Testing finished today at Phillip Island in Australia with a return to form for reigning World Champion Nicky Hayden. He put in the fastest time of the entire three-day test on his Repsol Honda RC212V, setting a time of 1:29.52, just half a second of his track record 1:29.02 pole record at September's race. Team mate Dani Pedrosa even managed to beat the time he set aboard the 990cc RC211V during qualifying by 0.3 seconds.
The Ducatis followed the Repsol Honda pair, with factory Ducati riders Loris Capirossi and Casey Stoner finally managing to go faster than the Pramac d'Antin satellite bikes. The surprise of the session was that Alex Hofmann was faster than his team mate Alex Barros by 0.2 seconds. Sandwiched between the Pramac pair was Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen, having set a personal fastest lap round his home circuit of 1:30.34. Carlos Checa headed up the posse of satellite Hondas who followed Barros.
Comparing the times set during the tests to the times set during qualifying practice at Phillip Island provides some interest insights. Where Hayden, Melandri, Checa and Stoner were slower on their new 800 bikes, several riders were faster. Dani Pedrosa was 3/10ths quicker, but was riding injured during last year's race weekend. Loris Capirossi wasn't injured, though, and he managed to improve by 2/10ths on the time he set in September.
The big surprise, though, is once again the Suzukis. Although the GSV-Rs of Hopkins and Vermeulen are way down the timesheets at this test session, where previously they had led, when you compare their times with those set in September, they have shown significant progression. Hopkins took over 0.3 seconds off his qualifying time, and Chris Vermeulen was nearly a full second faster than the 1:31.288 he set during qualifying in September.
The most disappointed riders must be Shinya Nakano and Kenny Roberts Jr. In a worrying repeat of Makoto Tamada's experience with the Michelins, Nakano has struggled for front end confidence since switching from Bridgestone rubber. And Kenny Roberts Jr is having to work very hard to test chassis to get the KR212V working. Kenny Jr was 1.5 seconds slower this test than in September.
Testing resumes next week in Sepang, where Yamaha will rejoin the tests, but Suzuki will be absent.
01- Nicky Hayden - Honda RC212V - 1:29.52
02- Dani Pedrosa - Honda RC212V - 1:29.70
03- Loris Capirossi - Ducati Desmosedici GP7 - 1:30.14
04- Casey Stoner - Ducati Desmosedici GP7 - 1:30.20
05- Alex Hofmann - Ducati Desmosedici GP7 - 1:30.21
06- Chris Vermeulen - Suzuki GSV-R 800cc - 1:30.34
07- Alex Barros - Ducati Desmosedici GP7 - 1:30.43
08- Carlos Checa - Honda RC212V - 1:30.46
09- Toni Elias - Honda RC212V - 1:30.56
10- Marco Melandri - Honda RC212V - 1:30.80
11- John Hopkins - Suzuki GSV-R 800cc - 1:30.80
12- Shinya Nakano - Honda RC212V - 1:30.97
13- Kenny Roberts Jr - KR Honda KR212V - 1:31.10