Pedrosa ends Sepang MotoGP test on top

Repsol Honda rider continues momentum from last year by extending gap over second-placed Jorge Lorenzo, with Valentino Rossi third, Marc Marquez fourth

SEPANG, MALAYSIA, FEB 7 – The first MotoGP test of 2013 ended with the expected result at the top of the order, with one small surprise.

Coming off a season in which he won a personal season best seven races, Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa established himself atop the order on the first day at the Sepang International Circuit and stayed there. With Casey Stoner off pursuing a second career in car racing, Pedrosa was left the undisputed leader of the team that includes the brilliant young rookie Marc Marquez. Marquez arrived in Malaysia with relatively little MotoGP experience, so it fell to Pedrosa to do the heavy lifting. He spent three days trying to find the best place to locate the extra three kilos mandated by this season’s rules. At the end of the test, he still wasn’t sure about it. He spent some time on electronics and suspension and braking stability, and on the last day testing the harder spec Bridgestone rear tire, which he wasn’t a fan of. He’d lobbied his fellow riders to have Bridgestone change the compound, but to no avail.

Though he had an ambitious test program, he was finished by lunchtime on the third day, after which he sat down with the media to discuss his progress.

“This morning I was trying more a couple of things on the balance for the weight,” he said in the Repsol Honda team offices. “Then I stayed more on the…I had the different feeling on the engine brake and also finally I finished with the tire test today.”

Of the new Bridgestone hard rear he said, “Basically, nothing really better for my feeling. Some more grip here and there, but much more chatter or movement out of the corner. So not really positive, the new tires.”

He pointed out that last year the RC213V was new, “back to 1000. Now after one year running with the bike, so we are more ready, so we know where we can touch and where we shouldn’t touch.”

Pedrosa himself was untouchable at the Sepang MotoGP test. The gap to Lorenzo on the first two days was small, but it ballooned to 0.329 seconds on the final day.

Lorenzo put a brave face on his test, though he was clearly unhappy that Yamaha hadn’t come through with a seamless shift gearbox for the Sepang MotoGP test. The Honda transmission is an effective weapon on corner exit that the Yamaha doesn’t have, well after it was revealed that both Honda and Ducati have one. Lorenzo also said the Yamaha lacked acceleration compared to the Honda, a complaint he’d voiced last year.

“We need to focus especially still with the acceleration,” he said, adding that they’d improved the rear end pumping from last year. We still need a little bit more on traction and acceleration. Yeah, this is the main thing we have to focus.”

Lorenzo used a new chassis for the entire test and proclaimed it an improvement. He said it was better in the corners, but wouldn’t say what it was worth in terms of lap time.

“Difficult to say, but it’s faster,” he said. Where, he was asked? “In the corner, in the corner. The corners are a little bit faster, every corner.”

Lorenzo ended his test with a planned 20-lap simulation, cut to 15 by a light rain. Still, he was fast and consistent, even if he didn’t clock one single blazing lap.

In his first successful test since rejoining Yamaha—last year’s tests were rained out—Valentino Rossi declared himself “very happy. I cannot expect a performance, a better start for this new adventure, because the first test for us is so positive.

“And we had some doubt, I had some doubt. I don’t know how much I can be competitive and at the end of these three days I’m a lot more happy, more relaxed because I think we can fight for some important results, because I am fast and competitive.

“Always was positive the three days, but the third day for me was the best one, first because I am third and not fourth, so I am in a hypothetically first row if have the grand prix tomorrow,” he said about his Sepang MotoGP test, laughing. “And yeah, usually, fighting, in the last year, fighting for the third or fourth year, so will be also exciting starting in the first row.

“And also the lap time coming better, but I always improve like the top guys. And my distance from the pole position is 0.4 (seconds), that is good. I’m very happy of this.”

Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez was relegated to fourth by Rossi on the final day of the Sepang MotoGP test, though that didn’t seem to upset him. Neither did a front end crash early in the day, his first in MotoGP. Marquez understood what happened and got right back on the pace. He finished the day with a simulated 20-lap race to experience the Repsol Honda RC213V with both high and low fuel loads, and worn tires.

“Even with the crash I feel quite good and then we stop and for this afternoon we did a long run,” he began, “a simulation of race, 20 laps, and the rhythm was quite good. I’m very happy and what I saw is in the rhythm you can understand a little bit better how is MotoGP.”

Marquez said he was happy with the progress made over the three days, “because I feel every day better with the bike and this is the most important. But, you know, the most important is that every day I was more consistent, every day I tried some things and the information what I gave to the team they said was the correct one. So step by step I start to understand a little bit more MotoGP but still I need quite a lot of days in the pre-season and I hope to continue like that.”

Sepang MotoGP test, Day 3 final times:
1. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Honda 2:00.100
2. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha 2:00.429
3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Yamaha 2:00.542
4. Marc Marquez (SPA) Honda 2:00.636
5. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Yamaha 2:00.734
6. Stefan Bradl (GER) Honda 2:01.003
7. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Honda 2:01.502
8. Bradley Smith (GBR) Yamaha 2:02.093
9. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati 2:02.184
10. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Ducati 2:02.277
11. Katsayuki Nakasuga (JPN) Yamaha 2:02.616
12. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) ART/Aprilia 2:02.628
13. Andrea Iannone (ITA) Ducati 2:02.864
14. Kosuke Akiyoshi (JPN) Honda 2:03.082
15. Michael Laverty (GBR) ART/Aprilia 2:03.874
16. Randy De Puniet (FRA) ART/Aprilia 2:04.066
17. Wataru Yoshikawa (JPN) Yamaha 2:04.137
18. Hector Barbera (SPA) FTR/Kawasaki 2:04.211
19. Takumi Takahashi (JPN) Honda 2:04.288
20. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Ioda/Aprilia 2:04.531
21. Karel Abraham (CZE) ART/Aprilia 2:04.766
22. Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) FTR/Kawasaki 2:04.915
23. Claudio Corti (ITA) FTR/Kawasaki 2:05.107
24. Lukas Pesek (CZE) Ioda/Aprilia 2:05.321
25. Yonny Hernandez (COL) ART/Aprilia 2:05.407
26. Colin Edwards (USA) FTR/Kawasaki 2:05.913
27. Bryan Staring (AUS) FTR/Honda 2:05.970