MotoGP track action concludes ahead of winter testing ban

Three days of tests for a host of MotoGP World Championship teams concluded on opposite sides of the globe today, bringing to an end all track action for 2005 ahead of the traditional winter testing ban, which runs from December 1st to January 20th 2006 inclusive. Representatives from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki were at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia whilst back in Europe the factory Ducati outfit were put through their paces at the Jerez circuit in Spain.

MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi was the fastest rider over the three days at Sepang as Yamaha rolled out their 2006 version YZR-M1 machine for the first time. The Italian clocked an unofficial best time of 2'02.61 on the second day of the test, some three tenths of a second inside the current official lap record of 2'02.993 held by Nicky Hayden, before a spell of morning rain prevented any hope of improvements on the final day.

"The test was not so bad, especially yesterday we did a good job," commented Rossi. "We worked a lot on the new M1 and the first impression is not bad. The bike is already fast, I was able to do some good lap times but it is the first prototype so we need to work to improve it. Already it is a little more powerful, a little more stable and we hope it will be more easy to set up."

A handful of new challengers to Rossi's MotoGP dominance got their first true taste of life alongside the Italian in Malaysia, with 250cc World Champion Dani Pedrosa and his former quarter-litre rival Casey Stoner racking up the laps aboard Honda RC211V machines and ex-World Superbike star Chris Vermeulen getting to grips with his new Suzuki GSV-R. Frenchman Randy de Puniet, another rider to have taken part in 250 this year, also completed his first full test on board the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR, whilst Briton James Ellison took hold of the Tech3 team's Yamaha M1 in a test on Dunlop tyres.

"We've made big steps forward in terms of getting to know the bike," said Pedrosa, who set the quickest time on the final day with 2'02.77 despite the damp track conditions in the morning. "It has basically been a tough three days for me because I've never done three days of continuous testing before and never on such a demanding bike! I'm physically drained but we've found a few positive things out about the machine, especially today, and the important thing is we keep making positive steps forward."

Pedrosa's compatriot Sete Gibernau knows precisely what is required to beat Rossi and the experienced Spaniard worked with that goal in mind as he completed his second test with Ducati at Jerez. Gibernau switched from Honda at the end of the 2005 season and is already feeling at home with the Italian team, despite also having switched from Michelin to Bridgestone tyres.

"It was useful to get to know exactly what I need to find the right feeling with the new bike," said Gibernau. "We made progress and managed to find a path that seemed right. We are making small steps forward to avoid going in the wrong direction. I also tested the new tyres and started to give a few indications to the Bridgestone guys."

A handful of 250cc riders also lapped at Jerez, most notably with Sebastián Porto making his return to Honda where he tested along with factory colleague Andrea Dovizioso.

Preseason testing for the 2006 MotoGP World Championship will continue for the majority of teams at Sepang on January 23rd.


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