Honda Winter Tests

Press release from Honda:

The second of the two HRC winter tests scheduled for the Sepang circuit, Malaysia got underway today with all Honda MotoGP teams and riders taking part aboard RC211V five-cylinder Honda four-strokes. Reigning MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi, Repsol Honda, and Telefonica MoviStar Honda Gresini rider, Daijiro Kato, set the pace on the first day of the two-day test.

Rossi, and his American teammate, AMA Superbike Champion Nicky Hayden, tested the latest version of the RC211V HRC brought to Sepang and both men were delighted with machine development in the short period between test sessions. Rossi completed 61 laps of the circuit while Hayden put in an astonishing 84 laps!

Valentino Rossi: "Today was the first day on the new 2003 bike and it went well. Our main goal was to set the bike up and not go for the best time. I am happy with the feel of the machine and much of the work we did here at Sepang a month ago testing components has been of good benefit on the new bike. The weather here is good and I'm looking forward to another good day tomorrow."

Nicky Hayden: "Had another tough day here really doing some laps. We're on the new bike, which feels good; better than last year's model we tested last time we were here. Everything feels real tight on it and I'm feeling more comfortable on it as well. I guess things are getting there. I'm just trying real hard to be where I need to be. There are a few corners where I'm struggling a little - I got one more day here, then we're off to Phillip Island, which I'm really looking forward to. I've heard the place is awesome!"

The Telefonica MoviStar Honda Gresini team was very visible at Sepang and it was team leader Daijiro Kato who set the benchmark for the day. The diminutive Japanese rider was in sparkling form circulating the 5.548km circuit in 2m 03.08s on the new RCV.

Daijiro Kato: "I'm very happy with what we did here today. We tried different riding solutions and settings with the new bike and I immediately felt the difference, and I was much faster. This has given me a real boost for the remaining tests."

Spaniard Sete Gibernau was a busy man at Sepang. Gibernau was in and out of the pit box all day as the team tested a host of machine settings on his RC211V. They are now confident tomorrow will be more significant for Gibernau.

Sete Gibernau: "I am very satisfied with today's results: the lap timing is the same as that of the third day of January's test here in Malaysia. I do regret having lost plenty of time in the boxes today, but I am very determined to improve my position tomorrow."

Max Biaggi, Camel Pramac Honda, worked tirelessly on finding machine settings to match the range of tires Michelin had brought to Sepang for him to test.

Max Biaggi: "I tested a variety of alternative machine settings today and have some positive feed-back. Michelin had so many tires for us to test that I put in 70 laps. I was happy with the progress Michelin have made with the tires since we were testing here a month ago, and I was pleased with the times I set."

Biaggi's teammate, Japanese star Tohru Ukawa, made his first acquaintance with the new RCV and spent the day setting the machine to suit his riding style.

Tohru Ukawa: "I'm very satisfied to be back riding again, especially as we have the new RC211V here. Today I concentrated my time on finding a comfortable riding position and testing tires. Now I feel good on the bike I'm really looking forward to tomorrow."

The Pramac Honda team continued their winter tests at Sepang concentrating on Bridgestone tire development work. Team rider Makoto Tamada, and development rider Shinichi Itoh, put in a combined total of over 120 laps evaluating tires developed from data gathered at the at the same track one month ago. Both riders confirmed a definite improvement in performance.

Makoto Tamada: "I'm much better at this track now, much more comfortable. I am also starting to understand the bike, and the Bridgestone tires. Bridgestone have made a lot of progress in the short time they have had to work on development since the last test here at Sepang. Some of the tires have really improved. I ran a 2m 05s lap time on race tires so we are happy with that."

Shinichi Itoh: "I was struggling a little to find the best set up today to test the new tires Bridgestone brought us. But in the end I got close to Tamada Sans time so I'm confident we will improve tomorrow."

Daijiro Kato, JPN Telefonica MoviStar Honda Gresini 2m 03.08s (60 + laps) Valentino Rossi, ITA Repsol Honda 2m03.9s (61 laps) Max Biaggi, ITA Camel Pramac Honda 2m 04.00s (70 laps) Tohru Ukawa, JPN Camel Pramac Honda 2m 04.3s (60 + laps) Sete Gibernau, SPA Telefonica MoviStar Honda 2m 04.7s Nicky Hayden, USA Repsol Honda 2m05.3s (84 laps) Makoto Tamada, JPN Pramac Honda 2m 05.3s (60 laps) Shinichi Itoh, JPN Pramac Honda 2m 05.4s (69 laps)
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George Obradovich
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