Sepang. MotoGP’s commercial backer Dorna Sports defended the safety of Malaysia’s Sepang circuit as top riders began testing their new 1000cc bikes on Tuesday at the track.
The tragic death in October of Honda rider Marco Simoncelli at the Malaysian MotoGP shocked the sport and highlighted concerns over Sepang, which is notoriously tricky due to heat, humidity and frequent rain.
But Dorna Managing Director Javier Alonso said Simoncelli’s death in a horrific collision was purely an accident that should not be blamed on the circuit, which was dry at the time of the crash.
“In terms of safety, Sepang is a very safe track. Unfortunately we had a fatal accident last year. We are really, really sad about this.”
But he added: “Safety-wise, Sepang is one of the safest tracks we have in the championship.”
Madrid-based Dorna holds the commercial rights to MotoGP.
The three days of pre-season testing offered a first glimpse of the new 1000cc MotoGP bikes adopted this year in place of the earlier 800cc engines.
Top riders included Spain’s Jorge Lorenzo on a Yamaha and multiple world champ Valentino Rossi — who suffered through a poor 2011 season — riding his Ducati.
However, defending champion Casey Stoner of Australia sat out Tuesday testing, citing a pulled back muscle.
Test runs were delayed in the morning after rain left the track damp.
Lorenzo, who missed the final three races of the 2011 season due to injury, set the fastest pace early on.
Testing continues until Thursday and will be followed by a second three-day test session beginning Feb. 28.
The MotoGP 2012 season officially kicks off April 8 in Qatar.