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Second pre-season chapter to unfold at Sepang

Second pre-season chapter to unfold at Sepang

The Malaysian circuit will host the second of the three pre-season Tests of 2011 next week, as the start of the season moves ever closer.

Just under three weeks after its previous appointment at the Sepang International Circuit the MotoGP class returns to the site of the penultimate round of the 2011 World Championship, as the 17 riders that will make up the grid for the forthcoming campaign continue their pre-season preparations in Malaysia.

The Test commences on Tuesday and those present will once again tackle the heat and humidity that are so strongly associated with the circuit, just one of the many challenges to be faced across the three days by defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo and his growing number of title rivals.

There will be plenty of points of interest at this midway point of the pre-season Testing schedule, but one which was perhaps not envisaged prior to the opening Test was that Marco Simoncelli would arrive at the second meeting as the man to beat. The Italian, entering his second season in the premier class in 2011, was outstanding in setting the best time of 2’00.757 last time out, leading a group of Honda machines (his San Carlo Gresini RC212V was one of five inside the top seven on the timesheet) and getting within 0.239s of Valentino Rossi’s 2009 circuit lap record.

Consolidating the RC212V’s early-season form were Repsol Honda duo Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner, the former dispelling any doubts that his collarbone surgery towards the end of 2010 would hamper his pre-season whilst Stoner’s adaptation to the Honda continued to go from strength to strength in his second ride of it. The pair will of course aim for improvements of the same manner once more in Malaysia, as will their Italian colleague Andrea Dovizioso and Simoncelli’s team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama.

Lorenzo, who was just 0.088s off Simoncelli’s pace, will aim to reel in his rivals as he works hard to set his M1 further on the way to optimum level, and alongside Yamaha Factory Racing team-mate Ben Spies will be hard at work to ensure the prototype makes significant further advances. Both will also be attendees at the official presentation of the team’s 2011 livery on Monday.

Sepang “Two” will also provide Rossi with a vital next examination of his recovering shoulder, as well as his progress on the Desmosedici GP11. The Ducati Team rider was outside the top ten at the start of the month, fractionally over a second off the top time, but there were no signs of panic and the Italian will maintain his steady adjustment to the bike in a bid to be as best prepared as possible and with another Test in Qatar still to go.

Rossi’s team-mate Nicky Hayden was the best performing Ducati just over a fortnight ago, and the American’s determination to push on will surely see him take another step forward with the GP11. Mapfre Aspar’s Héctor Barberá, Pramac pair Loris Capirossi and Randy de Puniet, and rookie Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) will all also hope to see significant benefits from the three days of hard work on their respective Ducatis.

Álvaro Bautista will carry on with his task of bringing along the GSV-R for his Rizla Suzuki team, and rookie Cal Crutchlow and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team-mate Colin Edwards will pick up where they each left off as the Brit continues his familiarisation with MotoGP machinery. Moto2 World Champion Toni Elías will also be more than eager to see his return to the premier class pick up pace on the LCR Honda.

You can follow’s coverage of the Test, which takes place from February 22nd-24th, through video highlights, interviews and reaction with a VideoPass.

MotoGP, 2011

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