Casey Stoner has ended the first MotoGP test of 2012 on top of the timesheets in style. On just his second lap out of the pits this morning, the Repsol Honda man posted a lap of 1'59.607, crushing the circuit qualifying lap still held by Valentino Rossi from 2009, and beating his previous best at the circuit set in the second Sepang test back in February of 2011. Stoner was the only man into the 1'59s, ending the day six tenths ahead of Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo, who was in turn just a few hundredths quicker than Stoner's teammate Dani Pedrosa. Ben Spies put the second Factory Yamaha into 4th spot, and was the last rider to get within a second of Stoner.
Despite his gap to Stoner - over 1.2 seconds - Valentino Rossi pronounced himself satisfied with the 5th fastest time, just nipping ahead of Hector Barbera, but more importantly, much closer to the Factory Yamahas and Pedrosa. Cal Crutchlow led the two Monster Tech 3 Yamaha bikes in 7th and 8th, a second-and-a-half off Stoner's time, and unhurt after a small crash early in the day, while teammate Andrea Dovizioso ended the day much closer to Crutchlow than on previous days, setting the 8th fastest time. Alvaro Bautista put the Gresini Honda into 9th, ahead of Ducati's Nicky Hayden, the Kentuckian still in pain from his broken shoulderblade. An extra test has now been scheduled for Hayden at Jerez, before the team returns to Sepang for the 2nd test at the end of February.
The weather meant that testing was limited on the final day. The midday heat made it impossible to get much riding done at lunchtime, and the rain came shortly after 5pm, putting an early end to proceedings. Overall, though, the teams pronounced themselves satisfied with the amount of work they had got done.
Comparing the improvements made over the course of the test makes for interesting reading. Most improved were the four CRT bikes, with Edwards at the helm. Though the progress is encouraging, it also reflects the fact that the bikes are still very much in the middle of their development stage. As Colin Edwards told reporters yesterday, they are doing their testing out in public, and it shows, with technical problems causing all of the CRT riders to have days with some very slow laps. Worse news is that while Edwards sits very comfortably inside the 107% qualifying limit (2:07.979), the BQR bikes would not make the cut in their current condition.
Least improved of the factory prototypes were Cal Crutchlow and Casey Stoner, though given that both men were fast on every day of the test, that should not be too much of a problem. Stoner was fastest on both days of the test that he rode, and by a large enough margin that he could afford not to make progress. Hector Barbera made the most progress, the Spaniard already comfortable on the Ducati GP0 (the version of the GP12 Rossi tested at Valencia) at Valencia, and improving on the same bike at Sepang. Stefan Bradl also made good progress, unsurprisingly given his status as a rookie, and his times are close enough to the MotoGP regulars to show he is adapting well to the MotoGP class.
The new Ducati is clearly better than the old bike, with Rossi making excellent progress over the three days. The problem for Rossi is that the Yamahas and Hondas are improving as well, Jorge Lorenzo making almost as much progress as Rossi did over the three-day test.
The riders now head back to their respective homes in anticipation of the next test at Sepang on February 28th. The focus at that test will be on building on the lessons of the past three days, and after that, the real balance of power in MotoGP should become a little clearer.
Results of day 3, courtesy of MotoGP.com:
|11||Stefan Bradl||LCR Honda||2:01.894||2.287||0.165||38|
|13||Katsuyuki Nakasuga||Yamaha Test||2:02.334||2.727||0.116||27|
|14||Franco Battaini||Ducati Test||2:03.033||3.426||0.699||35|
|15||Colin Edwards||Suter BMW CRT||2:04.722||5.115||1.689||36|
|16||Ivan Silva||FTR Kawasaki CRT||2:08.225||8.618||3.503||41|
|17||Robertino Pietri||FTR Kawasaki CRT||2:09.640||10.033||1.415||16|
|18||Jordi Torres||FTR Kawasaki CRT||2:10.184||10.577||0.544||29|
107% Qualifying limit: 2:07.979
|Pos||Rider||Bike||Day 1||Day 2||Day 3||Improvement|
|1||Colin Edwards||Suter BMW CRT||2:08.240||2:05.603||2:04.722||3.518|
|2||Ivan Silva||FTR Kawasaki CRT||2:11.267||2:10.297||2:08.225||3.042|
|3||Robertino Pietri||FTR Kawasaki CRT||2:12.546||2:09.640||2.906|
|4||Franco Battaini||Ducati Test||2:04.986||2:04.311||2:03.033||1.953|
|9||Jordi Torres||FTR Kawasaki CRT||2:10.671||2:11.893||2:10.184||1.709|
|19||Katsuyuki Nakasuga||Yamaha Test||2:02.829||2:02.941||2:02.334||0.607|