New to here

Tickets purchase
VideoPass purchase

Highs and lows for MotoGP teams on first day at Sepang

Highs and lows for MotoGP teams on first day at Sepang

Highs and lows for MotoGP teams on first day at Sepang

With around 25 assorted riders, including testers, at the track, it needs no confirming that the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia is a hectic place to be this week. Six different factory teams (Honda, Yamaha, Ducati, Aprilia, Suzuki and Kawasaki) plus the satellite outfits mean that riders are constantly in and out of the pit-lane. Add to that the new paint schemes and rider/machine combinations, and it took most of the first day to work out who was riding where and for whom.

After everybody had begun thinking that Valentino Rossi had turned over a new leaf during his first Yamaha test last month - at the track around 9am, and starting to lap not long after - his second test for Yamaha has now come around, and fans (as well as sleep-hungry journalists) will be glad to see that the Italian has slipped back easily into the old routine.

Breezing into the circuit at around ten o'clock, work began a little later for Rossi and his team today, but it seems that his laid-back nature hasn't quite rubbed off on his Yamaha technicians just yet, with modifications on the machine continuing since last month's surprisingly sharp debut.

With his shoulder problems still on his mind, Alex Barros finally put in some gentle first laps on the Repsol Honda, although those who were at the track early saw Tohru Ukawa seemingly ‘warming-up' the number 4 RC211V for the Brazilian. Ukawa, now relegated to factory tester, had to spend most of the day in the stands with a stopwatch, while a tentative Barros and team-mate Nicky Hayden got their first feel of the 2004 Honda, complete with improved rear suspension linkage.

Meanwhile in a discussion with journalists Honda Racing Development Manager Suguru Kanazawa confirmed that the works Repsol Honda team would always be trying any ‘new' parts first, but dependent on the factory's ability to produce the new pieces, all six Honda riders would be using them. "This season is very important for Honda, because unfortunately Mr. Rossi moved to Yamaha," commented Mr Kanazawa.

"Everybody in the MotoGP family is obviously very excited about this, but unfortunately at Honda it means we have to improve our machine's performance, that is why I am here at the tests. Our aim is not to look at our rivals performance though, but to better our own times from last year's races as a whole by around two to five percent."

Riding one of those six Hondas, Max Biaggi was the fastest rider on track today, with a time of 2'02.693 set on his last lap out on track. He was closely followed by Colin Edwards, Rossi and Sete Gibernau. Loris Capirossi showed off his new Ducati D16 GP4 for the first time in full livery, setting a fifth fastest time, with Nicky Hayden sixth.

Makoto Tamada was seventh fastest sporting Camel Honda kit for the first time and felt he could have gone faster had it not been for a morning setback. The Japanese hope scuffed his brand new yellow leathers after a crash, mangling his bike and denying himself the chance to improve his time. There was another more damaging crash for Kenny Roberts Jr. It seems as though the 2000 500cc World Champion will not ride again at this test, after an incident at the end of the back straight.

Passing Britain's Jeremy McWilliams on the inside, a rear tyre problem threw the American into the gravel, thankfully narrowly missing McWilliams and a seriously dangerous incident on the way. Later, x-rays found a separation in Roberts' collarbone, although whether this is a new separation, or simply the old injury he suffered last year in Mugello remains to be seen. He will definitely not ride tomorrow, and is a doubt for Friday, with the team looking more towards their test at Phillip Island in just over a week's time.

Suzuki had already brought in Spaniard Gregorio Lavilla to take the place of John Hopkins after his injuries at an American Supercross celebrity race, and now it looks as though just Lavilla and test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi will complete the session here.

The following are the times released so far by the teams:

Max Biaggi (Honda) 2'02.693
Colin Edwards (Honda) 2'02.939
Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 2'03.1
Sete Gibernau (Honda) 2'03.121
Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 2'03.883
Nicky Hayden (Honda) 2'03.915
Makoto Tamada (Honda) 2'04.072
Troy Bayliss (Ducati) 2'04.208
Carlos Checa (Yamaha) 2'04.5
Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki) 2'04.906
Alex Hofmann (Kawasaki) 2'05.506
Marco Melandri (Yamaha) 2'05.6
Alex Barros (Honda) 2'05.980
Norick Abe (Yamaha) 2'06.35
Neil Hodgson (Ducati) 2'06.948
Ruben Xaus (Ducati) 2'07.024

MotoGP, 2003

Other updates you may be interested in ›