Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa shared the spoils in the final day of testing in Sepang, posting lap times exactly the same.
The posted both posted a 1’59.999, and they were the only two riders to break the two minute barrier on the final day of testing in Kuala Lumpur.
Rossi managed to set his fastest time relatively early in the day, on his 13th lap. He was still facing some of the tyre issues that the new M1 has been plagued with since the new Bridgestone rubber has been introduced.
“First of all I am very happy because I am in first position and I did a good lap,” said the Doctor. “I was one of the only ones in the 1’59s which is positive, especially because with the 2014 tyres in the first test we tried a time attack and I was more than one second slower than today. This test we have always been at the top and fighting for the first position so it’s positive.
“We still have some problems when it’s very hot over long distance with the new tyres, so we still have to work, but we made a good step from the first test. The next test in Philip Island will be very important to understand if also there we improved a lot like here because I am more than one second faster than the second test of last year so we have been working well.”
Dani Pedrosa took a little longer to find his fastest lap of the test, and he managed it shortly before the end of the day, on his 47th of 50 laps.
Pedrosa spent the day working on his race simulation, and over a 19-lap run, he managed to lap under the 2’02.000s mark every lap.
“Today we worked on engine mapping to improve cornering, but the most important thing that we were able to do was a race simulation,” said the Spaniard. “We also tried to improve our fast lap time attacks as well. We progressed a lot – although there is still room for improvement. Now we are off to Phillip Island to test out the new tyres.”
Andrea Dovizioso was third fastest, on a day in which Ducati announced they would indeed be making the switch to the Open Class for 2014. Dovi posted a 2’00.067, only 0.068 off the pace of the front runners. The Ducati showed real signs of progress, lapping 0.3 seconds faster than it did during Sepang One, despite the less favourable track conditions. Dovizioso also managed to post his quickest lap on the harder tyre rather than the new soft that has been allocated for Open Class entries.
“The simulation was with the Open bike. The lap time wasn’t too bad and we have to understand how much is a negative and see if we can improve the negative point and take a decision,” said Dovi.
“Aside from which software, the braking is much better on the entry with the GP14. We are able to stop the bike much easier and also to keep hard braking in the middle of the corner. Also I am an aggressive rider on the braking and I like to play on the limit of the bike. Last year I wasn’t able to brake really hard because the front locked, but now I am able to brake like on the Yamaha.
“But the limit of turning stays the same and that is a big problem for us. We have improved much more than I expected during the test so we can be positive, but for the race I think the turning will affect our result. We need time to improve that point.”
Aleix Espargaro ended in fourth position, and it was the first time all test he found himself out of the top three, but it will still be deemed a hugely successful test once again for the FTR-Yamaha.
“I’m very happy with how we progressed in these three days of testing. We started where we left off here in Sepang One and I could work on the second bike and on the race distance,” said Aleix.
“I’m very satisfied with the data gathered during the long run. We were competitive and now I look forward to confirm my feeling in Qatar, where we will do another test session before the opening race of the season.”
Stefan Bradl ended the test fifth, ahead of Alvaro Bautista, improving day on day once again. The German spent the three testing new parts for HRC and race simulation for his LCR team.
“I am quite happy about the job we made in the last three days. It’s tough to work in these conditions, it was 37 degrees today, and the guys made a very good job to adjust the bike,” he said.
“Early in the session we went out on soft rubber and afterwards we kept working on long-run performance. Today my pace was not as good as yesterday because I was not comfortable enough on hard front tyre but, overall, this test has been quite positive for us, as we are not far off the pace and we have the potential to ride in the front.”
After heading the test after day one, Alvaro Bautista ended the day in sixth position, as he continued to work on new Nissin brakes and Showa suspension for his Gresini Honda.
“These six days of testing in Malaysia have been very hard because we faced very difficult conditions, but we are really happy because we have improved so much throughout the two testing sessions, reaching a good feeling with the bike,” said Bautista.
“After the great work done in the first two days, today we could focus on some details with regard to the Showa front fork, as well as the Nissin brakes. In addition, we have refined the electronic controls.”
Jorge Lorenzo’s struggles continued, as he ended the day over six tenths off Rossi’s lap time. The Mallorcan is very unhappy with how his M1 is handling with the new Bridgestone rubber, and he ended the test three quarters of a second slower than he did in Sepang One when the track was better and riders could use the 2013 spec tyres.
“We found a better solution today to improve our situation and adapt these tyres at this track,” he said. “The tyres are much harder in the sidewalls. At this track, with this tarmac that is very slippery, it’s not the same as Phillip Island or Mugello for example, it’s impossible for us to be competitive. This tyre is much worse for Yamaha and better for Honda. Our bike is competitive, at a similar level to the competitors but with the tyre we have problems.”
“We tried a simulation today and it was worse and worse every lap. In the edge there is a problem with no grip but also when you pick up the bike it spins. You can improve the feeling a little to get more grip but when the tyre starts to drop the problems get worse and worse.”
Cal Crutchlow improved to eighth position on his Ducati, and will be encouraged that he was less than 0.8 seconds off the pace as he still familiarises himself with the Desmosedici.
“Obviously for me the situation in these tests at Sepang was different to what I’ve been used to in the past, so I think Dovi managed to benefit more from the three days because he’s on a familiar machine,” said the Brit. “But that’s the way it goes and I’m generally pretty satisfied with the results we’ve achieved here.
“I’ve been consistently able to go as fast as Dovi with used tyres, but not at the start, because I’m unable to push hard right away and get enough grip into the tyres. This is something we will have to improve for qualifying and the races.
“Overall we’ve made good progress, testing a lot of stuff here, which was the main thing, and starting to understand what the bike does with different set-ups. Now it’ll be good to go to another circuit and try something else.”
The top ten was rounded out by a pair of Tech3’s, with Bradley Smith leading Pol Espargaro. Smith ended the day just ocer eight tenths off Rossi, whilst Espargaro was just over a second behind the Doctor.
Smith spent the test trying to find a setting to suit the new Bridgestone tyres, and focusing on race simulation rather than just one quick lap.
“We tried a lot of different solutions today, especially with the rear of the bike and tried to work the new Bridgestone tyres as much as possible,” Smith said. “I found a setting that I was much happier with, which made the bike smoother and let me ride the Yamaha how it should be. We definitely made the step with rear tyre performance, which allowed me to be much more consistent compared to the last Sepang test and last year’s race.
“I did a race simulation, and am pleased as it was during a really hot part of the day, so not perfect in terms of track conditions. At the end of the day, after 70 laps I also did my best time. There are many positives, and I come away from here quite happy.”
Iannone was 11th once again, as he also adjusts the new Open Class bike, and he was followed closely by Randy De Puniet on the Factory Suzuki.
Nicky Hayden ended 15th, and just under two seconds off the pace as the Kentucky Kid attempts to sort his Honda out, and get it closer to the front of the grid. Scott Redding continued his learning curve, and was 18th on his Honda, 2.2 seconds behind Rossi.
The Factory Yamaha and Ducati riders, along with Pedrosa now head to Phillip Island for three day Bridgestone tyre test, whilst the rest of the field will next be on track in Qatar for the final pre season test.