For the first time since joining MotoGP, Dani Pedrosa will not have a 'new' Repsol Honda for the 2009 racing season - a tactic he hopes can end the technical instability experienced at the factory team in recent seasons.
Pedrosa made his premier-class debut during the final year of 990cc racing in 2006, before Honda unveiled its new RC212V for the first year of 800cc competition. After a disappointing start, the V4 produced consistent form in Pedrosa's hands with four poles in a row at the end of the season, but was then heavily redesigned over the winter and fitted with a pneumatic-valve engine for 2008.
That was the plan anyway. In reality the new engine proved problematic in testing and - although team-mate Nicky Hayden chose to race the 'pneumatic' from round eight at Donington Park - it was not until round 14 that Pedrosa used it in a grand prix, by which time he also had Bridgestone tyres to learn.
After such constant change, Pedrosa is unsurprisingly keen to start his fourth MotoGP season with a familiar motorcycle.
“I am happy that we can continue with the bike from last year, because since 2005 I have changed machine every winter,” said the 125 and double 250cc world champion, speaking to Crash.net
outside his pit garage at Sepang. “So it's always been difficult at the beginning of the new season and when I find more-or-less something that I like it is already the middle or the end of the season. So I didn't want any big changes this time.
“There is no difference really between the bike I finished last season with and the bike I have now,” confirmed the Catalan. “I didn't ask Honda for anything new as such; there were just some items that we wanted to improve such as braking, because we can see that our rivals are very strong in braking now.”
And what are the current strengths and weakness of his factory RC212V?
“The best part of this bike at the moment is that it has a powerful engine,” replied Dani, the only Honda rider to win an 800cc race. “The chassis I'd like to improve because with the Bridgestone tyres it's kind of difficult to ride it - with the Michelin it was a little smoother - but the grip performance is better now.”
Although only eighth during day one of testing, Pedrosa lowered his lap time by 1.452sec to sit fourth by the end of day two - making him the fastest Honda rider.
“We did a good job today, always working on chassis and suspension,” he said. “This track is good to set-up the bike because it has hard braking, hard acceleration, fast corners and is very demanding because it is so hot. At other tracks it is not so difficult to get a good lap time and, maybe you feel better, but you are not working correctly.”
Pedrosa - who began last season injured after falling during testing at Sepang - also left the 2009 Malaysian test early, this time due to pain from his left knee, which he had damaged at the Australian Grand Prix and received surgery for in December.
“I've tested everything, I only needed to do a race simulation [on day three] but I cannot do more than 5-6 laps at a time,” he explained before leaving for the nearby airport. “I will rest my knee now and try to be fit for the Qatar test [March 1-3].”
So far in MotoGP, Pedrosa has won two races a year and amassed 27 podium finishes, but is yet to prove he can deliver a season-long title attack and reigning champion Valentino Rossi considers Casey Stoner and Ducati to be a bigger threat.
Pedrosa will hope that consistent machinery can change that perception in 2009.