Melandri slides to the top as Sepang III opens.
Despite a "very strange" day, 2005 MotoGP runner-up Marco Melandri has set the pace at the start of the third and final pre-season test at Sepang, in Malaysia.
19 of the 21 riders named on the provisional 2006 MotoGP entry list are present at Sepang - only the WCM team is missing - but ambient temperatures close to 30 degrees and high humidity produced a slick track today, with a rain shower late in the day doing little to improve grip, resulting in lap times often slower than those set one month ago.
Fortuna Honda rider Melandri may have ended up on top - but it wasn't the day he expected. The young Italian was surprised by the lack of grip and struggled to get his RCV off the corners due to excessive rear wheel spin. The only positive aspect was an improved feel from the front end, something Melandri had been chasing at the previous Sepang test, in January.
"Today was very strange for us," admitted Melandri. "We lack traction off the corners and the bike is sliding. The feeling I had with the bike is totally different from the last test here at Sepang. Part of the reason is that track conditions are lot different but not entirely. At the moment I don't really understand this.
"We tried new tyres from Michelin but they did not work here as well as the tyres we used last time we were here. The positive point about today was the front end, it's better than before in the fast corners and my lap time was also fast for the track conditions. We have two more days here and we have some work to do," he added.
Nevertheless, Melandri's best Tuesday lap was a 1min 1.66secs, putting the young Italian a tenth inside Loris Capirossi's 2005 Malaysian MotoGP pole time as Marco all but matched the fastest lap on race tyres - also set by the Ducati rider - at January's Sepang II test.
The #33 held a 0.23secs advantage over Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa today, with Camel Yamaha's Colin Edwards third quickest after lapping a further 0.1secs slower.