Motorcycling: Pedrosa again edges out rival Lorenzo

Spain's Dani Pedrosa remained the fastest rider on the final day of the first pre-season MotoGP testing at Malaysia's Sepang circuit on Thursday, but times stayed extremely close.

Honda's Pedrosa had led the pack on Tuesday and Wednesday, and on Thursday he again edged out his countryman and Yamaha rival Jorge Lorenzo.

While lap times improved across the board on a sunny final day, Honda's MotoGP rookie Marc Marquez suffered his first MotoGP fall this year during early testing but walked away unscathed.

Nine-times world champion Valentino Rossi was third while Marquez, a former 125cc world champion and reigning Moto2 title holder, took fourth.

Unlike the first two days of cloudy skies and rain late Wednesday, the final test day saw sunshine and dry track which let the riders push their bikes.

On the last day, the gap between Pedrosa's 2 minutes 00.100 seconds and Lorenzo's best effort was just 0.329 seconds.

Returning Yamaha star Valentino Rossi of Italy kept himself in the top group again with third, 0.442 seconds off the pace.

Marquez, who is preparing for his first season in MotoGP, was fourth and 0.536 seconds clear of his Honda team-mate Pedrosa.

Pedrosa said he was confident with the performance of his Honda but insisted there was still work to be done on its shock absorbers and clutch, which were a problem last season.

"I am satisfied because from the day we arrived here, the progress has been good. I feel confident not just because of the position but because of the feeling with the bike," he said.

Pedrosa, 27, is in the hunt for his first MotoGP championship. He has finished MotoGP title runner-up on three occasions since his 2006 debut.

Marquez expressed pleasure at his performance. "I am happy. I have been consistent every day. I hope to continue like that," he told reporters.

Lorenzo said he would focus more on the bike's acceleration and traction during the next test.

"I think the bike has improved a little compared to last year. It is slightly faster in the corner," he said, adding he was impressed with Rossi and Marquez.

Rossi said he no longer had doubts about returning to competitve MotoGP racing after three hard days of testing, and hinted he was eyeing a podium finish from the first race of the season.

"I have to work a lot harder to stay with Lorenzo and Pedrosa. I cannot expect a better start for this new season," he said after two frustrating years with Ducati.

British rider Cal Crutchlow on a Yamaha was 0.634 seconds off the pace at fifth.

The Ducatis of Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso stood at ninth and tenth rankings.

The second test session will be at Sepang from February 26 to 28, while the third will be in Jerez from March 23 to 25.

The opening round of the MotoGP world championship will be in Qatar under floodlights on April 7. Malaysia will host round 15 on October 13.