Crunching The Numbers: Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Marquez, Rossi - Sandbagging, or Chasing Glory?

So what are we to make of the times posted after the second day of testing at Sepang? The order in which the four 2013 aliens finished was roughly as expected: Dani Pedrosa just edging Jorge Lorenzo, with Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi close behind. But did this tell the whole story? Were the times down to a single fast lap by one rider, while the others were grinding out race simulations? Or is the order in which the top four finished an accurate reflection of what we can expect for the 2013 season? Is this just a testing anomaly, or is this a preview of the 2013 Championship standings at the end of the year?

Predicting the championship is a little premature on the basis of just a single day's testing, but there is still sufficient data to start trying to interpret what it all means. Thanks to the fact that the full timesheets of every lap are now available on the website, we can start to dig into the numbers, and see what patterns emerge.

Just as a reminder, here is how the top four finished: 

Pos   Rider Time Diff Prev.
1 26 Dani Pedrosa 2:00.549    
2 99 Jorge Lorenzo 2:00.568 0.019 0.019
3 93 Marc Marquez 2:00.803 0.254 0.235
4 46 Valentino Rossi 2:01.038 0.489 0.235


All four front runners posted times under the existing race lap record, 2:02.108, set in 2007 by Casey Stoner, back in the days of tires specially built to suit the needs of each bike. In fact, the top nine got under the race lap record, including MotoGP rookie Bradley Smith, while Nicky Hayden missed out by two thousandths of a second in 10th. Clearly, all of the riders are now up to speed, though no one has really gone chasing a super-fast time, at least not if their media statements are to be believed.

To compare the times of the top four - they are clearly ahead of the rest of the pack, though Cal Crutchlow and Stefan Bradl are not a million miles off the pace - we would really like to take an average, but given the disparity in some of the lap times, we need to establish a baseline. By using only the laps posted under the lap record, we eliminate most of the interference generated by riders posting slow laps as they test a particular part or setting. So we have taken all of the laps set by Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi, and excluded all of the times which were slower than the race lap record. That still leaves a fairly impressive tally: of the 37 laps completed by Dani Pedrosa, 9 were under the lap record of 2'02.108. Jorge Lorenzo was racking up the testing miles, posting 52 laps of which 22 were under the lap record. Marc Marquez ran 34 laps, of which 14 were at lap record pace, while Valentino Rossi was also pounding out the laps, completing 45, of which 21 were under the lap record.

Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Marquez all posted a few laps under the 2:01 mark, but all four men posted a number of laps in the 2:01s. By separating out those laps into 0.1 second intervals, a better picture emerges of how fast each rider actually is. Below is the tally, divided out by tenths (but with only a total for times in the 2:00).

Lap time Pedrosa Lorenzo Marquez Rossi
Sub 2:00 3 3 2 -
2:01.0 2 1 - 3
2:01.1 - 4 2 1
2:01.2 - 5 - 2
2:01.3 2 3 1 1
2:01.4 - - 2 -
2:01.5 - - 2 2
2:01.6 1 4 - 3
2:01.7 - - 1 3
2:01.8 - 2 2 1
2:01.9 - - 1 4
2:02.0 1 - 1 1
Total laps under lap record 9 22 14 21


Having separated out the lap times into tenths, we can start to think about race pace. With so few laps, it is hard to separate laps into segments of 0.2 seconds difference, so instead, we have split it out into "2:00s", "low 2:01s" from 2:00 to 2:00.4, and "high 2:01s", from 2:01.5 to 2:01.9. Doing that confirms the initial impression from just looking at the real raw times. Pedrosa and Lorenzo are clearly operating in the faster half of the 2:01s - and in Pedrosa's case, he has a third of his laps inside of 2:00s - with Pedrosa running under 2:01.5 77% of the time, closely followed by Lorenzo, who spends 73% of his fast laps in the low 2:01s and the 2:00s.

Both Marquez and Rossi are a little slower. Near equal on time spent in the low 2:01s (Marquez has 35.7% to Rossi's 33.3%), with Marquez making the difference because of the two sub-2:01s he posted. Rossi, the Italian told the media, would have posted a 2:00 lap as well, but he made a mistake on his flying lap and lost a couple of tenths. The two men spend more time in the bottom half of the 2:01s, Marquez posting 43% of his laps there, Rossi 62%.

  Pedrosa Lorenzo Marquez Rossi
% laps in 2:00s 33.3% 13.6% 14.3% 0.0%
% low 2:01s laps 44.4% 59.1% 35.7% 33.3%
% high 2:01s laps 11.1% 27.3% 42.9% 61.9%


Taking the average time of their laps under the record produces the same picture: Pedrosa and Lorenzo are close, Pedrosa averaging 2:01.205, with Lorenzo less than a tenths of a second slower on average. Marquez is still third fastest on average, nearly three tenths behind Pedrosa, while Rossi remains in fourth spot, under four tenths off the pace of Pedrosa, and three tenths behind his Yamaha teammate.

  Pedrosa Lorenzo Marquez Rossi
Average lap under record 2:01.205 2:01.299 2:01.502 2:01.588


What conclusions can we draw from this data? Well, the amount of data available is small, and the methods used to examine it are crude, but a pattern still seems to come clear. Given the relative consistency of lap times posted, it does not look too much like any particular rider went chasing a fast lap. That is as might be expected: the final day of the Sepang test is the traditional time for that particular pursuit, often right at the end of the day, when the track has had a full day's action on it and the tropical temperatures start to drop and enter the perfect operating range of tires, bikes, and their human operators. These are laps posted while testing, not while chasing fast times.

What about sandbagging? Is anyone holding back, in the hope of springing a surprise once racing starts again? This remains a possibility, and without access to the sector times - which are not made available at tests - it is impossible to judge. Going by the spread of lap times set, and the rhythm of the laps set by riders, it is hard to see anything which looks like sandbagging. This, it seems, is actually the pace which each of the four men are capable of. At the moment, at least.

That does not mean that the championship is over, however, and that the results are set in stone. There is plenty of work still to be done. Pedrosa has only just finished working on the balance of the Honda RC213V, testing the weight distribution of the bike with the three extra kg weight added for the 2013 season, and has yet to get properly started on looking for a real setup. Lorenzo and Rossi have spent the past two days evaluating new chassis and engine options, but there is so far still no sign of the seamless gearbox Yamaha is expected to roll out at some point, which should give them an extra tenths of a second or so and close the gap on Honda. Marc Marquez is still a rookie, and adapting his old Moto2 lines to cope with the demands of racing a 1000cc MotoGP machine with twice the horsepower. Marquez was focused on lapping consistently, rather than as fast as possible, and there is clearly more to come.

The top four positions may be a fair reflection of the state of play in MotoGP at the first test in Sepang. But there is still a long way to go to the end of the season. There is a long way to go even until the start of the season. But so far, it all looks very promising.

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Wow David, this sure is a lot of work for 2 measly days of of which was hindered and shortened by rain. Good stuff though as I read it all..... I wish I had the time to decipher, determine and analyze 2 testing days. So thanks!

IMHO, these times are of little importance, it's a test....the very first test. The most glaring, obvious thing to gather so far from this test? MARQUEZ ISN'T EFFIN' AROUND, he's friggin FAST! Casey who?

One thing I find a little interesting is, Lorenzo tested the 2013 bike, Rossi did not. Purposely ommitted?

I'm not sure Rossi spending some time on the 2012 bike to get familiar with it wasn't expected. Without a baseline, it'd be difficult to say if anything was an improvement, and Rossi mentioned he was planning on testing the 13 bike tomorrow, so I doubt it's anything but a different testing program for what each rider needs.

Spies mentioned not wanting to give Ducati feedback until he got closer to the limit, similar idea there.

..which despite the limited data, does indeed give the studious fan a feeling for respective performances.

Both Yamaha men are working hard..Lorenzo looking particularly strong.
The Honda's are fast but a little more inconsistent at this early stage.

The weather is good apparently, with half an hour before they start the final day. I expect we'll see fast laps from the off, with the riders fresh and before the temp. rises, to negate possible rain towards the close. A banker.

If it stays dry all session, it should be a cracking finale with Stoners outright lap record under threat.

I've been lurking since 2009, and this site has been amazing the entire time.

I can never really get a grasp on data like this without visualizing it, so I threw your table into google docs and graphed it. I wanted to look at the fraction of "record" laps each rider had at or below a given time. Basically, I created a graphical version of the penultimate table.

The link below should take you to the graph:
Spreadsheet with graphs and stuff

Three things jump out from this graph:
1. Pedrosa can throw down some fast laps. The real question is whether he can do 3 blistering laps per race (in which case he and Lorenzo are basically even), or whether he can actually lap faster than Lorenzo roughly 50% of the time.

2. Once you get past the Pedrosa's fastest laps, he and Lorenzo are basically even. Of course, you could also say that once you get past Pedrosa's fast laps, he and some guy on a Zuma are basically even, but it looks to me like Lorenzo will be able to stick with Pedrosa, especially when you consider the raw number of laps that Lorenzo put down at these speeds. If I was really motivated I'd go back and do a similar graph for the riders' lap times last time they were racing at Sepang, to get a better idea of how typical or atypical these lap time distributions might be. This is instead left as an exercise for the reader.

3. Marquez is terrifying! He's already consistently lapping faster than Rossi (on a bike Rossi actually likes!), and within sight of Pedrosa and Lorenzo's laptimes. Rossi is a crafty one, so I imagine these laps aren't terribly indicative of his true speed, but I expect Marquez will improve dramatically over the course of the season.

In short, 2013 might actually give us some interesting races!

Baseline from last year race shows this:

In FP and Quali Dani Pedrosa never did a lot of fast laps. Just few. Lorenzo did do a lot of very fast laps constantly in FP and Quali. But in the race Dani had the ability to do this over the race and win. Posting fastest laps at the end of the race.

Realistically you have to compare who is doing what during the race and who is doing what in the training sessions to get the complete picture.

Dani never did fast laps constantly in FP and Quali in 2012. But it was able to do that in race.

So we dont know nothing really.


At Sepang Lorenzo was protecting his lead in the championship, pushing but not risking. Dani was bringing his gun to the knife fight and that may explain differences in race performances.

I'm anticipating that we will see at least one high 1:59's today from Pedrosa, and at that point the gap between the top 4 might start to open.

It would be interesting to get an understanding of the state of the tyres used during their lapping. Do they tend to change them frequently or are they limited in what they can use?

Given that the top 4's times are relatively close it would be good to understand if they are chewing through tyres due to their different riding styles or are they conservative with how much rubber they use? ie a comparison of Pedrosas tyres vs Marquez, JL vs VR sort of thing.

JL is as smooth as silk you'd think therefore less aggressive use of the tyre. Not sure if Pedrosa is a bit more aggressive and if Marquez is having to use them up more rapidly to maintain the close pace.

On the sandbagging side, are any of them running laps with more fuel than they can race with.
I dont mean more than the limit of the tank, I mean just turned up the intake a bit to get the time. ?

Pedrosa has just finished up for today setting the fastest lap early in the morning.

Lorenzo is still on track and if the conditions stay dry I guess he will dip under 1.59.

Strange move from Pedrosa. Maybye he has used all his soft tires..

Can't remember if I've commented on Davids site before (probably cos i don't now what I'm talking about) but motomatters is the bible i go to every motogp season.

Yes Marquez is blindingly fast - every man and his dog knows that but to win you have to RACE and thats where his learning curve is going to be steep:- RACING against other riders.
I can't see the old dogs of motogp tolerating his 'crash or crash thru' strategy now that he is in the big boys league.
I'm sure he'll adapt though, he's a fast learner but I bet there are lots of tears and tantrums in store for us this year depending on the level of carnage he leaves in his wake (he's got form!).

I agree that motomatters is where to turn to every GP season. That's why I signed on as a site supporter.

On Marquez, he may not need to pass anyone if he is out front. He is scary fast already with plenty of testing prior to Losail. Just a shame that Stoner won't be there to battle with him.

Very interesting test!

Please set me straight about what VR was riding today. I think it was the 2012 bike for the first two days but it did not seem real clear what he was riding the last day (today). Was he riding the 2012 or 2013 bike?

If it was the 2012 bike out!
If it was the 2013 out, he has always been a lot more competitve when racing than when testing,

Also, what are the exact dates for the next tests...please.