Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo topped the timesheets on Day One at Sepang.
Ducati's Valentino Rossi was definitely happy with the first day's run on the new factory GP12.
Nicky Hayden was able to get some laps in despite his injured shoulder, although it was keeping him from riding at a pace that it needs to be ridden at.
Yamaha's Ben Spies was taking his time getting up to speed after not being on a motorcycle for three months. He ended up fourth quickest after the first day.
Colin Edwards posted this photo on his twitter page showing the latest version of the Forward Racing CRT machine that unfortunately wasn't running due to electrical problems.
SEPANG, MALAYSIA, JAN 31 – “Sono contento,” Ducati Marlboro’s Valentino Rossi said, and you don’t have to be a linguistics professor to know what it meant. Rossi was happy after a successful test of the new Desmosedici on a sultry Tuesday at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia. Rossi was also happy because he wasn’t 1.5 seconds behind, as he’d been for much of the 2011 season, but half that with the expectation that the gap could be closed even farther. This was, after all, the first day of the new season and also the first day of the newest iteration of the Desmosedici with the aluminum perimeter frame that allows for much more adjustability than the previous frameless chassis.
Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo went to the top of the time charts early on a hot, muggy day and stayed there. Like all the other riders, Lorenzo spent most of the morning in his pit box waiting for the track to dry from overnight and morning showers. The time that he put up made him unassailable and the only rider to approach him was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, and his charge wasn’t threatening. Pedrosa finished .346 seconds off Lorenzo’s time, with Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow an encouraging third, one better than Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies. Then came Rossi.
“We have good feeling with the new bike,” Rossi said. “From the beginning we improve in a lot of different areas where last year with the old bike we struggled a lot. We have work to do, for sure; on the bike, on the engine, on the electronics. We are 0.7 from the top. Is half than in Malaysia. And especially we are not very far from (Ben) Spies and (Cal) Crutchlow. Yeah, we need to work, but the base is a lot better and I feel good on the bike, also the position. I have fun to ride, so is a good first day.”
Where the team needs to concentrate is “acceleration,” Rossi said. “In acceleration the bike remain a bit difficult, but braking, handling, turning, where last year was very bad, we improve a lot, so Ducati has made a very good job. The bike is beautiful and they make a hard job in a short time, and we have just 40 laps. So we have a lot to do.
“We are already half away compared to last year. The distance is 0.7 compared to (Jorge) Lorenzo that make a very good lap and I am so happy, especially because we fix a lot of problems that in all of the 2011 season we were not able to improve. Braking, entry and agility, the bike is a lot better and Ducati, they do a great job in a short time. And now, you know, is just the first day and we have to work a lot. I think that in acceleration the bike remains a bit too difficult and unstable. I think it is engine, electronic system and a little bit the chassis. But we can do I think, we can be competitive, I think.”
Asked what his target for the season was, he replied, “I don't have a real target. So, compared to last year we have to try to fight for the podium before that think to win or fight for the championship, so we are far. For sure, Honda and Yamaha are very good and their riders are fast, so the work is hard. So for me, what I expect from this test, I'm very happy if at the end of the third day we take one second or a little bit less than one second. So today we are 0.7 and now we have to wait the next two days. And especially is very important to understand the lap time.”
Nicky Hayden, Rossi’s teammate was also “content” with his first day riding the GP12, though unable to give it a proper shakedown. Hayden was still recovering from the broken scapula, wrist, and ribs he suffered in a fall at an indoor dirt track over the holidays. The pain and discomfort kept him from being able to ride the bike at the speed at which it needs to be ridden and he wasn’t sure how he’d feel in the morning.
“It was nice to be back with the team and back on a motorcycle,” he said. “But I struggled more with my shoulder than I expected. My wrist was fine, my ribs were fine and even the scapula, the bone I broke in the shoulder wasn’t bothering me at all. Which, just deep in the joint I had quite a bit of discomfort and not a lot of strength, especially after a lap or two, so that wasn’t great.
“But the new bike, definitely, I like points of it. But, you know, it’s the first time I’m really being back on the 1000. I missed Valencia. So I have a lot of work to do to understand the bike. The front feels good. The rear, I need to adjust something, find a bit more traction and the electronics. So nonetheless I was happy to be here and happy to ride. When I first got hurt, I wasn’t even sure I would be here, so definitely got something out of it.”
He continued. “I would always like to be closer and make more progress. I’m definitely learning more than I would be if I was at home. Considering everything, it’s good to be here and at least we’re getting some information. So we don’t want to go crazy until I’m a little bit faster. We can’t learn too much. We did a few small little steps, but everything very clear and very precise, so wasn’t a lot of laps or a lot of exits to really learn much, but we definitely got some data and let me get a feel for some stuff.”
Hayden echoed many of Rossi’s comments about the improvements in the Ducati. He said the braking and turning were good, as was the feedback from the front. “But, of course, it’s only the first day on a brand new bike, so we need to understand more, especially with the electronics. I have a lot of work to do there.”
Spies said it was fun to ride again for the first time since narrowly losing the Valencia Grand Prix to Casey Stoner.
“Haven’t, in all honesty, I have not ridden a motorcycle since Valencia,” he said. “Like not a dirt bike, not a scooter, not anything, so it took a little bit to get used to twisting the throttle again.
“You know it didn’t take too long to get back up to speed, but it was good to be back on the bike. And didn’t really change the bike too much today. We just kind of fiddled with a few things that we’ll kind of go in the direction for tomorrow. But today was mainly just kinda to get some rubber down on the track, get my head back up to speed. And, you know, we got three days of testing here and two months till the first race, so didn’t want to do, honestly, too much the first day, because there’s going to be muscles sore that haven’t been touched in three months, so I didn’t want to overdo it completely. And you know, we’re happy with how the day went. We didn’t get out of hand, didn’t go over the limit, but got back up to speed nice and had fun. We’ve got another engine to test, some swingarm stuff, a lot of stuff to test, and obviously always messing with electronics, plenty of stuff to keep me busy for two days, that’s for sure. And then we have even more coming for the second test, so I’m excited about it.”
Stoner unfortunately ended his first day before it even got started. While doing some stretching to warm up his body prior the first session, the new World Champion suddenly aggravated an old back injury that nearly left him stranded in the Repsol Honda rider’s dressing room. “I was in my cabin basically stretching this morning, you know, I was stretching for a good 20 minutes. And then all of a sudden as I went into another stretch, my back just completely went on me, just completely locked up. Couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything, and nobody was in or around anywhere, so I couldn’t get anybody’s attention.”
“I just managed to reach my phone, and called someone to help me move into a position where I could actually get out of the pain,” admitted a somewhat embarrassed Stoner. “We’ve done a bit of physio on that today, and tried to get it better by this afternoon, but unfortunately it’s just sort of not coming good enough. I think I could probably get out on the bike by this afternoon, but we’re all pretty sure it’s only going to make it worse for tomorrow.” Stoner did try to ride in the afternoon, but was only able to complete four laps before pulling in. “We’ve got two more days of testing, today hasn’t been a great day for anyone testing-wise; it was wet this morning, and it looks like it could rain again. Things just haven’t gone perfectly, so we’re just going to have to start again tomorrow and catch up. I’m sure overnight everything should come good again and then we’ll be right for the morning.”
Colin Edwards was the quickest of the CRT machines at 2:08.240, but the time wasn’t representative since the Forward Racing Team’s new bike configured to run with the latest Bridgestone spec tires ran into electrical troubles and wouldn’t start, forcing Edwards to ride the old bike for Day One. Unfortunately, the old bike used a chassis that wasn’t compatible with the new tires. “We ran into a dilemma this morning. We had a couple of issues, just a little electrical thing, just trying to figure it out,” said Edwards of the problems with the latest Forward Racing machine. “We’ve got a major chatter problem at the moment,” he said of Day One’s testing. “It’s the same bike we had at Jerez, and we had chatter there with the new rear Bridgestone, so we got here, and yeah, major…I can’t even lean the thing over as much as I want, I feel like I need 10 more degrees of lean angle. We’re playing around with suspension stuff, but at the end of the day, we have a brand new bike sitting over there. Chassis is completely different, swingarm’s different, engine’s different…but that one’s not running. We gotta get that one running. We get it running, and then we’ll have the next two days on it, solid.”