Maybe the hardest-working rider in the Moto GP paddock (at least if you go by the number of laps he runs in practice) is 2006 world champion Nicky Hayden.
He kept up that tradition at the ’08 season’s first test in Sepang, Malaysia, and ended up with the fastest time of the three-day test for Honda’s latest Moto GP weapon (albeit using the "conventional" valve spring engine rather than the new pneumatic one for his fastest times).
All the factory teams were there, and the top 10 — including three Moto GP "rookies," although they’re all world champions in other classes — finished within 1.5 seconds of Hayden’s time. While early-season testing times don’t really mean a lot for the bikes, certainly it’s a confidence boost to any rider who does well.
2007 title-holder Casey Stoner was second fastest on his Ducati, although he did a relatively few laps both due to small machine issues and a desire to take it easy on the recovering shoulder he hurt in the last test session of the ’07 year.
Yamahas took the next two spots, with new guy (ex-250 world champ) Jorge Lorenzo just ahead of Colin Edwards. Lorenzo is Rossi’s new factory team-mate, replacing Edwards who has been bumped onto the satellite Tech 3 team, where he’s partnering James Toseland, the 2007 WSB champ.
Another Yamaha was in sixth, that being the 46 bike of Valentino Rossi. Rossi had a big highside on the first day and said that his still-healing right hand was bothering him, but still — Lorenzo took first blood in the intra-team Michelin/Bridgestone rivalry.
New Kawasaki recruit John Hopkins was fifth, ahead of Rossi, and expressed himself as very pleased with the test. In fact, pretty much everyone who was there said they were happy with development — new tires, new engines, new chassis were in evidence for everyone, and with such close times already one can only hope that’s an omen for the season.
The only rider not to go away happy was Hayden’s Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who suffered a broken hand in a high-speed fall on the first day and promptly jetted back to Spain to have it plated. In typical fashion, Pedrosa said, "I think something went wrong with the bike … the mechanics are looking at the data we recorded to see where the bike failed."
MotoGP testing continues at Phillip Island, Australia (January 30/31/February 1), Sepang (February 5/6/7), Jerez, Spain (February 16/17/18), and finally at Losail, Qatar (February 28/29). The 2008 World Championship kicks off at Losail on March 7/8/9 — the Qatar GP will be the first-ever night-time GP with the entire circuit lit by floodlights.
Top 10 times were:
Nicky Nayden, Repsol Honda, 2.00.326
Casey Stoner, Ducati Marlboro, 2.00.660
Jorge Lorenzo, FIat Yamaha, 2.00.766
Colin Edwards, Yamaha Tech 3, 2.01.179
John Hopkins, Kawasaki Racing, 2.01.198
Valentino Rossi, Fiat Yamaha, 2.01.425
Andrea Dovizioso, JiR Team Scot Honda, 2.01.447
James Toseland, Yamaha Tech 3, 2.01.745
Chris Vermeulen, Rizla Suzuki, 2.01.748
Loris Capirossi, Rizla Suzuki, 2.01.778