Honda Racing today completed a three-day test session at the Malaysian circuit of Sepang, where they have experimented with new tyres and assessed several machine modifications made to the four-stroke RCV211 machine following data gathering sessions at the end of last year. All the team's official riders, other than absentee Valentino Rossi and crash victim Jurgen vd Goorbergh, who escaped unharmed from a first day tumble which immobilised his NSR for the remainder of the test, have set impressive times.

Despite also falling on the final day, RCV211 rider Tohru Ukawa completed a total of 175 laps around the 5.548km track over the three days and eventually set a best time of 2mins 04.78secs, almost a second under Loris Capirossi's pole record of 2mins 05.637secs. Meanwhile, Ukawa's MotoGP colleague and current 250cc World Champion Daijiro Katoh set a stunning best lap of 2mins 04.86secs on the NSR500 and was the second fastest rider ahead of RCV211 test pilot Shinichi Itoh, who clocked a 2mins 05.86secs.

"This circuit has been very good for testing many things," said Ukawa. "We have improved the high speed stability of the machine, stability under heavy braking and we have also tested tyres. Altogether it has been a good test, but we still have work to do. Now I can get some rest while waiting for the next test in mid-February.

HRC Team Manager Noriaki Nakata added: "We can be quite satisfied with the results in Sepang. We tested everything we came here for and ended with an endurance test, the results of which were very good. We will go back to Japan and work on the information we gained here. I must say development of the RC211V is going in the right direction, very encouraging."

Capirossi was also present at the Malaysian circuit alongside West Honda Pons team-mate Alex Barros as they got to grips with their evolution NSR500 2002 machines. Both men improved their lap times on the final day, Capirossi the faster of the two with a best effort of 2mins 05.39secs, whilst Barros slid off but escaped without injury to record a 2mins 06.58secs.



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