Monday, February 09, 2009

MotoGP: Stoner Sizzles at Sepang Test

The 3 day MotoGP test at Sepang ended with Casey Stoner top of the heap, even though his wrist is still recovering from an operation, which limited him to 3-lap runs. Pretty impressive stuff from the Aussie, although he really could have done with some long runs and race simulations to help him understand how the new Bridgestone control tyres will perform as a race goes on.

Valentino Rossi was second, and he too was riding crocked after sustaining injuries to his left hand and foot after supposedly falling through a glass coffee table when closing the curtains. The Italian superstar isn't going to let a comedy slapstick injury and dubious cover story slow him down.

Little Dani Pedrosa headed for the airport a day early because he too is injured, this time with a sore knee. He'll be tucked up in bed with his teddy bear, resting up for the next test.

Loris Capirossi was suspiciously fast on the Suzuki. It seems that Suzuki are always suspiciously fast in testing at Sepang. Of course, Loris is genuinely quick on that track, but it's always hard to tell how fast anyone will really be when the testing stops and the season starts. In other words, I think Suzuki won't be winning many races this year. Hopefully they can carry on this form though, because I'm a fan of the little Italian nutter.

Chris Vermeulen was also quick on the second Suzuki, which points to the bike being quick at Sepang. However, ultimate lap times can be deceiving due to the nature of the track. Some guy on a Ducati can hold you up as he fights the thing round corners, then disappear into the distance on the long straights.

Colin Edwards did well, finishing 4th on the final day. It's a very impressive performance on Bridgestone tyres for the Texan, considering he's been with Michelin for donkeys' years. Of course, Colin's another rider who tests well and races not so well, in MotoGP anyway.

James Toseland make the rookie error of pushing too hard on a cold, hard-compound tyre. The Bridgestone rubber responded to this mistreatment by flipping the Englishman over the high side at 125mph, which Toseland called the biggest crash of his life, even bigger than the one in British Superbike that shattered his femur. Luckily for him, the Sepang track is very modern, and has acres upon acres of tarmac and gravel. Basically, if you fall off at Sepang and there are no other bikes around, there's nothing to hit, so you'll just tumble along for a while then come to a halt. Still, the ground gave JT a good solid whack on the head that left him feeling dazed for the rest of the test, and also hurt some arm muscles that are used particularly under braking (triceps). It was a stupid mistake that cost him valuable testing time, but the lad didn't win 2 WSBK titles by being daft, so he shouldn't do it again. Maybe there's something about Sepang, where he fell off during the race last year for no good reason except pushing too hard.

Toni Elias was quick on the semi-factory Honda, and Andrea Dovizioso was respectably quick on the factory machine, which was pretty good going as the Italian is getting used to the Bridgestone rubber.

Nicky Hayden is another Michelin refugee and a newcomer to Ducati. He was a lot slower than Stoner, though not embarrassingly so (a la Melandri). He is still trying to get used to the Bologna Bullet. Personally, I'm not at all convinced that the current Duke will suit the Kentucky Kid. It's well known that Stoner trusts the electronics and slams the throttle open (now that's what I call confidence), whereas Capirossi and Melandri both hated it as they didn't trust the computers. Hayden is known for his dislike of traction control. I think he would've suited the early 990cc Ducati, which Capirossi wrestled to victories as it bucked and weaved under him. Here's hoping the Kentuckian can get used to the systems of the space age 800cc machine.

Sete Gibernau was slower than Hayden on his Onde 2000 Ducati with its murderous dictator sponsorship package. Boo hoo.

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