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Sepang 2 Test Day 2 - Rossi Fastest, Hayden Closer

On the second day of testing at Sepang, it was once again Valentino Rossi who was fastest, dipping below the official pole record for the second day running, although not as fast as the time he set yesterday. Rossi was also fast on race tires, dipping into the 2'01 bracket for 19 of the 70 laps he put in today.

Until Rossi set his fast flying lap, it was Nicky Hayden who had his name at the top of the timesheets, trying out some qualifiers earlier in the day, recording a fastest time of 2'00.900. Hayden was his usual hard-working self, racking up a total of over 300 miles riding at full intensity. His times on race tires were less encouraging, running in the high 2'02 bracket for the most part.

Shinya Nakano was the fastest of the rest aboard the Gresini Honda, ahead of Rossi's team mate Jorge Lorenzo and Nakano's own team mate Alex de Angelis. The test teams followed at some distance, with only Olivier Jacque getting close to the race riders teams.

The three-day test at Sepang concludes tomorrow.

Pos. Rider Bike Time Fast Lap Total Laps
1. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 2'00.472 69 70
2. Nicky Hayden Honda 2'00.900 36 90
3. Shinya Nakano Honda 2'02.049 58 59
4. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 2'02.396 47 55
5. Alex de Angelis Honda 2'02.646 54 57
6. Olivier Jacque Kawasaki 2'03.513 31 50
7. Yamaha Test Team T Yamaha 2'05.647 41 65
8. Tamaki Serizawa Kawasaki 2'06.027 19 69
9. Yamaha Test Team P Yamaha 2'06.244 52 53

Sepang 2 Test Day 1 - Rossi Shatters Pole Time Again

Testing resumed at Sepang today with a much-depleted field, with only the Fiat Yamaha team and the Gresini and Repsol Honda teams testing, along with test teams from Yamaha and Kawasaki. Honda was further restricted by the temporary absence of Dani Pedrosa, currently recovering from a broken hand in Spain, and forced to leave the development work of the 2008 RC212V to Nicky Hayden, a fact Pedrosa has been complaining bitterly about. After all, the last time Nicky Hayden developed a bike, it won a championship.

In the morning, it was the young Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo who was fastest, but the rivalry in the Fiat Yamaha garage meant that this result was unlikely to stand for long. By the end of the day, Valentino Rossi had smashed his own circuit pole record by 3/10ths of a second, edging close to the magic 2 minute barrier at the Malaysian track. Even on race tires, The Doctor was flying, setting a sequence of laps under the 2'02 mark.

Nicky Hayden was also quick, setting his fastest time on race tires, under the existing race lap record. Shinya Nakano edged out Jorge Lorenzo at the end of the session, slashing a second off his fastest time until that point. Alex de Angelis, the only other MotoGP starter testing, was the slowest of the regulars, finishing ahead of the testers, but 3/4 of a second behind Lorenzo.

Testing continues tomorrow, and will end on Thursday.

Pos. Rider Bike Time Fast Lap Total Laps
1. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 2'00.300 62 64
2. Nicky Hayden Honda 2'01.949 80 80
3. Shinya Nakano Honda 2'02.317 54 55
4. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 2'02.654 24 57
5. Alex de Angelis Honda 2'03.231 33 41
6. Olivier Jacque Kawasaki 2'03.655 54 55
7. Yamaha Test Team Yamaha 2'06.356 65 66
8. Tamaki Serizawa Kawasaki 2'06.874 21 55
9. Yamaha Test Team Yamaha 2'07.319 32 58

The Yamaha test team consists of Japanese superbike riders Wataru Yoshikawa and Norihiko Fujiwara.

Hopkins To Miss Testing At Phillip Island After Crash

Any hope John Hopkins may have had of getting his 2008 season off to a better start than in 2007 were dashed today, after Hopper crashed in damp conditions during the second day of testing in Phillip Island. The American Kawasaki rider suffered a torn abductor muscle in his groin, after a highside at turn one flicked him off the bike.

The only consolation for Hopper is that the injury, while painful, is less serious than the broken hand he suffered testing at Qatar prior to the 2007 season. Hopkins was scheduled to fly back to California as soon as possible, to receive treatment from the renowned sports physiologist Dr Ting.

Hopkins will hope to return to testing at the official IRTA test at Jerez in mid-February.

Casey Stoner Wins Young Australian Of The Year Award

In a boost to the profile of MotoGP in Australia, Casey Stoner won the Young Australian of the Year award for 2008. Stoner's award was announced at a special ceremony in Canberra, Australia, part of celebrations for Australia Day, the country's national holiday. The awards were presented by Australia's newly-elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Stoner edged out Australian teenager Daniel Adams, who organized Australia's first Make Poverty History day.

Pedrosa Out For At Least 3 Weeks

The operation on Dani Pedrosa's hand has left him in a bit of a quandary. With an injury which would keep ordinary mortals away from motorcycles for at least six week, Pedrosa has been told by his doctors that he could be back riding within 3 weeks, which would be just in time for the official IRTA test at Jerez from February 14th. That, however, is a risk: If his hand isn't healed properly, then riding early could aggravate the injury, endangering the start of his season. On the other hand, if he waits until the test at Qatar the end of February, that would leave him just those two days of testing to develop and prepare his 2008 Honda RC212V before the start of the season.

So far, the Spanish triple world champion seems to be erring on the side of caution. At a press conference in Barcelona, Pedrosa told journalists "for now, my priority is to work on recovering (from the injury) quickly." He was reticent his plans for returning to testing: "we'll see over the next few days whether we can attend particular tests or not".

More details from the press conference are available over on Motociclismo.es, with an English summary on Autosport.

News We All Expected: Monster Energy To Sponsor Kawasaki MotoGP Team

In the summer of 2007, John Hopkins made two separate, but unrelated announcements: That he was leaving Red Bull, and would be sponsored by Monster Energy; and that he was leaving Suzuki, and would be joining Kawasaki. Almost immediately the second announcement was made, MotoGP followers put two and two together, and speculation was rife that Monster Energy (whose corporate colors are black and green) would be sponsoring the Kawasaki MotoGP racing team (whose corporate colors are green, with some black) for the 2008 season. Of course, Kawasaki refused to comment on such speculation.

Until now. Today, Kawasaki announced that MotoGP followers had correctly surmised that two and two equals four, and that the Kawasaki MotoGP team will be sponsored by Monster Energy for the '08 and '09 seasons. The deal is for two years, with an option for becoming a title sponsor in 2009.

A major non motorcycle-related sponsor entering the championship must raise hopes for other teams. So far, Gresini Honda is still without a title sponsor, and Team KR has been forced to withdraw from the MotoGP series while waiting to finalize a major deal with a Las Vegas casino and resort company. MotoGP desperately needs new cash, and this is a start.

Sepang Day 3 Comparison - Rossi vs Stoner

The resumption of MotoGP testing brings welcome relief to fans starved of news over the long winter break, but it usually causes more questions than answers. For although the fans finally have some times to pore over and speculate about, the published times are usually just for a single lap for each rider, with no indication of whether the times were set on race or qualifying tires, with a full or nearly empty tank, with the bike in race trim or not. Genuinely useful times, which include long sequences of laps are hard to come by, and like all rare commodities, highly prized.

Fortunately for MotoGP fans, sites like the Italian stalwart GPOne.com manage on occasion to lay their hands on more detailed timesheets. As they have today: GPOne has a comparison between long runs by Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner. Rossi's 21 lap run was done with the new Yamaha M1 engine with pneumatic valves, running 2'02 second laps consistently, with a couple inside the 2'01 bracket, which is well inside the existing race lap record. But as impressive as those times were, they pale in comparison to Stoner's long run: the Australian managed to run 7 of 8 laps in the 2'01s on his Ducati GP8, with just a single slower lap in between.

The tentative conclusion of these times must be that once again, Casey Stoner is going to be the man to beat. But looking at The Doctor's times, he is getting closer every outing, as he gains more experience with the Bridgestones and the Yamaha improves.

Pedrosa Out Of Sepang Test, Likely To Miss Phillip Island

Dani Pedrosa's ill fortune at Sepang continues. His fiery crash at the end of testing on Tuesday resulted in a fractured hand, and is on his way home. As expected, the Repsol Honda rider will miss the remainder of the test in Malaysia, but the situation is looking bleak, as Pedrosa is also highly likely to miss out on the Phillip Island test next week, with the next test at Sepang in the first week of February also looking doubtful.

Sepang has been cruel to Pedrosa over the years, as he injured himself badly there in a practice crash during his rookie season. The excruciating pain from the gaping hole in his leg did not prevent the tough little Spaniard from finishing on the podium, however.

Sepang Test Day 1 - 2008 Pre-Season Off To A Tumultuous Start

Testing resumed after the long winter layoff for the official test ban, and the so eagerly-awaited first day of testing proved to be a tumultuous and drama-ridden affair. From the start, it was clear that the riders were having a tough first day back at work, with several crashes throughout the day.

Valentino Rossi was the first faller, crashing out around 10 am, having only just gotten started. Rossi later put his fall down to a lack of concentration, a remarkable confession from the Doctor, who appeared at the M1 launch just days previously with a new hair cut and an air of gritty determination. Rossi was lucky to escape comparatively uninjured, as the crash was a fairly nasty highside, as the images from SportsMalaysia.net show:

Rossi was followed into the dirt later in the day by his team mate Jorge Lorenzo, the 250 champion also getting away relatively unscathed. But the big story was Dani Pedrosa's crash at the end of the day. The young Spaniard, who had crashed earlier in the day, fell badly after his 2008 Honda RC212V burst into flames with Pedrosa still aboard, in scenes reminiscent of Colin Edwards bailing from the Aprilia RS3 Cube in 2003. Pedrosa was not as lucky as Edwards, though, the Spanish hope suffering a hand injury, and being taken to a local hospital to be examined for a suspected fracture in his hand. Pedrosa, who had his sights set on conquering the championship this year, is unlikely to take any further part in this week's test, and could be out for several weeks.

As if the events of the day weren't dramatic enough, there was more surprise to come. After Pedrosa had had the fastest time for most of the day, it was the Frenchman Randy de Puniet who ended up topping the timesheets, nearly half a second faster than Pedrosa's fastest time, and 0.7 seconds faster than third fastest man Chris Vermeulen on the Suzuki. De Puniet, who surprised most observers by jumping ship from Kawasaki to join LCR Honda, has clearly settled in well with his new team, helped by being reunited with Lucio Cecchinello, the man he rode for for several years in the 250 class.

World Champion Casey Stoner struggled early in the day with suspected electronic problems, only completing 6 laps by 4 pm. By the time the session completed, Stoner had put in some 36 laps, setting the 5th fastest time behind former team mate Loris Capirossi. Capirossi must be delighted that he left Ducati for Suzuki at the end of last season, as the Suzukis sat in the top 4 times, while the Ducatis, with the honorable exception of Casey Stoner, languished at the bottom of the timesheets, with Marco Melandri once again setting a dismal 18th time.

Testing continues tomorrow, hopefully with less drama than today.

Times

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Pos. Rider Bike Time Fast Lap Total Laps
1 Randy de Puniet Honda 2'01.377 65 68
2 Dani Pedrosa Honda 2'01.864 19 47
3 Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 2'02.074 47 57
4 Loris Capirossi Suzuki 2'02.416 53 61
5 Casey Stoner Ducati 2'02.457 21 36
6 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 2'02.490 44 44
7 Colin Edwards Yamaha 2'02.549 17 29
8 Nicky Hayden Honda 2'02.558 64 85
9 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 2'02.563 38 43
10 Shinya Nakano Honda 2'02.622 62 63
11 John Hopkins Kawasaki 2'02.628 61 62
12 Andrea Dovizioso Honda 2'02.783 38 52
13 James Toseland Yamaha 2'03.264 41 45
14 Alex de Angelis Honda 2'03.301 47 47
15 Ant West Kawasaki 2'03.387 30 51
16 Olivier Jacque Kawasaki 2'03.863 39 53
17 Toni Elias Ducati 2'03.954 48 55
18 Marco Melandri Ducati 2'04.414 43 52
19 Niccolo Canepa Ducati 2'05.580 17 48
20 Sylvain Guintoli Ducati 2'06.00 17 36
21 Tamaki Serizawa Kawasaki 2'23.590 6 6

 

MotoGP Gets Back To Work - Testing Resumes At Sepang

The seemingly interminable drought of the MotoGP winter test ban is about to come to an end, and masses of die-hard MotoGP fans will draw a collective sigh of relief. For testing resumes at Sepang in Malaysia on Tuesday, with all of the teams slated to attend the 3 day test.

The test will also be the first chance all of the teams get to focus more closely on their 2008 machinery. All of the new bikes should be there, and the teams will be working on getting the bikes up to speed as quickly as possible.

One interesting detail was revealed by the Italian site MotoGrandPrix.it this week: According to Masahiko Nakajima and Lin Jarvis of Yamaha, barring insurmountable reliability problems, the M1 will use pneumatic valves at the first race at Qatar. Nakajima and Jarvis told MotoGrandPrix.it that work on the pneumatic valve engine is complete, and it will be tested alongside the engine using conventional steel springs at Sepang. This will mean that the entire field has abandoned conventional spring valve actuation, with Honda having switched to use pneumatic valves after the end of 2007.

The test also sees several riders returning to full health, and should give a good picture of the relative strengths of the riders. Both Casey Stoner, who suffered a shoulder injury in a crash at the Jerez test, and Valentino Rossi, who broke his hand at the last race of 2007, are fully healed, and raring to get started.

Perhaps the most interesting duel will be to compare the times of Casey Stoner, still as fast as ever, and Dani Pedrosa on the 2008 Honda RC212V. HRC will have built a rocket, to atone for their failures in 2007, and Pedrosa grows stronger with every season. To spice things up further, Valentino Rossi appeared at the launch of the 2008 Yamaha M1 with his head shaven, his former flowing locks cast asunder. The close crop surely signifies that Rossi is determined not to suffer the same fate as in 2006 and 2007, and is as hungry as he has been for several years.

The Sepang test is the first in a series of test leading up to the start of the season. After tests at Phillip Island in Australia, Jerez and Qatar, the season kicks off on March 9th with MotoGP's first ever night race, at the Losail circuit in Qatar.

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