Despite chatter problems and a back that 'felt like it had done three rounds with Mike Tyson', Casey Stoner broke clear of his MotoGP rivals with a stunning lap on the third and final day of the Sepang test.
In typical style, Repsol Honda's reigning double world champion wasted no time in smashing the two-minute barrier, capitalising on the cooler morning conditions to clock a 1min 59.607sec on only his second lap of the day with the new 1000cc RC213V.
That is some 2.5sec under the official race lap record set during a grand prix and almost one second under the pole record. It also beats the 1min 59.665sec lap Stoner recorded at the second Sepang test last year, which was the fastest lap at the circuit by an 800cc bike.
No other rider broke the two-minute barrier on Thursday, with Yamaha's former world champion Jorge Lorenzo 0.6sec from Stoner by the time a rain storm effectively ended the test with just under an hour to go.
Most worrying for his rivals, the Australian - and his motorcycle - were in far from perfect condition. Stoner skipped the entire opening day of 2012 testing after aggravating an old back injury, whilst his RC213V continues to experience 'chatter' problems with the latest Bridgestone tyres.
“The bike is better, but my back feels like it's gone three rounds with Mike Tyson!” said Stoner on Thursday evening. “My whole back is killing me at the moment. It was easier to ride than yesterday, but I need to recover for sure.
“I'm very surprised to be honest that we were able to be competitive after what happened on Tuesday. We just tried to make the test as productive as possible without doing too many laps.
“We compared the chassis' back to back, a few suspension changes, a clutch. We just had to try and weed out what was good, bad and go in the right direction for the next test.”
Asked specifically about his best lap time, Stoner explained:
“It's all about temperature on this track and this morning the cloud cover was keeping the temperature lower. We knew we could do a fairly good lap time but we didn't expect that,” he admitted.