Dani Pedrosa and his Repsol Honda set fastest times in all three days of the first Moto GP test of the 2013 season.
Ominously for his opponents, he pronounced himself comfortable, insisting he wasn’t trying for times, but rather just testing various things on the new bike.
With lots going on in addition to Pedrosa’s speed, most of the attention was still on Valentino Rossi and his return to the factory Yamaha team.
“The Doctor” himself had said he was nervous beforehand – “I had some doubts. I didn’t know how competitive I could be and at the end of these three days I am a lot more happy and relaxed” – but finishing third-quickest and improving each time out, ending up 1/10th second behind his team-mate Lorenzo and 4/10th behind Pedrosa definitely took a load off his mind.
On the third day Lorenzo put in a blistering race simulation, perhaps the most impressive run of the Sepang test. Although cut short by rain, the defending world champion’s run covered 13 laps, all well below the existing lap record, each lap faster than the one before.
Other happy campers after the test were “rookie” Marc Marquez, moving to the factory Honda team after winning the 2012 Moto 2 title.
The Spaniard was shockingly fast from the first lap, carrying unbelievable lean angles and talking about how much he had to learn while consistently lapping third-fastest overall; Rossi just beat out his time late on the final day to put him into fourth. The kid definitely has got serious parts.
Cal Crutchlow on the Monster Tech 3 satellite Yamaha was fifth overall, and happy with his pace. His bike was basically unchanged from last year, but he said he’d picked up some time with a different braking technique and figured fifth – and only half a second slower than Pedrosa’s best time – put him in a good position for the season.
His new team-mate, fellow Brit Bradley Smith, took eighth overall, a good showing for his first real time on the bike. At that, he was ahead of all the Ducatis, where gloom was the general feeling in the Italian pit.
Nicky Hayden was clearly despondent at being a full two seconds off the pace of the leaders, and in fact Aleix Espargaro, on the Aspar Aprilia CRT bike, was faster than Ducati’s second team riders, Andrea “Crazy Joe” Ianonne and Ben Spies. Spies, still recovering from an off-season operation on his right shoulder, skipped riding on the third day.
In other Moto GP happenings, HRC vice-president Shuhei Nakamoto said that the Honda “production” Moto GP bike was running a little behind schedule but would be ready well in time for the 2014 season, as promised. He said that the bike should be ready for testing at the usual end-of-season test at Valencia, in Spain, and when asked how many bikes would be available, replied, “Five riders. We can make more, but five is a reasonable number I think.”
And lastly, Suzuki is still talking to Dorna about returning in 2014, and in fact has signed Randy de Puniet as their official test rider. The Frenchman is again teamed with Espargaro on the Aspar Aprilia CRT team, and it’s expected that Aspar is likely to be the team Suzuki will be affiliated with on their return.