2013 MotoGP Sepang 1 Test, Day 1 Times Comparison: 2012 vs 2013

With the first full day of MotoGP testing behind us, we can start to compare times between this year and last year. Conditions were broadly similar, though as the CRT bikes had done a few laps over the past couple of days, there was slightly more rubber on the track than at the end of January in 2012. But discarding the difference in conditions between the two tests, a pattern emerges from the relative improvement or decline of the various riders.

The rider who improved most between 2012 and 2013 is a bit of a surprise: Honda test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi made a huge leap of over 4 seconds between this year and last, but other than the occasional wildcard, Akiyoshi will take no part in 2013, and so not too much should be read into those times. 

Stefan Bradl made a huge leap forward: unsurprisingly, given that Sepang in January last year was the first time the German got to ride the 1000cc version of Honda's RC213V, having only tested the 800cc bike at Valencia three months' earlier. Much of the improvement comes from Bradl himself; the LCR Honda man has learned a lot in his rookie year, and will clearly be a factor in 2013. Cutting nearly 1.9 seconds off his time between 2012 and 2013 is a very positive achievement.

Overall, the Hondas did very well. Of the two MotoGP veterans on a Honda, both Dani Pedrosa and Alvaro Bautista cut nearly 0.9 seconds off their best time from the first day of testing last year. Much of that is down to the improvement in the RC213V: comparing Pedrosa's improvement (0.846) to Jorge Lorenzo's on the Yamaha (0.492) suggests that Honda has found a few tenths in the bike, most probably thanks to radically cutting down on the chatter that plagued the machine last year.

Much interest will go out to Valentino Rossi's improvement: his switch to Yamaha saw him lap 0.8 faster than on the Ducati in 2012. Intriguingly, this is almost exactly the same amount which Andrea Dovizioso has lost (0.784) by switching in the opposite direction, abandoning the M1 at the Tech 3 Yamaha team to join the factory Ducati team. Judging  by Nicky Hayden's times, the Ducati has made no progress, the American nearly two tenths slower than last year. By comparison, the Yamaha has clearly improved: Lorenzo is nearly half a second quicker, while Cal  Crutchlow is over a third of a second faster than he was at the end of last year.

Biggest loser of the day was Ben Spies, who was nearly three seconds slower than in 2012, but Spies is coming off a shoulder injury, and did not spend much time looking for a fast lap. Looking at slower riders also offers an interesting comparison between the Ducatis and the CRT machines: Karel Abraham lost 1.9 seconds by switching to an Aprilia ART machine, Hector Barbera is 2.7 seconds slower on the FTR Kawasaki in 2013.

Comparison of times from Sepang 1 test: Day 1 2013 vs Day 1 2012

No. Rider 2013 Bike 2013 2012 Bike 2012 Diff
72 Kousuke Akiyoshi Honda 2:02.972 Honda 2:07.163 -4.191
6 Stefan Bradl Honda 2:01.789 Honda 2:03.668 -1.879
19 Alvaro Bautista Honda 2:01.981 Honda 2:02.869 -0.888
26 Dani Pedrosa Honda 2:01.157 Honda 2:02.003 -0.846
46 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 2:01.584 Ducati 2:02.392 -0.808
99 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 2:01.165 Yamaha 2:01.657 -0.492
35 Cal Crutchlow Yamaha 2:01.881 Yamaha 2:02.221 -0.340
5 Colin Edwards FTR Kawasaki 2:08.206 BMW Suter 2:08.240 -0.034
T2 Katsayuki Nakasuga Yamaha 2:02.968 Yamaha 2:02.829 0.139
69 Nicky Hayden Ducati 2:03.336 Ducati 2:03.151 0.185
4 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 2:03.535 Yamaha 2:02.751 0.784
17 Karel Abraham Aprilia ART 2:05.694 Ducati 2:03.781 1.913
8 Hector Barbera FTR Kawasaki 2:05.469 Ducati 2:02.773 2.696
11 Ben Spies Pramac Ducati 2:05.086 Yamaha 2:02.234 2.852

Negative number mean rider was faster in 2013, positive number means rider was slower in 2013


Comparing the last visit of the riders to Sepang to today's times provides a slightly different perspective. The biggest improvement between FP3 (chosen because it is after the riders had had some time on the track) was for Valentino Rossi, who was 1.5 seconds quicker on the Yamaha than he was on the Ducati. By that part of the season, however, Rossi's motivation was starting to flag, which could explain Rossi's lagging performance on the weekend of the 2012 race. Stefan Bradl holds on to his clear improvement, over a second quicker than in 2012, while both Aspar ART machines also made a decent step forward. The Yamahas have made less progress since October: Lorenzo is just under two tenths quicker than FP3, Crutchlow just over a tenth. Dani Pedrosa, meanwhile was on a roll in 2012, and had nearly as fast as the time he set today. This could be a sign of much more to come from Pedrosa, worrying for his opponents given he is already the fastest man on track.

Comparison of Sepang 1 Day 1 2013 times vs race weekend 2012, FP3:

No. Rider 2013 Bike 2013 2012 FP3 Diff.
46 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 2:01.584 2:03.083 -1.499
6 Stefan Bradl Honda 2:01.789 2:02.821 -1.032
14 Randy de Puniet Aprilia ART 2:04.283 2:04.962 -0.679
19 Alvaro Bautista Honda 2:01.981 2:02.449 -0.468
41 Aleix Espargaro Aprilia ART 2:03.782 2:04.109 -0.327
9 Danilo Petrucci BMW Suter 2:05.753 2:05.967 -0.214
99 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 2:01.165 2:01.344 -0.179
35 Cal Crutchlow Yamaha 2:01.881 2:01.995 -0.114
26 Dani Pedrosa Honda 2:01.157 2:01.186 -0.029
69 Nicky Hayden Ducati 2:03.336 2:02.679 0.657
17 Karel Abraham Aprilia ART 2:05.694 2:04.566 1.128
4 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 2:03.535 2:01.696 1.839
8 Hector Barbera FTR Kawasaki 2:05.469 2:03.112 2.357
11 Ben Spies Ducati 2:05.086 2:02.334 2.752
5 Colin Edwards BMW Suter 2:08.206 2:05.407 2.799
1 Casey STONER Honda   2:01.693  

Negative number mean rider was faster in 2013, positive number means rider was slower in 2013


While all of the media attention is going out to Marc Marquez - and rightly so, given the Spaniard's astonishing pace - the Repsol Honda man is overshadowing the debut made by Bradley Smith. In comparison to Marquez, Smith's debut aboard the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha looks decidedly modest, but the question is just how fair it is to compare Smith to a rider who is clearly the exception, rather than the rule. If we take Marquez out of the equation, a better comparison suggests itself: between Smith's first full day on the Yamaha M1, and Stefan Bradl's time on the Honda at Sepang in 2012.

This comparison is more flattering for Smith: given that the young Briton had only a few laps on a greasy track at Valencia in November, this is his first real opportunity to ride the M1. Sepang 2012 was also Bradl's first chance to ride the Honda 1000, though he had had a full test at Valencia aboard the 800cc machine. Smith ended day 1 at Sepang 0.2 faster than Bradl did last year, though Smith's gap to the front is 0.2 larger than Bradl's was in 2012. But being 2 seconds off the pace at the first Sepang test looks like being just about on target for Smith on the Yamaha. If his development as a rider in his rookie year follows that of Bradl, he should be fairly competitive by the end of the season.

Comparing Rookies: Bradley Smith's first day at Sepang 1 vs Stefan Bradl's first day at Sepang 1 in 2012:

2013 38 Bradley Smith Monster Yamaha Tech 3 2:03.460  
2012 6 Stefan Bradl LCR Honda MotoGP 2:03.668 0.208

Naturally, all these comparisons, though intriguing, come with many caveats and provisos. Conditions were not comparable, nor were the bikes, yet still there are a few patterns which emerge. Just how well those patterns hold up to scrutiny will be tested over the coming season.

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by comparing one can get a picture of how things are rather than quickly judge by today's times...

This year will be a waiting game for Ducati fans, but the riders/testers are going to have to work flat-out to make the right decisions/selections to have even a ghost of a chance next year. I think Dovi knows that. If Spies’ bike suits him ‘as is’ I will be as amazed as most other people. 2009 lightning will not strike twice.
It will be interesting to see if the stated ‘more logical’ progress will be accompanied by faster times for all their riders. I was a bit surprised by the Ducaudi GM “We didn’t know what Rossi/Burgess were talking about, so we just panicked” statement , I am very interested to see how they make progress now with a completely new team and approach.
The reversal of Dovi’s and Rossi’s times is also telling. Rossi has never been that good at the qualifying lap game and, if he is that fast out of the box, we may just see some great regular competition between more than 2 riders. Rossi/Burgess always seemed to find more than the average gain during practice.
To carry high corner speed you need confidence in the front – JL managed to ride ‘Rossi’s bike’ OK, so Rossi should be able to make JL’s work for him too. I imagine that there were some “Tell me what’s changed” discussions before the final signature was inked in.
Marquez. Amazing. He could be like Stoner with added PR factor. Should be good to watch, as long as he keeps it clean. Those two at PI could be exciting, should it ever happen. I think CS is more likely to stay at home if MM keeps this up though.

Looks like Nakamoto need not cry over being left at the dance. With Dani in his right and Marc in his left he's aiming for a KO in 2013 and beyond.

Thank you David for doing this. I know it is quite a time consuming process but I think all readers here will appreciate your work. Regarding the Ducati, I do not have access to the testing times at Sepang from 2006-2012, but here are the best Ducati lap times from Free Practice before the races in each of those years:

2006, FP3, Capirossi: 2m 01.167s (3rd fastest)
2007, FP3, Stoner: 2m 02.291s (fastest)
2008, FP3, Stoner: 2m 02.120s (2nd fastest - Ant West was fastest on the Kawasaki!)
2009, FP2, Stoner: 2m 01.485s (3rd fastest)
2010 FP2, Stoner: 2m 01.971s (2nd fastest)
2011, FP3, Hayden: 2m 02.249s (5th fastest)
2012, FP3, Hayden: 2m 02.679s (8th fastest)

(Note: There was no FP3 in 2009 or 2010 at Sepang)

And here are the Ducati lap times from the first day 2013 test at Sepang
Nicky Hayden - 2m 03.336s
Andrea Dovizioso - 2m 03.535s
Ben Spies - 2m 05.086s

I have not added Ionnone as he is making his MotoGP debut.

The above perhaps highlights just how far up a dead-end alley Valentino took the Ducati over the past two years.

It will be very interesting to see how Ducati fares at Aragon this year, as the past two years' results there show graphically how much Valentino's 'improvements' hampered the Italian factory's competitiveness.