Stoner still tops, but …

Stoner on his 1000 cc Honda during testing
Stoner on his 1000 cc Honda during testing at the Sepang circuit.

While Casey Stoner and his new 1,000 cc Honda still look well in control of this year’s Moto GP field after the second official test of the season (again held at the Malaysian Sepang circuit), his lead isn’t as great as it appeared at the first test.

The first five riders clocked times within half a second of each other, and two of those bikes were satellite teams. Andrea Dovizioso in particular was impressive. Still coming off a shoulder injury in training, he was third overall behind the Repsol Hondas of Stoner and Dani Pedrosa. He was a tick ahead of lead Yamaha factory rider Jorge Lorenzo, and the second Tech 3 rider Cal Crutchlow was right on Lorenzo’s tail.

The next five riders were grouped within the next half-second, including two Ducatis. Unfortunately for the factory team, the fastest one was Hector Barbera on the Pramac bike; the best that Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden could do with the factory bikes was 10th and 11th. Being a second off the lead isn’t going to make for a fun season for either of these seasoned world champions or for the Ducati team.

The CRT bikes are still well off the pace of the factory prototypes, although the distance has closed dramatically since the first test. From being 5+ seconds slower, Colin Edwards got his Forward Racing Suter/BMW within three seconds of Stoner’s best time, while in Spain on the same weekend Randy de Puniet was as quick as the satellite Ducatis that showed up.

Looking like an interesting season.

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