MotoGP - 800cc Sepang test

MotoGP racers John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen finished the Sepang test at the top of the timesheets over the three-day session, as the new Suzuki GSV-R800 continued its impressive introduction into MotoGP as all teams got to grips with heir 800cc racing motorcycles.

Hopkins recorded a time of 2'01.63 - half a second inside the current lap record held by Loris Capirossi on a Ducati 990 and almost a second quicker than the best lap-time that he recorded at this year's Malaysian Grand Prix. Hopkins used his 48 laps today to test and refine engine mapping characteristics and to complete thorough evaluations of Bridgestone's latest tyre developments. The Anglo-American's quickest lap was set using one of Bridgestone's new development race tyres during a 5 lap run.

Team-mate to Hopkins, Vermeulen was equally impressive and his time of 2'02.04 was also inside the current lap record, as he too found the new 800 to his liking. He completed 61 laps of the 5.5km Malaysian circuit and was able to post consecutively fast times throughout the day. Vermeulen worked tirelessly with his crew on engine and chassis settings as well as continuing with a thorough tyre test for Bridgestone.

Colin Edwards completed his first test of the 800cc era with another good morning’s work, making more progress on the development of Yamaha’s new prototype motorcycle. Edwards once again spent the time working on general set-up with his team, especially chassis and suspension, as well as testing some new tyres for Michelin. Colin Edwards will be re-joined by team-mate Valentino Rossi at the Jerez test.

MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden ended the MotoGP test as the fastest Honda rider. The American has always worked hard in testing and today was no different as Nicky put in 70-laps of the 5.548 km track in dry conditions and ventured out for another 17-laps when the expected late afternoon rain storm arrived.

Hayden tested various alternative chassis and suspension parts and settings over the 70-laps. He started with different front and rear suspension and with the steering head raised slightly. The front suspension changes were of no distinct advantage but he felt happier with the rear end than at anytime this week.

Once comfortable on the RC212V Hayden began serious tyre testing for Michelin testing new tyres designed for the 800cc, which is easier on tyres than its 990cc predecessor. In sweltering heat he tried a selection of front and rear tyres giving the Michelin technicians quality feed back data that will help with their development work as they prepare for the Jerez MotoGP test later this month.

Toni Elias and the Gresini Honda were again impressive. The young Spaniard worked diligently all day, including an 18-lap session on wet tyres at the end of the day. Elias did not spend too much time on chassis work apart from trying head angle variations in combination with a different rear suspension unit. The team changed the gearbox ratios overnight and also made changes to the mapping to provide slightly less engine braking

After several laps with that configuration Elias returned to the original 'standard' suspension unit then adjusted his riding position before dedicating the rest of the day to testing the Bridgestone tyres he will race on in 2007

Toni and the Bridgestone engineers began working on testing tyre construction and profiles before trying various rubber compounds. Elias ended the day faster than yesterday and more consistent with a best lap time of 2m 03.505s.

Elias took to the wet track late afternoon and was impressed with the performance of the Bridgestone rain tyres. Toni completed 18-laps in the rain before calling an end to the three day test.

Carlos Checa really began to get a feel for his RC212V around the 5.548 km circuit today. Checa put in another heavy-duty day of testing working step by step to get the best out of the prototype 800cc to provide the HRC engineers with valuable data to work with as they continue the development of the RC212V for the MotoGP test sessions in mid-January 2007.

Carlos began the day working on refining the base-line settings of the machine by altering the castor angle by half a degree to improve front-end feeling before switching his attention to ride height and working on the electronic mapping in a bid to improve the engine braking characteristics. On day two of the test Checa thought he needed more help from the engine under deceleration but today he preferred a softer setting. .

The Spaniard the moved on to tyre testing for Michelin trying reacquainting himself with the various newly developed tyre since he last race on Michelins. He tried various constructions profiles and compounds produced for racing by the French manufacturer.

John Hopkins : Suzuki - "It's been a really good test and I'm happy with the way things have gone. I've gotta say I'm really impressed with the 800cc bike! Suzuki has stepped up to the plate and given us a good package right out of the box. We have been able to get straight into testing and work on engine strategies and all sorts of detailed stuff. We did a lot of tyre testing with Bridgestone and at the end of the day I found a tyre that really suited the bike and the track, and was able to set some fast and consistent lap-times. It's great for the team to have such a good package at this time and moral is higher than it ever has been in my career at Suzuki. We don't want to get too excited because there were a couple of very fast riders not at this test, but right now we can't wait for the next test as it seems things are starting to happen!"

Chris Vermeulen : Suzuki - "I've been to Sepang a few times with a 990, but this was the first time on the 800 and I felt quite comfortable out there today. I felt like I could lap consistently at the pace we were doing and Suzuki has certainly made some good steps with the bike coming to this test from Valencia. We tried many different engine and chassis settings, plus a lot of different Bridgestone tyres over the three days to find the best combination for the bike. I enjoyed riding the GSV-R800 a lot and we seemed to be competitive with the other bikes and riders here. Hopefully we can continue the progress at Jerez before our time off."

Colin Edwards : Yamaha - “Today was another really good day. I was quicker again and it felt really good to be able to consistently run fast times comfortably. We got a lot of great work done on a variety of things, even though we only tested in the morning. We did a fair bit for Michelin, they’ve got some good stuff and it seems pretty clear what the right direction is for us to go in with regards to tyres. We’ve played about with the chassis and the suspension, as well as a few other things, and when we came to add everything together you could see we were making some good progress. As far as getting input for the final bike they’re going to roll out for us next year, I think we’ve done a pretty good job during these three days. I’m really happy with my first test on the 800, we seem to get on okay and now I am looking forward to the next test in Jerez, where I am sure Valentino and I together can make even more progress.”

Nicky Hayden : Honda - "We learned a lot about the bike at this test and I'm beginning to understand it better. We went through a lot of stuff here and today I tried some suspension changes and improved the rear and made it a little better than yesterday, we have good traction. We also raised the front end a bit but that didn't give me what I needed it to so we went back to the original setting. We definitely need to find more power and speed to stay in touch with our rivals but I'm confident that Honda and the guys in my team will find that before I test the bike again. In the afternoon concentrated on testing tyres for Michelin all sorts of stuff, different constructions and compounds and found a front I like. When the rain came I went out on wet tyres and it was productive because they gave me a front tyre that worked well in the wet. The strong point is definitely my team they are so positive, I mean everybody is working so hard."

Toni Elias : Honda - "I like the machine the seating position makes it easier to ride than the 990cc. I am very satisfied with the chassis although we didn't work on that too much today apart from trying different rear shock and various suspension settings. We also changed the gearbox overnight because we were to close to the ratios we used on the 990cc machine. In the afternoon I concentrated on testing for Bridgestone and tried many different constructions and compounds. The Bridgestone's are good in the wet and I did 18-laps in the rain and found a front tyre I really liked it gave me a good feeling with the wet track. I am getting more comfortable on the bike, not 100% yet but at the January test I'm sure we will finalise the base set up we need to make the bike perform the way we want it. We have a lot of work to do on the engine but I am confident HRC and my team will do their best to be ready for my next test."

Carlos Checa : Honda - "Basically we spent a lot of time looking for better chassis settings trying to establish a better base line to work from in future testing. We played with the castor angle and ride height of the bike looking for a better base line. Traction is good but I found it a little difficult find a good contact feeling from the front, the bike needs to turn faster. The weather didn't help us today I had hoped it would have held off so I could use the last hour of the day but no luck. But Honda know which areas of the bike they have to work on and we have helped to clarify the parts that need improving. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with this team and it has been good to be here and get to know everybody better."

Unofficial Lap Times (800cc Bikes)

1. John Hopkins (USA) Suzuki, 2’01.64
2. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Suzuki, 2’02.04
3. Colin Edwards (USA) Yamaha, 2’02.43
4. Nicky Hayden (USA) Honda, 2’03.28
5. Makoto Tamada (JPN) Yamaha, 2’03.36
6. Toni Elias (SPA) Honda, 2’03.55
7. Carlos Checa (SPA) Honda, 2’04.27
8. Tadayuki Okada (JPN) Honda Test Rider, 2’04.44

Sepang Lap Record - Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 2006, 2’02.127
Sepang Best Lap - Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 2006, 2’00.605

MotoGP teams will now re-group for the final test in 2006, as a pre-2007 season test at Jerez in Spain between November 28 and 30, where everybody involved will be hoping to develop further the high potential already shown by their 800cc Grand Prix motorcycles.