MotoGP Riders Complete First Ride Of 2009 In Three-Day Sepang Test

MotoGP Official Test at Sepang

A three-day test at the end of last week, held at the Malaysian circuit of Sepang, saw riders from the MotoGP field for 2009 returning to action for the first time since the 'winter' test ban.

Off-season testing has been reduced compared to previous seasons thanks to the new single tyre supplier rule, as the teams have less requirement for experimentation with their new provision of Bridgestone rubber. This development in MotoGP has helped to significantly reduce costs for the teams and allowed them to concentrate fully on their 800cc machinery itself.

Coincidentally, the man to finish the Sepang test at the head of the timesheets was the first rider to win the MotoGP title on Bridgestone tyres, Ducati's 2007 MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner.

Australian Stoner is returning from surgery on his left wrist undertaken in November of last year, meaning that he kept his workload to a minimum over the three days, but as he gradually regains his fitness he is still capable of rapid lap times -as he demonstrated on Friday and Saturday.

The 23 year-old finished the last day just under a tenth of a second quicker than his closest rival, reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi, with a time of 2'01.043 - well inside Dani Pedrosa's 2008 pole position record time of 2'01.548.

Stoner commented: "Considering that I have recently had an operation and my wrist has still not full recovered, to be the fastest rider here is a dream to be honest. Now I have to work hard on improving my physical condition and recovering the level of movement I need to ride the bike properly without pain. The Desmosedici GP9 is a good bike and in every test we've done with it we've come out on top."

Affected more recently by a hospital visit, current MotoGP title holder Rossi was just off Stoner's pace on the final day, as he too rode through the pain barrier following a recent domestic accident.

The Italian tested in Malaysia with stitches in his left hand and foot having fallen onto a glass coffee table at his home in Italy last week. He stated on Saturday that "I am leaving Sepang feeling happy, because we've made a good start. We finished everything we wanted to do on the bike and the setting and the rhythm is quite good. My injuries are getting better each day because they're only cuts and they're healing fast. For sure we need to improve some more but since this year we have less testing, this performance has been very important."

Third fastest over the three days was Suzuki's Italian veteran Loris Capirossi who looked immediately more comfortable on his significantly remodeled 800cc prototype than with last year's machine. With Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards and San Carlo Honda Gresini's Toni Elias - on his factory spec 2009 RC212V- just behind Capirossi on the timesheets there was representation from four different manufacturers in the top five.

Capirossi's team-mate Chris Vermeulen was sixth in the combined three-day standings, whilst the early-departing Pedrosa was seventh overall courtesy of his best lap from the second day. The Repsol Honda rider left Malaysia 24 hours earlier than expected citing a lack of complete recovery from a knee injury which required surgery before Christmas.

The final Sepang top ten was completed by a trio of 250cc graduates, 2008 rookies Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha) and Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and 2009 newcomer Mika Kallio (Pramac Racing).

Next on the timesheet was Nicky Hayden who continued his adaptation to the Desmosedici GP9 and Bridgestone tyres, riding for the first time in full Ducati Marlboro colours.

The American still has some catching up to do with his friend and teammate Stoner, having lapped 1.454s slower, and explained on Saturday that "Obviously I'm not happy with my lap times, I was expecting more from myself, but I have to stay positive. I've improved my lap times every day and we have gathered a lot of data to work from in the next test. The fact Casey is already so fast means that the bike has the potential - it can only be a good thing that he is going so quick."

Another high profile Ducati rider, returning hero Sete Gibernau, was also lower down the timesheets than he would have hoped, on his Guinea Ecuatorial team satellite machinery. Having finished thirteenth the former World Championship runner-up will be looking for improvements at the next MotoGP test which takes place on 1st-3rd March, under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.

Casey Stoner
Valentino Rossi
Loris Capirossi