The final day of testing at Sepang threw up a few surprises to add to the drama of the first two days. The biggest surprise was the return of Nicky Hayden to the top of the timesheets, after a couple of days ending mid-pack. The Kentucky Kid's was back with a vengeance, shattering Valentino Rossi's circuit lap record by nearly 3/10ths of a second.
Hayden wasn't the only rider to smash records, both Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner went faster than the race lap record on race tires today, proving beyond any doubt that the 800s are already faster than the old 990s were.
Casey Stoner also came close to Rossi's circuit lap record on qualifiers, setting the 2nd fastest time of the day, after being blisteringly fast on race tires. Behind Stoner, the Yamahas continued their strong form, with rookie and 250 world champion Jorge Lorenzo putting in yet another strong time to take 3rd fastest, ahead of Colin Edwards on the Tech 3 M1.
John Hopkins was 5th fastest, getting the Kawasaki up to speed quickly, making his switch to Team Green look like a very savvy move. Behind Hopkins, Valentino Rossi was 6th fastest, nearly 3/4 of a second slower than his rookie team mate Lorenzo. Andrea Dovizioso was fastest of the satellite Hondas, ahead of James Toseland on the other Tech 3 Yamaha. Toseland got off to a slow start in Malaysia, but has steadily climbed up the timesheets day by day.
Toseland's climb is in contrast to the slide of the Suzukis. Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi started the test near the front, but have failed to find the improvements that the rest of the field have managed.
But the big loser from the test is once again Marco Melandri. Melandri, like Capirossi before him, is struggling to find his feet on the Ducati GP8, and must be disappointed to only manage the 14th fastest time. And it's not just Melandri: the satellite Ducatis of Toni Elias and Sylvain Guintoli are also way down the field. The Ducati is surely an incredibly fast bike, but so far, only Casey Stoner seems capable of taming the beast.
Testing continues next week at Phillip Island in Australia.
||Randy de Puniet
||Alex de Angelis