By Alex Edge
While most of us were eating turkey and such with our families yesterday, the MotoGP machine ground on. Honda, Ducati, Kawasaki, Aprilia, and Team Proton KR will conclude a three-day test at Jerez, Spain today, while Suzuki and Yamaha finished their own three-day session at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia on Wednesday.
Suzuki tested a prototype of their 2005 machine at Sepang, but has not released any comments to the press at this time. With factory riders John Hopkins and Kenny Roberts both out of action due to injuries, the prototype machine was ridden by Japanese test riders, while the two Americans presumably enjoyed Thanksgiving at home with their families.
Yamaha, on the other hand, had factory riders Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards on hand, with Rossi testing both the current 2004-spec M1 and a prototype 2005 model. Edwards stayed on the 2004 bike for the majority of this test, only riding a few laps on the prototype 2005. Edwards posted his best time on the second day of the test, running a 2'02.41 to top Rossi's 2'02.44. The World Champion responded on the final day of testing with a blistering 2'02.35, the fastest time of the test.
Meanwhile, halfway around the world, Honda tested alongside Ducati at Jerez. American Nicky Hayden posted fastest time on the first day of testing with a 1'41.377 lap, but was held back by a high-speed crash on day two. Hayden was unhurt, but was unable to match the 1'41.036 lap cut by Sete Gibernau on the day. Hayden recovered to run a 1'41.5 on the third and final day of testing, but it still wasn't enough for Gibernau, who topped the charts for the test with a 1'40.5.
Marco Melandri rode his new Telefonica Movistar Honda to a best time of 1'42.023. Also at the Jerez test, Makoto Tamada premiered his new Michelin-shod RC211V, to run under the banner of Konica Minolta Honda in 2005. Tamada used the test as a chance to get used to the unfamiliar Michelins, and was immediately close on the pace with a 1'41.528 on the second day.
The factory Ducatis, now Bridgestone-shod, were also out and about at Jerez. Factory riders Loris Capirossi and Carlos Checa were joined by guest tester Regis Laconi, who tested a prototype of Ducati's 2005 machine. Capirossi and Checa were both running a rapid pace, dueling with the Honda boys for fastest laps of the test session. Both were able to top Hayden but not Gibernau, with Capirossi posting a 1'41.150, followed closely by Checa's 1'41.314.
The Kawasakis were close to the pace as well, Shinya Nakano posting a best time of 1'41.945, while Alex Hofmann rode to 1 1'42.472. The new KTM-powered Proton KR bike set an impressive lap of 1'43.0 in only it's second on-track outing, while the Aprilias brought up the rear and were significantly off the pace of the faster teams.
Testing will continue in earnest for the next week, with several teams planning to squeeze in at least one more test before the beginning of a seven-week testing ban on December 1st. If next year's racing is as close as the times from these test sessions, it should be an exciting season!