Motoette -in forward motion

MotoGP Overview Test 1 and Test 2 Sepang, Malaysia

 

Valention Rossi- Sepang (via Bikerscafeblog.com)

For six days this past February, Sepang Malaysia played host to the testing ground for the MotoGP teams. Broken up into two weekends in three-day increments, this event is designed to allow the riders and their teams to primarily get acquainted with their new rides, to dial in the chassis, engine, transmission, brakes and tyres. The riders also took this time to familiarize themselves with the new electronically updated machines; to work on cornering and proper braking points and improve on the overall development of rider and bike. To be aligned as one, in perfect harmony when engaging the tarmac.

The two weekends proved to be fairly standard for the most part, but more astounding with four riders representing factory Honda controlling the top 4 positions. By using a “top secret” clutch set-up and running a harder Bridgestone compound on the front and soft at the rear, it created the perfect combination for all four talented riders.

Former Marlboro Ducati rider Casey Stoner soared with his new RC212V Repsol Honda, monopolizing the top spots with the fastest times for most of the six days. The Aussie’s factory transition has clearly been a smooth one and is looking to be a strong contender for the 2010 World Champion, Jorge Lorenzo.

Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V)

“The chassis we’ve chosen always behaves in the way we want it to; no matter what set-up we use, we are also able to adapt it fairly easily. So when we get to Qatar in a few weeks we’ll be able to test different set-up’s at the same time and get more track time on it. Some changes can be quite time-consuming to do, so having the two bikes with identical chassis will be useful. The test here has been very productive for us and gathered some key information. I’m feeling more and more comfortable on the RC212V and I can’t wait to get to Qatar.”

Right beside Stoner was teammate, Dani Pedrosa, the only two riders to go below the 2 minute mark. Pedrosa seemly was able to increase his physical strength going into Test 2 after recovering from shoulder surgery at the end of the 2010 season. Bringing up the rear for the Honda teams was Marco Simoncelli, and Andrea Divizioso, both becoming within a second of each other. Going into his second year as a MotoGP rider, Simoncelli placed as the fastest rider at the end of Test1. The second weekend in Test 2 he struggled to find a decent grip with Honda’s choice to go with the softer rear tyre, but still managed to place in the top 4 in the end. Proving the point that “big hair” can be a winning look!

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V)

“Both tests here in Sepang have been very positive. We improved the braking and worked a lot with different chassis configurations and electronics. It’s been a much better winter test than last year, even if we know that everybody will improve for the first race. I’m leaving Sepang satisfied and I think testing in Qatar will give further opportunity to check our work at another circuit. I’ve spent more or less the same time with last year’s chassis and the modified 2011 chassis and my best lap time was with the 2011 version, but it will be nice to check it again in Qatar and take their the final decision. I think the bike and I are in a good shape and we are getting to Qatar with more confidence than last year,

Another Honda rider to stand out over the dual weekends was new comer Hiroshi Aoyama with San Carlo Gresini Honda. The only Japanese rider to grace the circuit in his first year in MotoGP in 2010, Aoyama made an impressive entrance with a strong opening season until he was forced out of several rounds after sustaining a serious back injury. The 29 yr old managed a quick recovery and went on to finish 7th overall.

Spanish rooted Toni Elias returned to MotoGP (2005-2009) representing LCR Honda, after a one year absence in 2010, riding for Moto2. Feeling confident about his return, Elias did well on his time sheet over the course of both weekends, placing him in the top 16th, overall.

Toni Elias (LCR Honda)

“If we consider the three days in total we took a step forward on suspension set-up and chassis geometry. Now that we have a much clearer idea of the direction to go in, I am happy with the work we have done. I’m not as happy with my lap time, but we were too busy working through other things. These days we have done several comparative tests and found a different feeling on the bike compared with the first outing here three weeks ago.

Yamaha also dominated the time sheet on both weekends, with newly upgraded factory rider, Ben Spies posting 5th as the fastest time, just a little more than a second off of the lead, Casey Stoner. Another American to make a surprising impression was Colin Edwards, coming in at just over a second behind Jorge Lorenzo. Edwards and his Tech 3 Yamaha team worked diligently at perfecting his M1 and felt exceptionally confident at the end of the 2 weekends, not bad for an old guy!

Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha)

“This test has been awesome for us and I’ve had a lot of fun, even though the conditions have been really extreme with the heat. I’ve figured out a lot of things with the new bike and the Bridgestone tyres and I’ve also learned a lot for an old guy, I’m not finished yet. I spent most of the test working on the new chassis, mainly experimenting with geometry and we made a lot of progress. Yamaha has done a great job and we leave Malaysia tired but with a lot of confidence. I’m now looking forward to getting Qatar and starting the racing.”

Former WSBK champion and now Tech 3 Yamaha rider, Cal Crutchlow had a shaky start in the beginning of the test weekends, but seemed to find his groove in the final day of the Test 2 session. He pulled a rabbit of the proverbial hat by exhibiting his true potential after dealing with two crashes on the first day of Test 2 and a nasty bout of food poisoning. He felt weak in recuperation, but drove on hard in concentration, perfecting his riding technique and came out of his first round of MotoGP winter tests feeling good, mentally and physically.

Cal Crutchlow (Tech 3 Yamaha)

“It has certainly been an eventful week and the good thing is that it ended in positive fashion. The food poisoning I picked up on the way to Sepang didn’t help my preparations and I’ve felt weak all through the test as a result. Two crashes on the first day didn’t help my confidence and day two was a struggle to be honest. We made a lot of changes to the bike without helping me feel more comfortable. My team has been fantastic though and given me great support and the last day was much better. For the first time I was able to do a decent lap time, but the important thing is I was able to be more consistent and feel more confident with the bike. We made improvements to the front and rear of the bike and I’m pretty happy with a low 2.02. The front felt more stable and while I’d like a bit more rear grip, we’ve made progress in that area as well. Qatar will be another big learning curve for me because I know the track, but I haven’t ridden a MotoGP bike there and I’ve never raced under the floodlights. I’m confident with the set-up changes we made here.”

Jorge Lorenzo expressed his frustrations about the lack of power with the M1, making it especially noticeable to him on the straits. By the end of the Test 2 weekend, Jorge was exhausted, but felt more confident about the set-up after putting in some long laps. Improved traction and a building a better lap time is what the World Champion and his team achieved at Sepang, instilling a satisfied feeling for a very different experience in preparation for Qatar.

The thriving Yamaha team will continue to make improvements to the M1, concentrating on traction and horsepower. After all, what good is power without control?!

There is no denying Sepang was disappointing for the Ducati teams for the most part. The teams spent the majority of the 2 test weekends chasing other team riders and not achieving their goal to place in the top 6th by the end of the testing sessions. The two factory riders, Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden dealt with a few minor adversities. In the elevated sultry Malaysian temperatures, Hayden had a minimal crash at the end of the morning session on the first day of Test 2. He and the bike survived unscathed and went on to solve some, but not all, chatter problems that had been an ongoing issue since Test 1.

Rossi was forced to sit out the second session in Test 2, complaining of flu-like symptoms, giving him more pressure to play catch-up on the third and final day of the Sepang testing. Still in recovery from his shoulder injury from last season, Rossi was grappling with mid corners and encountered frustration in acquiring the perfect fit in the chassis set-up. He is looking forward to a better experience in Qatar, where the track is different and will hopefully furnish Rossi and the Ducati team more positive lap times.

Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro Team)

“We can’t be satisfied with this test because we didn’t reach our goals, which were to finish close to the top six and especially to reduce the gap to the front. Instead, we’re 1.8 seconds back, and our rhythm is also lacking. Although we have some good ideas for the electronics that I’m optimistic we will solve those problems relatively easily, I’m not as confident about the chassis setup. We tried hard, but we haven’t yet managed it. I’m able to brake hard, but I’m still having trouble in mid-corner. It was definitely a disadvantage to only ride two days instead of three because we had to rush at the end and try many things in order to understand as much as we could. There could be some good solutions for the future, but we weren’t able to confirm them.  This circuit hasn’t traditionally been favorable to the Ducati. The next test is in Qatar, where the track is different, so we’ll see if we can go faster there.”

 

Marco Simoncelli- Sepang (via 2wheelslittletime.com)

 The Conundrum:

With less than two weeks to go until race day in Qatar’s Losail, there is definitely some work to be done by some of the top teams and riders. Like I stated before, these past few weeks in Sepang proved to be pretty standardized in the scheme of mechanics and tyre set-up issues. But what is surprising is how the riders are coping with stumbling blocks in preparation for the new season.

How will it inadvertently line up for the fans in the Middle East on race day? Will Casey Stoner take to the Honda RC212V and the Repsol team consistently, like he has shown us this past month? Or, will Ben Spies, the American Yamaha Factory new comer,  be the one to keep an eye on with his great form and steadfast consistency in fast time laps? Giving cause for contending riders to squirm in their saddles.

Can San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli and his new teammate Hiroshi Aoyama stay consistent after their successful test weekends? The two new arrivals in the GP circuit could very well hold the wild card when the season kicks into gear.

The 2010 World Champion, Jorge Lorenzo showed signs of laborious effort in striving to perfect his experience piloting his Yamaha M1 at Sepang. Did Lorenzo’s test shortcomings stem from the change-up with his Factory team?

Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso are remaining tried-and-true to form, diligently maintaining the pace from last year. But how will they fair long-term through the season with the dominating newcomer, Casey Stoner?

Can former WSBK Champion, Cal Crutchlow and Tech 3 Yamaha teammate, Colin Edwards cut it with MotoGP this year?

Why did Rizla Suzuki decide to only go with one Factory team rider? Competing against teams with as much as 3 riders; will it be a hindrance or an asset for the Spanish solo rider, Alvaro Bautista to carry the load all by himself?

What about the Ducati teams? Five Ducati (team) riders trailing the pack all month-long is more than enough to be concerned about, especially when one of them is an 8 time World Champion. Are Valentino Rossi and Ducati the perfect fit, like everyone thought? Can Nicky Hayden’s impressive Test 1 results put him back in the Championship with the help of Rossi as a teammate?

As one of my favorite racers, it’s my reluctance to ask the question; is it time for the seasoned Italian, Loris Caparossi to retire? Even though he is has made the recent change from Rizla Suzuki to Pracmac Racing. Is it too little too late?

These are just a few of the many questions to ponder about and what makes the MotoGP racing forum so much fun to watch. So, with 18 races and almost nine months to go, who do you think will be the ultimate World Champion for 2011?

It is anyone’s guess; but at this point in time, all I know is that I will be enjoying the ride from the spectator side of the track, having fun watching and writing about them in the mean time!

 What’s up next?

The teams did a meet and greet with their fans on March 4th in Bologna Italy. Next on the agenda; they will continue on to Qatar’s Losail International Circuit, where they will be back on the track on March 13th and 14th to resume and finalize the winter testing. Qatar will also be the host to the MotoGP season opener, commencing on Thursday, March 17th advancing into race day on Sunday, March 20th.

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March 7, 2011 - Posted by | Alvaro Bautista, Andrea Dovizioso, Ben Spies, Casey Stoner, Colin Edwards, Dani Pedrosa, Ducati, Jorge Lorenzo, Loris Capirossi, marco simoncelli, MotoGP, motorcycle racing, Nicky Hayden, Qatar, Randy De Puniet, Sepang, Valentino Rossi, Yamaha

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