayuki Nakasuga placed 11th and was followed by top CRT rider Aleix Espargaro of Power Electronics Aspar in 12th. The ART rider shaved more time off his previous best lap thanks to a new chassis. Energy T.I. Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone followed Espargaro in 13th while HRC Test Team rider Kosuke Akiyoshi came in 14th. Paul Bird Motorsport’s Michael Laverty put up his best time of the session, earning him 15th in the final tally, followed by Espargaro’s teammate, Randy de Puniet, in 16th.
Noticeably absent from the final day of testing was Ignite Pramac Racing’s Ben Spies. The American opted to sit out the final day to give his shoulder additional time to recuperate before the next test session at Sepang, scheduled for February 26-28, 2013.
MotoGP Sepang Test Day 3 Results 2013:
1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2’00.100
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2’00.429
3. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 2’00.542
4. Marc Marquez (Honda) 2’00.636
5. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 2’00.734
6. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 2’01.003
7. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 2’01.502
8. Bradley Smith (Yamaha) 2’02.093
9. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2’02.184
10. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 2’02.277
11. Katsayuki Nakasuga (Yamaha) 2’02.616
12. Aleix Espargaro (ART) 2’02.628
13. Andrea Iannone (Ducati) 2’02.864
14. Kosuke Akiyoshi (Honda) 2’03.082
15. Michael Laverty (ART) 2’03.874
16. Randy de Puniet (ART) 2’04.066
17. Wataru Yoshikawa (Yamaha) 2’04.137
18. Hector Barbera (FTR-Kawasaki) 2’04.211
19. Takumi Takahashi (Honda) 2’04.288
20. Danilo Petrucci (Suter-BMW) 2’04.531
21. Karel Abraham (ART) 2’04.766
22. Hiroshi Aoyama (FTR-Kawasaki) 2’04.915
23. Claudio Corti (FTR-Kawasaki) 2’05.107
24. Lukas Pesek (Suter-BMW) 2’05.321
25. Yonny Hernandez (ART) 2’05.407
26. Colin Edwards (FTR-Kawasaki) 2’05.913
27. Bryan Staring (FTR-Honda) 2’05.970