If Max Biaggi's confidence had been in any way shaken by losing out to both Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau during the 2003 season, his recent testing form will have more than reassured him of his championship winning potential.

Today at Sepang, that form saw the Roman unofficially break the circuit record for the second day in succession as he kept his Camel liveried RC211V firmly on top of the timing screens with a storming 2min 2.96secs - 0.5secs quicker than yesterday and 0.4secs clear of next nearest rival Gibernau.

"Today was another good day. I was riding well, going fast and had good pace through the corners," began the Roman, before highlighting Rossi's machinery advantage at the end of last season. "The bike is the same one that Valentino was using in Valencia at the end of last season. It is a good bike, the engine is more powerful and there is more traction. I am very happy

"I only tested the Michelin 17" front tyre because I want to analyse its behaviour in depth and because we had some new compounds to test. Tomorrow I plan to test the 16.5" front, using exactly the same bike settings," he added.

Having been just a few thousandths behind Biaggi yesterday, Gibernau clipped another two tenths from his time - securing the runner-up position on the day - but at a time when the Catalan is trying to convince HRC that he's their number one man now, Biaggi's pace will surely be at the very least irritating.

Despite that, Sete proclaimed himself happy at the days events since he did run the 16.5" tyre, was pleased with the new develoments - and still has tomorrow for revenge.

"Michelin requested that I try the 16.5-inch tyre for them today. I was having problems with it until now, and I still think after today that the tyre does need some more work on its construction perhaps to be more suited to the Honda," he said. "The problem is that the tyre is used in four or five laps, and for the next test they must try to make some new developments.

"Otherwise though I am happy to be riding fast consistently, this bike is even smoother than before and has a clutch that works better, so the factory is going in the right direction," he added.

Behind the top two, Makoto Tamada - newly announced as joining the Camel Pons fold (of sorts) - produced the biggest surprise. The Japanese left the likes of Ukawa, Edwards and Hayden trailing in his wake as he came to within half a second of Biaggi to confirm both his - and Bridgestone's - growing potential.

"This morning we tried some major part changes to see what it did to my bike and performance," began Makoto. "We changed things like the wheelbase or the linkages, because you don't get time to do that normally in a race weekend. The results were as we expected, but it was worthwhile nonetheless to know that. In the afternoon I worked on some endurance tyre testing with the Bridgestone's."

By contrast, Colin Edwards wasn't happy with his performance and is feeling the effects of the long journey over to steamy Malaysia after a few weeks in the cold Wyoming Mountains, despite having improved his time from yesterday considerably.

"Today we went everywhere but the right way perhaps," said the straight talking Texan. "I lost a bit of confidence in the 16.5 inch tyre that I have been riding for so long now, just because we were chopping and changing it with the 17 a lot. Today was the first time I have got good laps in on a 17 in a while, and there is some good and bad in both types of tyres.

"I just think I was a little off-kilter today, the first time for a long time, but I think I'm just tired from the travelling over here and the change in conditions," he explained.

Meanwhile, HRC tester Tohru Ukawa continued to get quicker on the Honda development bike, and judging by comments from his Honda colleagues, as well as Ukawa himself, it seems as though the machine is another step forward on the already dominant machine.

"It's getting better and the lap times are better too, so that's good to see," said Ukawa, a whisker slower than Edwards today. "Today I tyre tested with the new machine - it has a different engine character so there is a different feeling in the rear, that's where we worked today.

"I found a good tyre and some good settings, yesterday we had a bit of gearbox confusion, and I chose a new one today, which worked better. Also I tried a new injection setting, we've done a lot of laps today," added the former Camel rider. "Tomorrow is endurance, and we will work on engine mapping, it's going to be a difficult day."

Hayden may have been slowest of all the RCV riders, but was in buoyant mood by the end of day two having knocked off 0.9secs overnight.

"That felt much better than yesterday. Faster, more laps, great weather," began Nicky. "We're on last years bike but are testing new engine parts. HRC are working real hard and are makin' real good steps in the right direction.

"We've been testing new Michelin tyres as well and are really pleased with the results. In all, today was really positive. It's just great to get back on the bike after the break and I'm really fired up for the tests over the comin' months and the season ahead."

Testing concludes tomorrow (Thursday).

Leading times, Sepang test - day two:

1. Max Biaggi ITA Camel Pramac Honda Pons 2min 2.96secs
2. Sete Gibernau SPA Telefonica Movistar Honda 2min 3.33secs
3. Makoto Tamada JPN Camel Pramac Honda Pons 2min 3.41secs
4. Tohru Ukawa JPN Honda Racing Corporation 2min 3.63secs
5. Colin Edwards USA Telefonica Movistar Honda 2min 3.72secs
6. Nicky Hayden SPA Repsol Honda 2min 3.77secs
7. Shinya Nakano JPN Kawasaki Racing Team 2min 4.38secs
8. John Hopkins USA Suzuki Grand Prix 2min 4.51secs
9. Kenny Roberts USA Suzuki Grand Prix 2min 5.43secs
10. Alex Hofmann GER Kawasaki Racing Team 2min 5.16secs
11. Andrew Pitt AUS Moriwaki Honda 2min 9.68secs

Comparative lap times - 2003 Malaysian Grand Prix:

Pole position: Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol Honda 2min 2.48secsFastest lap: Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol Honda 2min 3.822secs

 

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