MotoGP: Rossi, Stoner Head to Sepang

Sepang MotoGP Test

This Tuesday, the 17-rider MotoGP field will pilot their prototype machines for the first time since the traditional post-season tests at Valencia 11 weeks ago.

Much attention will be garnered around the riders that switched teams for 2011, including Valentino Rossi (Ducati) and Casey Stoner (Honda), as they lap Sepang in Malaysia for three days of testing, the first official sessions of the 2011 MotoGP season.

The results at Sepang should be far more positive for Rossi, considering the work completed on the Ducati over the winter break. The Ducati Team needed to tweak the GP11 to improve on the slow times at the Valencia tests during Rossi’s debut outing on the Ducati.

As for Stoner, he’s already comfortable on the Honda.

And besides the teams working diligently on the GP bikes of Rossi and Stoner, each rider trained both physically and mentally over the break, needing to be top form for the ultra-competitive 2011 grid.

The Ducati Team paddock will be swarming with many, as the Italian Rossi begins his debut season aboard the GP11. Besides adapting to the new bike, Rossi reported his is still nursing a "painful" shoulder, which was operated on in November. These two factors seem to be Rossi’s biggest challenge going into 2011 MotoGP.

Per FIM rules, the riders were not allowed to operate MotoGP bikes during the winter break, but were able to ride factory motorcycles. Rossi and Ducati took advantage of this, and put some laps down before the Sepang sessions to check his condition.

The nine-time world champion tested various riding positions aboard a Ducati 1198 this past Wednesday at Misano in Italy. Rossi reported that "the track has given us the answer that more or less I expected: my shoulder hurts."

The other rider change that quickly became the center of attention was the Australian Casey Stoner switching from the factory Ducati team that Rossi is now part of, and joining the Repsol Honda team.

But unlike Rossi, Stoner wasn’t injured in 2010, and had reported extreme satisfaction aboard the RC212V during the post-season Valencia sessions. Stoner was fastest on the second and final day of the Valencia test; Rossi was 15th. After the session, Stoner commented on the session.

Casey Stoner says: "There’s not much I’m not happy with. Of course there is still a long way to go for us with the bike but we’ve come away with a reasonable base setting. We still have to get the general feeling of the bike a bit better in the middle of the corner turning, but that’s just a case of getting more time on the bike and a better balance for me as I have a different style to most riders."

"At this moment, with the set-up we currently have, we have been very happy with the feedback the bike’s been giving us and the way everyone’s been working."

With the addition of Stoner, the Honda MotoGP Team will field three riders for 2011. Stoner joins the Italian Andrea Dovizioso, and the Spaniard Dani Pedrosa.

Much attention will also be at Pedrosa’s side of the Honda paddock. Pedrosa, who was MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo’s biggest rival last year, continues to heal from the collarbone injury he sustained at Motegi.

But Pedrosa is in the advanced stages of recovery, and will most likely prove to be a top contender by the time the 2011 MotoGP season begins on March 17 under the lights.

Lorenzo will enter Sepang comfortably while his new teammate Ben Spies will continue adapting to the factory Yamaha M1. The American Spies adapts fast, which is what contributed to his MotoGP "Rookie of the Year" award in 2010.

As for rookies of 2011, two riders arrive in MotoGP to challenge the fastest motorcycle riders in the world, Cal Crutchlow and Karel Abraham. Crutchlow fills the vacancy left by Spies on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha. The Brit also has some challenges similar to Rossi; Crutchlow had shoulder surgery, and hasn’t ridden a bike since December.

As for Abraham, the Czech will compete on the Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati; he finished 10th overall in Moto2 last year.

The other MotoGP rider that arrives from Moto2 is Toni Elias, who won the title in the series’ debut year. Elias will be sole rider on the LCR Playboy Honda RC212V. He raced in the premier class from 2005-2009, taking last year off to compete in Moto2.

The first official MotoGP event of 2011 gets underway on Tuesday, Feb. 1, at Sepang. Stay tuned to for day-by-day results and breakdowns of individual riders.

2011 MotoGP Rider Lineup
(1) Jorge Lorenzo, Spanish, Yamaha Factory Racing
(4) Andrea Dovizioso, Italian, Repsol Honda Team
(5) Colin Edwards, American, Monster Yamaha Tech 3
(7) Hiroshi Aoyama, Japanese, San Carlo Honda Gresini
(8) Hector Barbera, Spanish, Aspar Ducati Team
(11) Ben Spies, American, Yamaha Factory Racing
(14) Randy de Puniet, French, Pramac Racing Ducati Team
(17) Karel Abraham, Czech, Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati
(19) Alvaro Bautista, Spanish, Rizla Suzuki
(24) Toni Elias, Spanish, LCR Honda
(26) Dani Pedrosa, Spanish, Repsol Honda Team
(27) Casey Stoner, Australian, Repsol Honda Team
(35) Cal Crutchlow, British, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha
(46) Valentino Rossi, Italian, Ducati Team
(58) Marco Simoncelli, Italian, San Carlo Honda Gresini
(65) Loris Capirossi, Italian, Pramac Racing Ducati Team
(69) Nicky Hayden, American, Ducati Team


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