2012 Sepang 1 MotoGP Test Day 1 Round Up: Yamaha's Progress, The Phoenix Rises, And CRT Thwarted By Electronics
The MotoGP bikes are finally back on track - though it took a little longer than expected, after an overnight rain shower left the track damp in the morning. Much had been expected of this test, and it has delivered already, after just a single day. In fact the test has been almost perfect, real bikes running on a circuit putting an end to the intrigue and subterfuge that play such a major role in every winter break, whilst raising enough new questions to pique the interest of anyone with a passion for motorcycle racing.
The overnight rain made conditions far from ideal, a fact reflected by the fact that in the main, there was little difference in times between the first day of the 2012 test and the first day of the same test last year, despite the bikes having grown in capacity by 200cc. The extra power was all too evident around the track: controlling wheelies while retaining drive out of corners is going to be key this year, and while the extra torque makes the bigger bikes easier to control, and reduces some of the electronics needed, the resources spent on taming a highly-strung 800cc engine have now been diverted to keeping the front wheel of the fire-breathing 1000s within a parsec or two of the tarmac.
2012 MotoGP Sepang 1 Test Monday Pre-Test Round Up: Phoenix Unveiled, HRC's Launch, And New Tires For All
So the day that MotoGP fans have been waiting for throughout the long, dark, bikeless winter break has nearly arrived. In a few short hours time, the MotoGP bikes will be tearing up the track in Malaysia once again in preparation for the 2012 season. Indeed, all day Monday, a few MotoGP bikes - the cynics and naysayers would refute that the Aprilia CRT bike is a MotoGP bike, but they are wrong - have been howling round Valencia, but as that is a private test it has not impinged upon the consciousness of MotoGP fans as much as Sepang has. On Tuesday morning, the winter is officially, finally over.
A very great deal of the interest in the Sepang test has been focused on Ducati, a rather logical result of Valentino Rossi's dismal debut year with the iconic Italian brand. In the break between the Valencia test and tomorrow's test at Sepang, the Desmosedici GP12 has been redesigned from the ground up, Ducati Corse boss Filippo Preziosi claiming that the bike is 90% different, even though it would look strikingly similar to the bike labeled the "GP Zero" by the press at Valencia. To further stir the interest of the fans - as if they needed any stirring - Ducati then failed to display the bike at their traditional Wrooom! launch event in mid-January, leaving even more room for speculation and conjecture. Even a private test of the bike organized by Ducati Corse at Jerez went off without anyone managing to sneak any photos or information out to the ever-eager press.
MotoGP is looking eastward. As the involvement and interest from and in Asia has continued to grow in recent years, the importance of the region - beyond the historic role that Japan has played in the series, that is - to both the MotoGP series and the manufacturers has become increasingly evident. With Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies visiting the region a couple of times over the winter, and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta hinting at more races in Asia in coming years, the Asian dimension in MotoGP is set to grow in the near future.
The addition of "Semakin di Depan", the slogan used by Yamaha's subsidiary in Indonesia, to the factory Yamaha M1s back in 2010 was the first sign of change, and Honda followed suit in 2011, with the addition of the "Satu Hati" slogan, used by Honda's Indonesian subsidiary, to the factory Repsol Honda machines. Meanwhile, Yamaha's factory riders have been making marketing trips to Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and other countries in the region on a regular basis since 2008.
The major leap forward which Honda's MotoGP bike has taken in the past two seasons has come in two distinct areas, the chassis and the electronics. Much of the work of sorting out the RC212V's chassis was done during the 2010 season, when the factory tried out five different chassis variations and several different swingarms, before getting the bike right early in the 2011 season. Parallel to the chassis, Honda spent two years improving their MotoGP bike's electronics, after poaching two of Yamaha's key staff to work on HRC's electronics package. The resulting machine, in the hands of Casey Stoner, proved unbeatable throughout the 2011 season.
Fifty-three minutes is how long Filippo Preziosi spoke to the press at Ducati's 2012 Wrooom event at Madonna di Campiglio. The Ducati Corse General Manager spoke extensively on the work that had gone in to the Desmosedici GP12 to be debuted by Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi at Sepang, on the data gathered by Ducati's riders throughout the 2011 season and in the post-race test at Valencia, on the Bridgestone tires and the problems they caused for engineers, on the lessons learned from comparing a carbon fiber chassis using the engine as a stressed member against an aluminium twin spar chassis, and about the approach taken to solving the problems encountered during the 2011 season. But despite his extended and fascinating presentation, he gave virtually nothing away about the actual bike itself.
Ezpeleta On The Future Of MotoGP: Bikes Costing 1 Million Euros, Fewer Spanish Races And Performance Balancing
Although the Wrooom event at the Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio is formally meant as the launch for Ducati's MotoGP and Ferrari's Formula One season, many other big names from the world of racing are also in attendance. One such person was Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, and given the major changes coming to MotoGP for 2012 - and even bigger changes from 2013 onwards - Ezpeleta had arranged to give a short press conference to talk to journalists about some of his plans for next season and beyond. But he barely made it into the press conference: on his way in, he was doorstepped by a group of journalists who started grilling Ezpeleta about the future of MotoGP, leaving the Spaniard with little left to say in the press conference. His answers did provide a compelling look at the future of MotoGP as Dorna sees it.
Wrooom 2012 Tuesday Round Up: Rossi And Hayden Talk About The New Ducati, New Contracts, And The 1000s
The launch of Ducati's 2012 season got properly underway this morning, when Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden faced questions from the press at Madonna di Campiglio, the Italian ski resort that hosts Ducati's Wrooom event. After a disastrous 2011, much of the focus of questioning was on the new Ducati GP12, the bike missing from the festivities at Wrooom, but to make its first public appearance at the Sepang test. The delay, according to various reports, is more to do with finalizing the livery, with details still to be hammered out with sponsors.
That may be the most difficult question to answer of the 2012 preseason. After suffering a crash at Sepang caused the Moto2 rookie to lose his shot at the 2011 Moto2 world title, the double vision problems he suffered as a result have continued throughout the winter. Now the 2012 season is just around the corner, but Marquez' problems are not fixed yet.
Despite the loss of the factory Yamaha team, the World Superbike series is still in relatively good health, considering the financial crisis. Though the days of 30+ rider grids are gone, grid size has stabilized at around the 22 rider mark, 1 up from last year, while there are still 6 manufacturers present, Aprilia, BMW, Ducati and Kawasaki in an official capacity, Honda unofficially via Ten Kate, and Suzuki absent, with Crescent working with Yoshimura on their own bikes.
The field has seen some changes, though most of the title favorites are staying with the teams they were with in 2011. Carlos Checa remains with Althea Ducati, though the effort expands to include 2011 Superstock champ Davide Giugliano, while Max Biaggi is in the second year of his 2-year contract with Aprilia, and Johnny Rea is staying with the Ten Kate Honda squad. Championship runner up Marco Melandri has been forced to move, joining Leon Haslam at BMW, while his erstwhile teammate Eugene Laverty has been paired with Biaggi in the factory Aprilia squad. The factory Kawasaki rider contingent is cut from 3 to 2, Chris Vermeulen losing his slot, while Tom Sykes remains alongside Joan Lascorz.
The introduction of the Claiming Rule Teams has caused a massive wave of confusion among MotoGP fans, and left then with a host of questions. Below, we attempt to answer most of the questions that race fans have about this new category of bikes, as well as addressing how it came to be created in the first place.
What on earth is a CRT?
CRT stands for Claiming Rule Team, and is a new category of entry in the MotoGP class. They will run alongside the normal factory and satellite MotoGP bikes (now officially classified as "factory prototypes" regardless of whether they are being run in a factory team or a satellite team), and be subject to slightly different rules.
What are the rule differences between the CRTs and the factory prototypes?
The CRT entries will be allowed more fuel and more engines: while factory prototypes will have 21 liters of fuel and be allowed to use 6 engines in 2012 (just as in 2011), the CRT entries will be given 24 liters of fuel to last a race, and have 12 engines for the 2012 season. Because of these advantages, existing manufacturers (Honda, Yamaha or Ducati) will be allowed to claim engines from CRT entries.
What does "claiming an engine" mean and how does it work?