Dani Pedrosa was once again fastest on the final day of testing at Sepang, topping the timesheets for the fifth time in six total days of testing at Sepang. Though the Repsol Honda man looks to be the preseason favorite so far, he does not leave the test as fastest overall, however. That honor goes to Jorge Lorenzo, who put in a scorching lap on Wednesday to set the fastest time over all three days of the test.
The riders got off to a late start on Thursday, rain meaning that the bulk of the riders kept to their garages until the track started to dry out at the end of the morning. A few men put in laps in the wet, but once the track dried out, enough riders started putting in laps to clean the worst of the dirt left by the rain from the track, though track conditions were never as good as on the first couple of days. Pedrosa soon took charge of proceedings, later knocking another half a second off his time late in the afternoon. Rookie Repsol teammate Marc Marquez impressed yet again, taking 2nd on the timesheets with his very last lap, after the final 30 minutes of the session turned into a qualifying session. Marquez continued to concentrate on learning the ropes on a MotoGP machine, and the longer runs he put in were a little further off the pace of Pedrosa, and still not as consistent as they will need to be, but he proved with his flying lap that he will be starting from the front of the grid by the time the season starts.
Jorge Lorenzo ended the final day of the test with the 3rd fastest time, but leaves Sepang as fastest overall. Lorenzo's best time was over four tenths slower than Pedrosa's on Thursday, but the Spaniard spent the latter part of the day working on race set up, ending the test with a mightily impressive race simulation of 20 laps, 16 of which where in the 2:01s, most of them fast 2:01s. Lorenzo's race simulation follows the pattern from his championship-winning season in 2012, making a very long race simulation to test the bike and himself in punishing conditions. Less characteristic was a mistake the Spaniard made, putting in one lap of 2:05 towards the end, an anomaly among the scorching laps that surround it.
Valentino Rossi leaves the test having achieved his objective - closing the gap on his Factory Yamaha teammate - but he will not be entirely satisfied with the test. The Italian managed his best time during the manic final qualifying session, while Lorenzo had set his best time earlier in the day, and had not bothered with taking a real shot at the best time. Rossi appeared agitated from time to time, as his team chased a set up to match the pace of the front three, Rossi spending a large part of the day around 7th spot, before his last-gasp attempt had seen him jump up to 4th. He leaves the test as 5th overall, behind Cal Crutchlow, a slightly worrying development for the Italian.
Crutchlow may have been 4th fastest overall, the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha man could not quite match the pace of Alvaro Bautista on Thursday, the Go&Fun Gresini Honda rider finding settings on the new Showa suspension he is using to grab an impressive 5th slot. Bautista appears to be making progress with the Showa, which he is developing at the request of HRC in return for factory support - and, some Spanish sources are reporting, a contract extension through 2014. Cal Crutchlow, the man behind Alvaro Bautista, would have been delighted to have something to test, the Englishman hoping to assist the Yamaha program in developing the bike, but having only his satellite spec machine to fine tune.
Behind Stefan Bradl, who finished the final day and the overall test in 7th, there were more positive signs from Ducati. Andrea Dovizioso cut the gap to Pedrosa back to just over a second, though he could only manage a single lap in the 2:01s. Dovizioso spent most of the day on the bike with revised weight distribution, the tank having been relocated under the seat, as is the practice on the Japanese bikes, but he also took the laboratory bike being tested by Michele Pirro out for a spin. That bike has bigger changes, including a lower exhaust relocated to be under the belly pan, presumably in an attempt to move more weight to the center of the bike, and lower. The altered exhaust would also change the power delivery, but there were few visual cues from the rear exhaust, which still exits from the tail, betray exactly what they had done.
MotoGP's other two rookies also made progress, Andrea Iannone coming on in leaps and bounds on the Ducati, ending the day just two seconds off Pedrosa, while Bradley Smith is 1.7 seconds off the pace of the Repsol Honda man. Though Smith is making steps forward on the Tech 3 Yamaha, he is starting to lag behind where Stefan Bradl was at a comparable stage last year.
Of the CRT bikes, it was Randy de Puniet who bested his teammate for the first time during testing, the Aspar rider getting within a respectable 2.3 seconds of Pedrosa, and finishing ahead of Ben Spies on the second Pramac Ducati. Spies has had a difficult second test, finishing 14th on the final day of the test and a worrying 16th overall, behind both Aspar Aprilia men on CRT bikes, and Yamaha test rider Katsayuki Nakasuga. Either Spies' shoulder is still preventing him from riding as he would like to, or he is having more trouble adapting to the Ducati than he had hoped.
Testing is now complete at Sepang, and the teams now head back to Europe. Most will reassemble at Jerez, for the final official IRTA test at the end of March, but the factory Yamaha and Honda teams - along with LCR's Stefan Bradl - will assemble at Austin on March 12th for three extra days of testing at the American circuit. Ducati will not attend, team boss Paolo Ciabatti complaining to German website Speedweek that the astronomical cost - the test is said to be costing Yamaha 350,000 euros for the three days at the circuit - made a laughing stock at other attempts to cut the costs in the series. Yamaha are believed to feel they have no choice, not being able to afford to arrive at the circuit with no experience, and giving Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez an advantage they can ill-afford to sacrifice.
Times at the end of day 3:
|12||51||Michele Pirro||Ducati Test||2:02.773||2.211||0.207|
|13||14||Randy de Puniet||Aprilia ART||2:02.863||2.301||0.090|
|15||T1||Wataru Yoshikawa||Yamaha Test||2:03.154||2.592||0.099|
|16||8||Hector Barbera||FTR Kawasaki||2:03.155||2.593||0.001|
|17||T2||Katsayuki Nakasuga||Yamaha Test||2:03.257||2.695||0.102|
|18||41||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia ART||2:03.423||2.861||0.166|
|19||17||Karel Abraham||Aprilia ART||2:04.066||3.504||0.643|
|20||5||Colin Edwards||FTR Kawasaki||2:04.102||3.540||0.036|
|21||7||Hiroshi Aoyama||FTR Kawasaki||2:04.512||3.950||0.410|
|22||70||Michael Laverty||PBM Aprilia||2:04.546||3.984||0.034|
|23||52||Lukas Pesek||Suter BMW||2:04.674||4.112||0.128|
|24||9||Danilo Petrucci||Suter BMW||2:04.686||4.124||0.012|
|25||71||Claudio Corti||FTR Kawasaki||2:04.718||4.156||0.032|
|26||68||Yonny Hernandez||Aprilia ART||2:04.722||4.160||0.004|
|27||37||Takumi Takahashi||Honda Test||2:04.749||4.187||0.027|
|28||67||Bryan Staring||FTR Honda||2:05.313||4.751||0.564|
|1||99||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha||2:00.282||Day 2|
|2||26||Dani Pedrosa||Honda||2:00.562||0.280||0.280||Day 3|
|3||93||Marc Marquez||Honda||2:00.643||0.361||0.081||Day 3|
|4||35||Cal Crutchlow||Yamaha||2:00.907||0.625||0.264||Day 2|
|5||46||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha||2:01.062||0.780||0.155||Day 3|
|6||19||Alvaro Bautista||Honda||2:01.078||0.796||0.016||Day 3|
|7||6||Stefan Bradl||Honda||2:01.309||1.027||0.231||Day 3|
|8||4||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati||2:01.650||1.368||0.341||Day 3|
|9||69||Nicky Hayden||Ducati||2:01.778||1.496||0.128||Day 2|
|10||38||Bradley Smith||Yamaha||2:02.023||1.741||0.245||Day 2|
|11||29||Andrea Iannone||Ducati||2:02.566||2.284||0.543||Day 3|
|12||51||Michele Pirro||Ducati Test||2:02.773||2.491||0.207||Day 3|
|13||14||Randy de Puniet||Aprilia ART||2:02.863||2.581||0.090||Day 3|
|14||41||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia ART||2:02.905||2.623||0.042||Day 2|
|15||T2||Katsayuki Nakasuga||Yamaha Test||2:02.946||2.664||0.041||Day 2|
|16||11||Ben Spies||Ducati||2:03.055||2.773||0.109||Day 3|
|17||8||Hector Barbera||FTR Kawasaki||2:03.155||2.873||0.100||Day 3|
|18||T1||Wataru Yoshikawa||Yamaha Test||2:03.257||2.975||0.102||Day 3|
|19||7||Hiroshi Aoyama||FTR Kawasaki||2:03.990||3.708||0.733||Day 2|
|20||17||Karel Abraham||Aprilia ART||2:04.066||3.784||0.076||Day 3|
|21||5||Colin Edwards||FTR Kawasaki||2:04.102||3.820||0.036||Day 3|
|22||9||Danilo Petrucci||Suter BMW||2:04.279||3.997||0.177||Day 2|
|23||37||Takumi Takahashi||Honda Test||2:04.512||4.230||0.233||Day 2|
|24||70||Michael Laverty||PBM Aprilia||2:04.546||4.264||0.034||Day 3|
|25||68||Yonny Hernandez||Aprilia ART||2:04.671||4.389||0.125||Day 2|
|26||52||Lukas Pesek||Suter BMW||2:04.674||4.392||0.003||Day 3|
|27||71||Claudio Corti||FTR Kawasaki||2:04.709||4.427||0.035||Day 2|
|28||67||Bryan Staring||FTR Honda||2:05.313||5.031||0.604||Day 3|
|2013||Sepang 1 test||Dani Pedrosa||Honda||2:00.100|
|2007||Race record||Casey Stoner||Ducati||2:02.108|
|2012||Pole record||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha||2:00.334|
|2012||Sepang 2 test||Casey Stoner||Honda||2:00.473|