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Competition heats up on final day at Sepang

Competition heats up on final day at Sepang

Competition heats up on final day at Sepang

The heavy overnight rain had left various damp sections on the track when the HRC and Ducati riders arrived for their final day of testing at Sepang on Wednesday. Although the sun was breaking through the patchy clouds - enough to allow Valentino Rossi a chance to top up his tan - the humidity in Malaysia meant the track was not fully dry until well after lunch. However all the riders made up for the delay as they rode solidly throughout the afternoon, with most of them even staying out till the red lights were switched on at the end of the pit lane at six o´clock.

The last ten minutes of the session lit up the entire three days, with what seemed like a qualifying practice as almost all the riders went out in quick bursts to set fast laps. Ultimately it evolved into a duel between the freshly sun-tanned Rossi and his great rival Biaggi, with the latter breaking the 2´03 barrier with seconds to go of the test, only for the World Champion to play his trump card and better his time by a couple of tenths of a second. These new fast laps represent a massive improvement on when the bikes were last here in October, and Rossi himself was surprised by this advance.

`I thought that times would get quicker over the season, but not so soon!´ laughed the World Champion, who worked on evaluating the performance of the RC211V under braking whilst his rookie team-mate Nicky Hayden concentrated on learning the circuit. `Although myself and Biaggi set very good times here, also Capirossi, Kato and Barros in Jerez are doing very well also. This promises to be a fantastic year for MotoGP. It has been a good three days and for me the best part is to understand the problems we have had in braking. We got some good settings yesterday and today we have found some good Michelin tyres. The grip on the edge has always been a problem but today we have the tyres and the settings to get good grip on the edge. ´

Rossi´s Japanese factory colleague Daijiro Kato had been setting the pace for much of the test but even he wasn´t able to keep pace with the Italian pair in that frantic final flourish. `I wanted to go for a good time in the last hour, but I still had to work on four sets of new Michelin tyres, both rear and front pairs,´ explained Kato. `When I got to the last set of tyres I was going to go for it, and try and put in a quick lap, but this last pair weren't as good as the previous ones. Despite this, we did find out some good tyres, which of course is the most important thing. Valentino and Max were very quick, but I am happy with my performance over the past three days.´

$$$ As soon as conditions permitted the Pramac Honda Team took to the track on the final day concentrating their efforts on tyre testing for Bridgestone. Makoto Tamada and Shinichi Itoh completed a full afternoon of testing confirming the data already collected and testing several sets of tyre combinations. `I am pleased with these three days of tests, even though I still haven´t found the perfect set-up for my bike,´ said Tamada. `I am not worried about it though, because I know my potential and these tests helped me get a better feeling for the bike and adapt it to my aggressive style of braking.´

Meanwhile Ducati´s efforts mainly revolved around the accumulation of data and information for a bike that is still in its development phase and, for Troy Bayliss in particular, who has never seen many of the circuits on the MotoGP calendar. `I´m really happy with the tests and in particular with today's results,´ declared Bayliss. `I can see a constant improvement and being quicker than the first day by 2.5 seconds is confirmation of that´.

MotoGP, 2003

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