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Lorenzo heads penultimate pre-season MotoGP™ test

Lorenzo heads penultimate pre-season MotoGP™ test

MotoGP™ World Champion Jorge Lorenzo led the way in this week’s test session at Sepang. Despite falling behind Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez on Thursday, the Yamaha Factory Racing rider had already delivered his fastest ever lap in Malaysia. Britain’s Cal Crutchlow finished fourth.

As with the previous Sepang gathering of three weeks earlier, the weather played a part as rain rooted riders to their garages at some points. The same could be said for Thursday morning, when more typically heavy showers overnight resulted in a saturated track and effectively wiped out the first 90 minutes of running time.

Today it was Pedrosa atop the timesheets with a personal best of 2’00.562, meaning he has led five of the six pre-season days in Malaysia this year. The best overall tour was an impressive one from Lorenzo, with the Mallorcan managing to dip under the official lap record with his endeavour of 2’00.282 during a three-lap run on Wednesday. On the final day he had hoped for a long run and managed a particularly consistent 20-lap stint in which he appeared to make only one mistake. During the day both the medium and soft rear compound tyres were used by the Yamaha. For the record, Pedrosa had delivered a 2’00.100 lap time earlier in the month. Crutchlow was more frustrated and did not improve his best lap time on Thursday, complaining that he and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 had no new components to scrutinise.

The test saw teams combining long, race simulation stints – which came on Thursday – with shorter bursts which served both as qualifying models and, for some, new component development. Márquez continued to impress, with the Honda rookie and current Moto2™ title holder managing third place overall while continuing to adapt to the Bridgestone tyres and suspension settings.

Valentino Rossi had aimed to match teammate Lorenzo’s race pace upon his high-profile return to Yamaha. At times he appeared somewhat agitated in his garage, as the seven-time premier class champion finished fifth overall from the GO&FUN Honda Gresini of Álvaro Bautista and LCR Honda MotoGP of Stefan Bradl. Bautista managed his sole long run on Thursday afternoon, although at the time there was apprehension as yet more rain was forecast to hit Sepang. German Bradl proved to be one to watch on the final day, ending proceedings in seventh position but having placed fourth for much of the day.

The top ten was completed by Crutchlow’s teammate Bradley Smith, who has impressed across the three days while focussing on his general riding style and braking technique in particular; the Oxford man suffered a small incident on Tuesday but, like all fallers during the test, walked away unharmed.

Ducati Team continued to make progress, beginning the week with new fuel tanks. On the final day, no long runs took place but instead a continuation of evaluating general settings and bike setups. Andrea Dovizioso left the pits on an all-black liveried new chassis and ended the day with much-improved pace – four tenths up on teammate Nicky Hayden and the greatly reduced margin of one second off the leading pace. For most of the laps available, not least on Days 1 and 2, test rider Michele Pirro – who crashed just before today’s mid-day point - had himself racked up mileage with a new chassis.

Andrea Iannone continued to adapt to his Energy T.I. Pramac Racing Team machine, ending up in the 11th position he is becoming accustomed to. On Wednesday, the Italian was delighted with his team’s progress as the gap had closed to the Ducati Team bikes Hayden and Dovizioso. Ben Spies was not quite so comfortable, still aggravated by lingering shoulder injury; the American ended the test half a second down on his teammate.

Power Electronics Aspar continued to throw down the gauntlet for CRT stakes, with Randy de Puniet posting a late faster lap than reigning class champion Aleix Espargaró on Thursday. Their nearest challengers would appear to be Avintia Blusens, whose own attack is spearheaded by Héctor Barberá - at this stage quicker than teammate Hiroshi Aoyama. They were joined in the midfield across the trio of days by Yamaha test riders Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Wataru Yoshikawa plus Honda counterpart Takumi Takahashi, all of which ran different programmes to their race teammates.

Paul Bird Motorsport’s trip to Sepang has been characterized by frequent trips to the pit lane, not least for Michael Laverty who completed a shakedown run for the in-house built PBM bike. The Northern Irishman, who joins MotoGP this year from the British Superbike Championship, managed no laps on the first day but an overall total of 43 as Colombian teammate Yonny Hernández lapped on more established ART equipment. Surprisingly, it was the former who produced the quickest general lap time as Laverty reached as high as 22nd place on Thursday, although it should be stressed that Hernández is carrying a shoulder injury.

Colin Edwards turned 39 on Wednesday as NGM Mobile Forward Racing resumed their pre-season duties, having traded in a Suter BMW for an FTR Kawasaki for 2013. Czech newcomer Lukáš Pešek moved up the order for Came IodaRacing Project, ending Thursday 23rd and ahead of teammate Danilo Petrucci who had suffered a harmless crash in the morning; both are still running 2012 engines. Pešek’s compatriot Karel Abraham, who has converted from a MotoGP prototype to CRT entry for this season, finished 20th overall for Cardion AB Motoracing, with second NGM contender Claudio Corti 27th. The field was completed by Gresini’s second bike, in CRT form, of Australian debutant Bryan Staring who admits that he is yet to fully adapt to his motorcycle.

The fourth and final official pre-season test ahead of the 2013 MotoGP™ campaign will take place at Jerez in Spain from 23-25 March.

See individual day and combined times for this week’s Sepang test.

MotoGP, 2013

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