It wasn’t a great shock to anyone that a Honda was the fastest bike at Moto GP’s first official test of the 2011 season at the Sepang track in Malaysia. In fact, Hondas were fastest on all three days.
What was a surprise was that the fastest of the Honda riders wasn’t one of the highly touted factory riders, but rather Marco Simoncelli, the guy who can barely get his helmet on over his wacky, bushy hair.
Riding again for the San Carlo Honda Gresini team, Simoncelli was fastest on the third day after Repsol factory guys Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner topped the lists the first two days. HRC said before the season started that the satellite team would be getting full factory bikes – who believes that, right? Maybe they really meant it this time.
Simoncelli finished a tenth of a second ahead of new Honda guy Casey Stoner, while 2010 world champion Jorge Lorenzo was third on a factory-coloured Yamaha – the team has yet to sign a title sponsor for the season. Fourth was Andrea Dovizioso, the third Repsol Honda rider, while Ben Spies took the second factory Yamaha to fifth.
The much-awaited debut of Valentino Rossi on the Ducati Desmosedici didn’t deliver any fantastic times, with Nicky Hayden eighth and Rossi 10th. Still, both riders professed themselves happy enough with the test, Rossi in particular pleased that his healing shoulder hindered him less than he feared it would.
"I’m really happy with my shoulder because it’s improving day-by-day,” said the Italian, “and even after the stress of having ridden a MotoGP bike at the limit, I don’t have any problems: now it’s just a question of strength.”
Suzuki didn’t have a great test, as rider Alvaro Bautista succumbed to some sort of stomach virus, bad enough that he threw up in his helmet before passing on the remainder of the test. He was comfortably in the top 10 before having to quit.
In other Suzuki news, team manager Paul Denning, who also runs the Crescent Suzuki British Superbike team that recently hired ex-GP ace John Hopkins, hinted coyly that Moto GP might be in Hopkins’ future again. It would have to be as a wild card only, since Suzuki is only committed to one bike this year. Interesting, nevertheless.
The teams will be back at Sepang February 22-24, and a month later they’ll meet at the Losail Circuit in Qatar for the season opener.