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MotoGP 2008: The preseason so far

MotoGP 2008: The preseason so far

The conclusion of the MotoGP testing embargo on Sunday January 20th signalled the beginning of what has been an intriguing 2008 preseason, in which the 18 full-time premier class riders showed their skills across three testing events.

The conclusion of the MotoGP testing embargo on Sunday January 20th signalled the beginning of what has been an intriguing 2008 preseason, in which the 18 full-time premier class riders showed their skills across three testing events.

Sepang: January 22nd-24th

Day One

Two days after the embargo was lifted, the entire MotoGP grid emerged from their respective garages in Sepang for the opening test of the year, with new parts, machines and paint schemes on display. Closing the first day at the head of the timesheets was LCR Hondas Randy de Puniet, riding with the 2007 RC212V engine combined with a new chassis.

Despite his starring role on the first days timesheets, the Frenchman was not the man making the headlines at the Malaysian track. Repsol Hondas Dani Pedrosa, who missed the previous preseason test in Sepang, was instead the focal point of the day owing to a pair of crashes. The 2007 World Championship runner-up was taken to hospital with a suspected broken hand, an injury that was confirmed upon his return to Barcelona, and to date that single day in the Asian heat has been Pedrosas only on-track experience in 2008.

Novelties that immediately stood out on the first day of 2008 testing were the changes in numbers for Casey Stoner, Chris Vermeulen and Alex de Angelis. The Australian pairing were displaying the number 1 and 7 respectively, with the former taking up the option to commemorate his winning the 2007 MotoGP World Champion and the latter paying tribute to mentor and former champion Barry Sheene. De Angelis made an unexpected switch to number 15, with the two digits adorning his San Carlo Honda Gresini machine this year.

Day Two

De Puniet was also the fastest rider on day two in the intense Malaysian heat, running a faster pace in a race simulation than that of 2007 race winner Stoner, who was unable to do an extended run of his own after experiencing a small clutch problem. Stoner and Ducati team-mate Marco Melandri had previously experienced electrical problems with the Desmosedici GP8 on day one that kept them in the garage until midday on the 22nd.

Day two was a positive one for Yamaha, with their satellite rider Colin Edwards the second fastest with a hybrid engine provided by the Japanese factory. The Texas Tornado had started from scratch in terms of settings at a previous test in Sepang, something that paid dividends with a quickest lap set without the aid of Michelin qualifying tyres.

Third fastest was Valentino Rossi, the only Yamaha rider on a Bridgestone-shod M1, and he used the pneumatic valve engine intended for 2008 over all three days in Malaysia. Newcomer Jorge Lorenzo was also on the pace as fourth fastest, whilst rookie James Toseland continued his progress on the Tech 3 machine.

Day Three

It was 2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden who had the last word at the first test of the year, back with the 69 plate after his title defending season. The fastest time of the week, a 200.326 lap, was undertaken by Trick Daddy as the sole Repsol Honda representative for the final two days. Needless to say, Hayden was also the rider with the most laps to his name, with a colossal 77.

Behind the American, Casey Stoner was the second quickest over the course of a 27 lap stint that didnt see the Ducati factory rider stay long after 12pm. Lorenzo and Edwards continued to impress, whilst Kawasakis John Hopkins put himself amongst the top five by cutting nearly a second off his previous best time with the Ninja ZX-RR.

Kawasakis test riders Tamaki Serizawa and Olivier Jacque tried out a secretly developed screamer engine on the final day, whilst Suzuki gave Kousuke Akiyoshi and Nobuatsu Aoki their first rides of the year with the GSV-R.

Phillip Island: January 30th-February 1st

Day One

Colin Edwards development of Michelin tyres paid off as 15 of the 18 regular riders moved on to Australia, with the veteran using qualifying rubber for a 129.566 lap faster than any other participant. Elsewhere, Casey Stoner was finally able to undertake the elusive first race simulation with the Desmosedici GP8, and recorded the second fastest lap of the day on the last of 73 laps.

With Jorge Lorenzo (and Fiat Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi) absent from the Australian visit, the MotoGP rookie lineup was reduced to three at Phillip Island. Honda satellite riders Alex de Angelis and Andrea Dovizioso were joined by James Toseland in the top five on a fine day for this years debutantes.

Day Two

The first appearance of rain at the scene of MotoGP testing came on day two in Phillip Island. Far from hindering the work of the riders and teams, the precipitation provided a welcome opportunity to try out wet weather settings and tyres.

However, some riders had better fortune than others under the cloudy Australian skies. Home rider Casey Stoner topped the timesheets with a lap nearly half a second slower than Colin Edwards test opener, whilst John Hopkins suffered a groin injury in a crash that caused him to miss the final session.

De Angelis and Dovizioso once again featured in the top five, joined for the first time amongst the frontrunners by fellow Honda satellite rider Shinya Nakano.

Day Three

Casey Stoner concluded the Phillip Island test with a 128.777 lap of his home circuit, unmatched by the other riders. Nearly a second faster than second quickest competitor Nicky Hayden, the Australian erased any doubts about his fitness after a late 2007 shoulder injury.

Hayden himself was on qualifying tyres for his fastest time, although he expressed his concern with the lack of a defined race setup. Reverting to the conventional engine after previous outings with Hondas pneumatic valve development, the American was still searching for some consistently fast pace before the start of the season.

Sepang: February 6th-7th

Day One

Just five regular riders were in action at the most recent test in 2008, with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo returning to action after their skipping the Phillip Island date. They joined Nicky Hayden, Alex de Angelis and Shinya Nakano for three further days on track in Sepang.

Rossi opened proceedings with a 200.300 lap, one that remained unchallenged over the course of the test. The opening day was extended to make up for a late start, necessary due to moisture on the track.

Day Two

A late crash on day one didnt seem to have overly affected Nicky Hayden, as he once again added to his preseason miles with 90 laps on the second day in Malaysia. He trailed Rossi, who once again used Bridgestone qualifying tyres for a late hot lap to top the timesheets.

In something of a rarity at preseason testing in Sepang, there were no crashes on the second day of the second test.

Day Three

The five rider field present at the test was further depleted by the early departure of Nicky Hayden, who packed his bags for a break at home after the second day of action. This left Jorge Lorenzo as the only Michelin rider on track, and he didnt let the French tyre manufacturer down with the fastest lap of the day.

Lorenzo aborted a race simulation after just five laps, putting a dampener on his day, but his quickest time still allowed him to relegate Rossi to second. The Fiat Yamaha duo concluded the visit to Sepang ahead of Shinya Nakano and Alex de Angelis, the only other riders to stay on for the final day.

Crash photo courtesy of Shigeo Kibiki

Tags:
MotoGP, 2008

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