Though the bumper crop of rookies due to enter MotoGP next season were given an extra session of testing, the last two to make use of that opportunity got off to a very damp start. Marco Simoncelli and reigning 250cc World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama arrived at Sepang to be greeted by a torrential downpour, delaying the start of the first day of testing until around noon local time.
Simoncelli, riding the two factory-spec RC212Vs used by Toni Elias for the Gresini Honda team, could only manage 44 laps of the Malaysian circuit, with a best time of 2'04.43, some 2 seconds off Casey Stoner's race lap record, and nearly 4 seconds slower than Valentino Rossi's 2009 qualifying record, set without the benefit of soft qualifying tires. Hiroshi Aoyama, in the familiar situation of having just one bike to ride, the former Team Scot Honda ridden by Gabor Talmacsi, was a few hundredths quicker than the man he took the 250cc title from, lapping Sepang with a best time of 2'04.38. Though well off lap record pace, both times are commendable under the circumstances. The track is still in poor shape from a series of car races, the tropical downpour serving only to worsen conditions. With just three bikes out on track - Aoyama, Simoncelli and a Honda test rider - little rubber was being laid down to give the track more grip.
After the day's testing was over, Simoncelli told GPOne.com that his main focus had been on getting used to the bike, not setting a fast lap time. "I'm not interested in the times," Simoncelli said, "but I'm more interested in gaining confidence with the bike, which you have to ride completely differently to a 250." Simoncelli had hopes of improvement for the second day of testing. "We will concentrate on setting up the chassis on the second day," the Italian said. "But as I said, it is more important just to get more experience."
Aoyama and Simoncelli's test at Sepang will be the last of the extra rookie tests, after Alvaro Bautista tested at Estoril and Hector Barbera went to Jerez. But two other riders who are eligible for rookie tests will not be making use of that opportunity. Reigning World Superbike champion Ben Spies and Pramac Ducati's Aleix Espargaro will not have a rookie test. For Espargaro, that is not a problem, as the Spaniard already has 4 races on the Desmosedici. And given Ben Spies' outstanding performance as a wildcard at Valencia, nor is it a real necessity for the Texan.
But in the case of Spies, principles also play a part. The Texan's Tech 3 team boss Herve Poncharal has repeatedly stated his opposition to the rookie tests, the latest example being an interview with Crash.net's Peter McLaren. Poncharal pointed out that the teams and Dorna had taken a huge number of measures to cut costs earlier in the year, including axing most testing. Allowing an extra round of testing ran completely against all the measures taken previously, Poncharal said. The Frenchman also doubted the benefits of the extra testing, pointing out that Tech 3 did not test either after Barcelona or Brno, with little harm. "Colin was still fifth in the riders' championship and we were fourth in the teams' championship," Poncharal told Crash.net.