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GP Week : Issue 12
Rossi puts shoulder to the grindstone NICKY Hayden has welcomed HRC’s rather unexpected plan to debut the long-awaited pneumatic-valve engine with a wild-card ride for factory tester and four-time GP winner Tadayuki Okada, rather then giving it to himself and Repsol team-mate Pedrosa to test. “I think they’re doing the right thing – to me it sounds like a great idea,” said the 2006 champion, currently struggling to improve his results and thus his chances of hanging on to his job with the factory team. “I told them I’m definitely open to try it - but I don’t think they’re even that close,” he said. The advantage of a wild-card entry was to run the bike in full race conditions, said Hayden, on a Grand Prix circuit. This was in contrast to going round in circles at Honda’s own facilities, including the notoriously restrictive Tochigi test facility outside Tokyo, where much of the development has taken place. “I think the main thing is him doing race distance, checking the fuel and reliability, and see how it can finish. To me it sounds like a great idea. Instead of Tady out riding round the Tochigi training grounds in second and third gear, go to a real race track and get some useful comparison. I think it’s a good move,” he said. Honda and other Japanese manufacturers have been criticised over the years for employing domestic test riders who neither go fast enough nor have the authority with the engineers to do more than basic race-bike development. Hayden welcomes 'pneumatic' wild-card DANI Pedrosa set the fastest time, but it was Valentino Rossi doing most of the work, at post-race tests at Le Mans on the Monday and Tuesday after the French GP. Rossi was second-fastest, with both riders improving on race times from the day before – Pedrosa recorded 1m33.106s, a full second faster than Rossi’s race record; with the Italian half-a-second adrift. That was on Monday, when 11 regular riders plus GP testers Olivier Jacque (Kawasaki) and Erwan Nigon (Honda) took advantage of more settled weather. Stoner’s Ducati was third-fastest; then Vermeulen’s Suzuki, followed by Hopkins (Kawasaki), Hayden (Honda) and Nakano (Honda), 1.8-seconds slower than the Spaniard. Notable absentees included Jorge Lorenzo, who elected to miss testing to give his broken ankles a chance of recovery; and the Tech 3 Yamaha riders Edwards and Toseland, off to Clermont- Ferrand for special Michelin wet tests on the French company’s own track. Pedrosa’s time came while testing tyres and suspension variations: HRC had cut back on two planned days of testing because the expected pneumatic valve engine was not ready. Nor did Rossi have anything much new to test, aside from experimental Bridgestone tyres and setting variations. “The tyres we tested were mostly for future development, and we tested some new electronic maps,” he said. “It was a good day.” So was Tuesday, when Rossi stayed on testing after lunch, when all the rest had packed up and gone. 12