Repsol Honda riders Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa finished first and third after three days of testing on the sweltering Sepang Circuit, validating the off-season development of the Honda RC213V that they’ll take into battle when the 2012 MotoGP World Championship begins in Qatar in April. The newest Honda riders, Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V) and Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda RC213V) both improved their times on the final day of the test and gathered valuable data for when they return at the end of the month.
Stoner, the 2011 MotoGP World Champion, finished this test with the fastest ever lap by a motorcycle around the 5.548km circuit. On the second of 21 laps, the 26-year-old Australian lapped in 1m, 59.607s, lowering the mark of 1m, 59.665s that he’d set a little less than a year earlier at the second Sepang test of the 2011 winter season. Stoner was the only rider to lap under two minutes and finished the test with a margin of .591s on the second fastest rider, Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha). The time might have been even lower had he not continued to suffer soreness in his back, which compromised the strength in his right arm as he tried to compensate.
Now Stoner returns to his home in Verbier, Switzerland to be with his wife Adriana as they await the birth of their first child. The child is expected to arrive between this test and the next three-day Sepang test which begins on Feb. 28.
Like Stoner, Pedrosa took advantage of the slightly cooler morning temperatures to set his fast lap early. His best of 2m, 0.256s was run on the third of 26 laps and was only .058s off the time set by Lorenzo. More importantly was that Pedrosa improved his time by 1.252s from Wednesday and by nearly two seconds from the start of the test. Having run 109 laps over the three days in searing heat, Pedrosa admitted that the testing had left him exhausted but happy.
Still, there’s work to be done when the teams return to Malaysia later this month. There is a need to improve braking stability, as well as the electronics to manage the newfound power of the 1000cc machines. Handling all that power is what Pedrosa found taxing, but the Spaniard said he would increase his training regimen to be ready for the second test.
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Bautista improved his lap time by nearly 1.5s over the course of the test, finishing with the ninth fastest time to Stoner, who was in a league of his own. Bautista was just over a second behind the second fastest rider and about half a second from a top five position. What most impressed the Spaniard was the electronics and engine management, which allowed him to make the most of the brute power of the RC213V.
Bradl continued to improve day by day, even though he maintained the same 11th place position in his first extended MotoGP test. The 2011 Moto2 World Champion gained experience with each of his 107 laps over three days. Today he tried a different geometry by changing the offset, and also shortened the swingarm; the whole bike got shorter, he said. They also sorted out the electronics, fine tuning the wheelie and traction control. The team worked so efficiently that they were able to finish their program by 2:00 p.m. What they didn’t do was a long run-it wasn’t in the plan-but they will when they return for the second test. From the beginning to the end of the test, Bradl lowered his lap time by 1.774s, finishing with a best of 2m, 1.894s.
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC213V): 1st, 1m, 59.607s
“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 programme. 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!”
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC213V): 3rd, 2m, 0.256s
“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 tyres 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.”
Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V): 9th, 2m, 1.384s
“I finished the first test and my evaluation of these three days I think is positive. Even today I made another step forward especially in the rhythm. We have worked very well and the first contact with the RC213V has been particularly good. Now, before the next test later this month ever here at Sepang, I have a little ‘time to reflect and think about all the wealth of knowledge acquired in these three days. We must put them all in the right place and be ready for the next three days of testing in Malaysia. I’m happy, satisfied and very confident for the future. The synergies with the guys and Honda are wonderful and this will enable us to achieve positive results. Lastly, I have to say that the thing that most impressed me the RC213V is definitely the electronics and its management that allows you to drive linearly and progressively ease with the incredible power of 1000. ”
Stefan Bradl (Team LCR Honda RC213V): 11th, 2m, 1.894s
“Considering the three-day overall work I feel quite satisfied about my first performance aboard this new bike. Everyday we made some little adjustments to help my riding style and I feel more comfortable now. We gathered important data for the next test session here at the end of the month and I am sure there’s still more to come. There’s a lot of work to do, but in general I had a positive first experience. Of course I want to thank Lucio (Cecchinello), the guys and HRC technicians for their support during these three days.”