Valentino Rossi fears Honda romp in Malaysia

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Valentino Rossi fears defeating Honda duo Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa in Sunday’s Malaysian MotoGP clash at Sepang will be a thankless task after the Spanish duo dominated the opening day of practice.

Rossi wad fourth quickest in Sepang today but close to a second slower than Pedrosa’s blistering pace of 2.00.554 that saw the Repsol Honda top the timesheets by 0.533s from HRC teammate Marquez.

British rider Cal Crutchlow was the quickest non-Honda in third but he was nearly 0.9s behind Pedrosa, who bounced back superbly from the morale-crushing crash at the Motorland Aragon that severely dented his hopes of capturing a maiden premier class crown.

Italian Rossi, who has won six times in MotoGP at the long and technical Sepang track, was happy with his own performance in practice today but conceded it would be a tough challenge defeating the Honda in Sunday’s 20-lap race.

The 34-year-old said: “I am satisfied this afternoon because we improved the balance of bike and it was better in braking and entry. I gained some rear grip both with a new and old tyre with a better rhythm.

"The problem is the factory Hondas are very, very fast and for sure we have try and not give up and improve but they have an advantage; they are too fast.

"Both Dani and Marc are faster on the rhythm than me.  In recent races Jorge (Lorenzo) was able to beat and fight with the Hondas, so we have to try but it will be very hard."

Asked why it will be such a complex task to beat world championship favourite Marquez and Pedrosa, Rossi added: "It is difficult because they are fast in the straight, they have small riders, they use less fuel and they can give more power to the bike.

"At the same time they can enter the corners faster than us and Marc and Dani are very fast riders. So there are a lot of places where we lose but not a lot of places where we can gain, so it is difficult.

"I think the main advantage they have is with corner entry and braking on the edge. Our bike is fantastic but it has the behaviour of a normal bike. We are very fast in the longer corners like turns five and six. I was behind Dani and I was faster than him.

"But Honda find something special for the small corners and they are able to make different lines. The bike always turns and follows the inside and they always cut the kerb inside. 

"Sometimes they have the problem that the bike turns too much. Our bike has very good balance and with the seamless gearbox we don't lose a lot in acceleration but it is a more normal bike.

"We need more metres to make the corner and the Honda is more tight and can use the acceleration. They have done a very good step. It looks the bike has been designed around this type of tyre. Our bike is more normal.

"In braking and entry the Yamaha was always very fast until Brno last year. From Brno last year, Honda found something very good and this year they have made another step.

"Yamaha is still working but it looks like Honda can use the front tyre in a better way. This is what it looks like following them."

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt