Matthew Birt at MCN and the corporate MotoGP site are reporting that Dani Pedrosa has left the Sepang test a day early. Owing to surgery on his left knee in December, he has not recovered sufficient strength to complete race-distance simulations scheduled for Day 3. Considering that he rose to 4th on the time charts in Day 2 - within .4 sec of a similarly ailing Casey Stoner - and having completed everything else scheduled for his test regimen, this would seem to be a wise move.
Casey Stoner continued his dominance at Sepang today, on the second day of testing, though his wrist continues to trouble him, leaving the Australian incapable of putting in too many laps. But even a relatively small number of laps is enough to be the fastest man on the grid, which should give the competition pause for thought.
Loris Capirossi continues his strong showing at Sepang, raising hopes that Suzuki might have a good season again in 2009. The Italian veteran is a fraction ahead of his compatriot Valentino Rossi, who was third fastest. Like Stoner, Rossi is also struggling with injury, though the stitches in his fingers and foot are nowhere near as serious as Stoner's healing scaphoid. But there is less than 2/10ths of a second covering the top three, so things are pretty close.
After a difficult first day, Dani Pedrosa is back up to speed, the Repsol Honda rider also cracking the 2'02 barrier. But Pedrosa is a quarter of a second behind Rossi, and nearly 0.4 behind Stoner. Stoner's Ducati team mate Nicky Hayden took a second off his time from yesterday, climbing to 9th. But the American is still over a second and a half behind his team mate.
James Toseland is the rider struggling the most. The Englishman didn't improve his time from yesterday, and is propping up the bottom of the timesheets. Not the start to the year Toseland will be hoping for.
Testing concludes tomorrow.
On day 2 of the Sepang test, the picture is similar to yesterday. Once again, Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and Loris Capirossi are battling it out for supremacy, and a 4pm, it was the Australian who was on top. But unlike yesterday, the Spaniard Dani Pedrosa was very close behind, and ready to join the front group. More times once testing finishes.
The work that Suzuki have done on their GSV-R over the winter seems to be paying off. After the deadly duo of Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi had led for most of the day, Capirossi put in a final fast lap to top the timesheets. And what a lap: over quarter of a second under Stoner's existing lap record. Suzuki have been impressive at Sepang before, putting in a strong showing here at the beginning of the 2007 season, and it looks like they have found some of the speed they lost last year, although it must be said that the Sepang track's lack of very long fast sweepers suits the Suzuki very well. With Capirossi appearing wearing standard Suzuki leathers, it looks like Rizla will not be renewing its deal, though you have to wonder whether a good result from testing here might help sway the argument.
Casey Stoner was second fastest, his scaphoid surgery apparently successful, as he was riding comfortably, and comfortably under the lap record. Valentino Rossi was in a little more discomfort from the stitches he has in his hand after falling over at home, but the Italian was still very fast, though 3/10ths slower than Stoner. Rossi suffered a fall earlier in the day, but escaped relatively uninjured. Capirossi's team mate Chris Vermeulen set the fourth fastest time, confirming Suzuki's form here in Malaysia.
The atmosphere in the factory Honda garage could be tested, as Toni Elias was the fastest of the Hondas, ahead of Andrea Dovizioso on the first of the official Repsol bikes. Dani Pedrosa, heavily tipped for the championship this year, only managed the eighth fastest time, 1.5 seconds behind Capirossi. Sete Gibernau was fastest of the other Ducatis, 1.75 seconds behind Casey Stoner, but a quarter of a second ahead of Stoner's Marlboro Ducati team mate Nicky Hayden, who finished 11th.
Testing continues tomorrow.
Action is still underway in Malaysia, and the times are starting to come in. All day long, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner have been swapping the lead, and at 4pm, it was Rossi's turn at the top of the timesheets. The big surprise of the day are the Suzukis, both Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen the only riders capable of getting anywhere near the two leaders.
More worrying will be the big gaps between the rest of the field: Dani Pedrosa is in 6th place, nearly a second behind Rossi, while Sete Gibernau in 10th is another second behind Pedrosa. Stoner's Ducati team mate Nicky Hayden is down in 14th, just behind James Toseland. Hayden's time will be a worrying sign that the Ducati is still a difficult bike to handle.
One of the cost-cutting proposals aimed at saving MotoGP currently under discussion is the introduction of rev limits. The idea is that the lower revving engines will stress the engines less, and make them last longer, cutting the amount of maintenance required. Whether this will work or not is open to debate, and ever the great innovator, Honda have taken the first step, in announcing that they will be placing a rev limit of 18,200 revs on RC212V engines.
Of course, Honda isn't foolish enough to sacrifice its chance of winning a title while imposing rev limits, so the only bikes these limits will be applied to will be the satellite spec RC212Vs. The factory-spec Hondas of Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso and - presumably - Toni Elias will continue unfettered by any such limits.
This is a hard blow on the satellite teams. Though aimed at extending engine life from the current 600km to 1200km - or about two race weekends - it will also most likely render the satellite spec bikes unable to compete with the much faster factory bikes. Coming after two years of - by HRC's very high standards - substandard equipment, another year of circulating at the back of the field will make it even harder for the satellite Honda teams to secure sponsorship.
The restriction is even more frustrating because it cancels out the benefits of having pneumatic valves. The satellite teams were looking forward to being able to compete once again, now that HRC had dropped its old steel spring valve engines and switched to the potentially more powerful pneumatic valve unit. But most of those benefits will be lost due to the rev ceiling.
For ten long hours, in a hotel in Sepang, representatives from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Ducati discussed a range of proposals to cut costs in MotoGP. And at the end of those ten long hours, they emerged with, well, very little indeed, according to GPOne.com.
Subject of the talks were the proposals which have been aired over the past couple of weeks, mostly aimed at reducing the amount of mileage that is put on the bikes in testing and practice. But the results of those almost endless talks were very little. The only agreed proposal to emerge was that in future, all members of the team would fly economy class, rather than first or business class, although that already produced rumblings of disapproval from the old hands in the paddock such as Jeremy Burgess, who don't take the travelling well.
As for the other proposals, it seems likely that practice sessions on race weekends will be cut from one hour to 45 minutes, and the Sunday morning warmup will be cut from 25 to 10 minutes in length. The fate of the Friday practice sessions still hangs in the balance, with some talk of scrapping Friday altogether. But the proposals to ban testing on the Mondays after races caused the most problems. Suzuki, with only two riders, is keen to keep the tests, as they don't have the benefit of the extra data gathered by the four or more bikes which their competitors field.
The most bizarre proposal of all was to ban the team riders from testing on Monday, and allow only test riders. Just how this would save money is a bit of a mystery, as the mileage on the bikes would be only marginally reduced, while the test riders would have to be flown to all of the post-race tests, instead of leaving the team riders to do the testing for them.
Kawasaki's MotoGP program looks another step closer to its demise today. On the eve of the first official MotoGP test at Sepang, various reports are appearing that the green bikes won't be present. After private testing at Eastern Creek and Phillip Island with Olivier Jacque, the Kawasakis have been packed up and most likely shipped back to Japan.
A Kawasaki absence at Sepang almost certainly means the attempts to keep their MotoGP program alive will have failed. Deadlines have come and gone with no official word on the outcome of the talks being held. Team boss Michael Bartholemy flew out to Japan for talks with Kawasaki bosses two weeks ago, and a decision was expected last Wednesday. Then, rumors emerged that the decision had been postponed until February 2nd, which came and went again with no word.
The latest rumors surrounding the situation are taken from Marco Melandri's Facebook status updates, suggesting that the Italian has a "big meeting" today, Wednesday, though the Italian was less forthcoming on what the meeting might be about. There has been talk that Melandri has been offered a buyout of his contract, which would allow him to ride another bike, and this could be related to the "meeting" Macio refers to on his Facebook page.
John Hopkins, meanwhile, is filling his days with a road trip across the US, according to MCN. The American has been spotted at an AMA Supercross event, but did not speak to reporters there. Earlier rumors that Hopper could be about to sign for Stiggy Motorsports in World Superbikes have been denied by the team boss, Johan Stigefelt.
Valentino Rossi's participation in the next official test session at Sepang is under threat, after the Italian tripped and fell at home while attempting to close the curtains. The Doctor needed stitches to cuts in his hand and foot, which he suffered after falling on a glass table. Yamaha expect Rossi to be able to ride in Malaysia, and his condition will be evaluated at the track.
The MotoGP season resumes in earnest next week, when most of the riders will take to the track at the first official test of 2009 at Sepang in Malaysia. But while the fans will be concentrating on the action on track, carefully scrutinizing the times set to see how they can expect their favorite riders to fare, behind the scenes, according to GPOne.com, the manufacturers will be meeting to ratify a list of changes aimed at cutting costs in MotoGP in the next couple of years.
The main thrust of the changes is aimed at extending engine life, in the hope of reducing the maintenance costs for the highly-strung engines, which continue to spiral out of control. The changes will have two prongs: A reduction in track mileage on race weekends and testing; and a minimum engine life imposed by regulation.
First, the proposed changes as reported by GPOne.com:
- Practice sessions will be shortened by 15 minutes each, from 60 to 45 minutes. In effect, the riders will lose an entire 60 minute session;
- Warm up will be cut to just 10 minutes, instead of the current 25, and the practice start would be scrapped;
- A maximum of 9 engines per season, with penalties being imposed on engine failures, either by way of points, or by way of lost starting places;
- An end to post-race tests, scrapping the 5 days of testing already planned;
- Winter testing restricted to just 8 days, and the start of the winter test ban to be brought forward to November 11th, the day immediately following the Valencia tests. The ban would end on January 20th, as has always been the case.