Valentino Rossi dominates Sepang test

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Reigning world champion Valentino Rossi struck a massive early psychological blow against his MotoGP rivals with a dominant performance at the two-day Sepang test.
Rossi ended a rain-hit second day with a best time of 2.00.925 – 0.5s faster than his best time on the opening day – to easily defeat Aussie rival Casey Stoner and Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.

Rossi only completed 32 laps as heavy rain disrupted track time this morning and late afternoon but he finished 0.395s clear of 2007 world champion Stoner on the factory Ducati GP10.

The Italian, who turns 31 later this month, said: “After yesterday this second day has been very good as well, even though we lost a few hours to the rain, and the end we were still able to finish all our work. We worked on the new bike to find a better setting and I was happy to be the fastest overall - even though this is just testing this is important for me! At the next test we will have a few more new things but we're already happy because we're fast and strong. There is room to improve of course; Sepang is always a good track for the Yamaha so we will have to wait until Qatar to get a better understanding of our level, but we have made a great start."
Stoner’s best time of 2.01.320 helped him secure second by 0.360s from Spaniard Lorenzo.

Lorenzo, who was runner-up behind Rossi in 2009, had been woefully out of sorts yesterday and while able to show more of his true potential today, he was still 0.755s adrift of seven-times world champion Rossi.

The 22-year-old said: “"I felt much better today and I was able to be fast straight away. It wasn't a big problem yesterday, it's just that after such a long break I forget how to ride a little bit! I need a bit of time, but it was much better today. I'm happy about my performance and about my feeling with the new bike. Yamaha have made good improvements without changing the best parts of the bike and this is the best way. They have made some good modifications to the chassis and the engine and this has already improved our pace. We don't have many days on the bike until the start of the season so we will make the most of the time here next month to continue our good work."

Dani Pedrosa was fourth quickest on the factory Honda RC212V but he was almost 0.9s off Rossi’s blistering pace, which was only 0.5s off his 2009 pole position record.

Ben Spies was still feeling below his best after suffering from a chronic bout of jetlag, but he recovered sufficiently today to clock the fifth best time with a lap of 2.02.266.

The reigning World Superbike champion said: “I rode as good and as hard as I could considering how I’ve been feeling. I’m not wanting to make any excuses but I didn’t feel really good with the jetlag. It was still a good test because I learned a lot about improving my riding and adapting my style to suit the Yamaha MotoGP bike.

"It is hard to break some of my old superbike habits at the moment but I made some big improvements in a couple of places on the track where I was really struggling, particularly in the braking. It started to feel more natural today and I got down to some decent times on race tyres. I was a second faster than the first day, so we made some good progress but this is a really difficult track to learn. This track is really long and really wide but I got to a respectable pace. I’ve said it a load of times but it’s a learning process and every lap I’m learning.”

Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team-mate Colin Edwards was two places further adrift in seventh with Andrea Dovizioso clocking the sixth quickest time.
It was another shocking day for former 250GP world champion Marco Simoncelli on the San Carlo Gresini Honda. The Italian was fortunate to escape injury when he suffered a massive high-speed high-side at Turn 4 this afternoon.

It was the same corner where British rider James Toseland suffered a vicious 125mph on the opening day of testing a year ago and Simoncelli suffered grazes to his left arm and hip. His RC212V though was badly damaged in the crash and he ended with the 15th best time. A 2.03.245 left him over two seconds off the pace.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt