Honda's domination of 2011 pre-season MotoGP testing continued at Qatar on Sunday, when Dani Pedrosa led an RCV one-two-three on the opening night.

The Qatar test follows on from two previous daytime outings at Sepang. Honda riders were fastest on all six days in Malaysia, with new factory signing Casey Stoner unbeaten at the second test.

Stoner was once again on front-running form this evening in Qatar, leading for most of the five hours of track time (6pm to 11pm) - until being displaced by Pedrosa with just over an hour to go.

Pedrosa's best lap time, of 1min 56.271sec, was 0.143sec quicker than Stoner - although some way off the 1min 55.537sec official lap record, set by the Australian just before falling from the lead of last year's race.

"It was a positive first day of practice," said Dani. "We didn't test anything in special, because our priority today was checking that the bike was also working well here in Qatar, a very different circuit than Sepang, where we did the main winter testing.

"We basically worked on the set-up of the bike, to adapt it for this layout and conditions, and tomorrow we will continue working on mappings and a front fork.

"It seems like the laptimes are closer here than in Sepang, and I'm sure that the times will improve for all because at this track the surface is quite dirty at the beginning, so we will see tomorrow and I hope to make another step forward and close the winter test in a good shape.

"I'd also like to say I'm very sorry about what happened in Japan. My Japanese mechanics and engineers were explaining the situation there and it's very moving."

Although Stoner lost out on the top spot, he did far more 1min 56sec laps than Pedrosa: Stoner set 12 laps under 1min 57sec, compared with only 2 laps for Pedrosa.

Whilst the pace of Pedrosa and Stoner was expected, third place was more of a surprise in the form of Gresini Honda's Hiroshi Aoyama. The Japanese was just a few hundredths slower than Stoner on a bike that, officially at least, is not of full factory specification.

Factory Yamaha riders Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo occupied fourth and fifth on the timesheets. Spies was just 0.292sec slower than Pedrosa, but that was his only sub-1min 57sec lap.

Reigning world champion Lorenzo was 0.416sec behind Pedrosa, but set more sub-1min 57sec laps than any other rider tonight (13).

Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards moved ahead of third Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso to claim a late sixth place, with Valentino Rossi snatching eighth back from Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden on his 57th and last lap of the night.

Seven time MotoGP world champion Rossi had earlier suffered a small fall and an further unplanned pit stop, due to burning rubber on the exhaust of his Desmosedici.

Rossi finished 0.767sec slower than 2010 title runner-up Pedrosa - meaning it was the first time he has been within one-second of the top as a Ducati rider, and also the first time he has finished higher than ninth as a Ducati rider.

But with only one more night of testing before the 2011 season begins, Rossi - winner of last year's Qatar Grand Prix for Yamaha - will be seeking much more radical progress on Monday.

Behind Rossi and Hayden was new Pramac Ducati rider Randy de Puniet, who overcame two fall to put in a late lap 0.872sec from Pedrosa. Then came Aoyama's team-mate Marco Simoncelli (+0.955s) and the lone Suzuki of Alvaro Bautista (+1.031s).

13th to 15th places were filled by Ducati riders Hector Barbera, Loris Capirossi and rookie Karel Abraham.

Fellow MotoGP newcomer Cal Crutchlow was 16th for Tech 3 (+1.466s) after his first ever taste of night riding, with LCR Honda's Toni Elias (+1.979s) once again propping up the timesheet.

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment