Tuesday afternoon at Valencia saw groups of people huddled together up and down the paddock discussion what to do. With the weather having made the first day of testing difficult, and much, much worse forecast for Wednesday - half an inch or more of rain was forecast to fall during the seven hours of the test on Wednesday - several teams contemplated the prospect of packing up and heading elsewhere in search of a dry track.
In the end only Yamaha decided to go, heading off to Aragon, one of their nominated test tracks. In their wake, a string of journalists followed, hoping to get more of an idea of just how fast Valentino Rossi still is after his misadventure with Ducati, by being able to compare his times with those of Jorge Lorenzo's. It turned out to be a waste of time. The rain fell in Aragon, Valentino Rossi did a single lap - out, and then straight back into the pits - and Jorge Lorenzo posted nine laps in the wet before crashing, and walking away unhurt.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams who stayed at Valencia and actually got some track time, and from Yamaha, who went to Aragon, and sat about watching the rain:
The heavy rain promised for the second day of the MotoGP test at Valencia never came, the track drying towards the end of the day, allowing almost everyone to get out and put in a number of laps on a dry track. Dani Pedrosa ended the day on top of the timesheets, posting a time underneath the race lap record, a sign that the condition of the track was good enough at the end. Cal Crutchlow ended as 2nd fastest, a third of a second behind Pedrosa, and a little over a tenth quicker than Stefan Bradl, who has just announced a contract extension with LCR and HRC.
A dry track allowed Marc Marquez to make his debut aboard the RC213V, the young Spaniard making a very impressive debut. Marquez built speed quickly, ending the day a little over a second behind Pedrosa after just 27 laps on the bike, and three tenths slower than Alvaro Bautista. Andrea Dovizioso was also quicker than the first day, finally getting some dry time on the Ducati and ending nine tenths behind Pedrosa. Bradley Smith put in laps on both a damp track and in the dry, finishing the day 2.2 seconds behind Pedrosa.
Times at the end of second day of testing at Valencia:
Below is the usual post-race press release debrief from Bridgestone, discussing how their tires handled the difficult conditions at Valencia:
If there is one subject that is getting mind-numbingly tedious to have to write about in motorcycle racing right now, it's the weather. Almost every race this year has lost at least one session to difficult conditions, and we had hoped that the 2013 season might start off a little better. No such luck.
After a dry, clear night, the first rain showers arrived shortly before 10am, when the track was due to open for the test. By the time the track opened, enough rain had fallen to make it slick, greasy and extremely difficult to ride. That put an end to almost everyone's carefully laid plans, leaving large groups of people wandering around and alternating between looking to the skies and carefully examining the track. A few brave souls ventured out on to the track - including Valentino Rossi, at a few minutes after ten, the earliest he has ever taken to the track during testing since I've been following MotoGP, Rossi notoriously ill-disposed to mornings (as, I must admit, am I) - but for the most part, silence prevailed.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of testing at Valencia. Yamaha did not issue a press release, as Jorge Lorenzo did not ride today, and Valentino Rossi is embargoed from speaking due to contractual obligations:
The weather blighted the first day of testing at Valencia, with half-decent conditions in the morning with a damp track giving way to harder rain as the day went on. The wet weather meant that a number of riders decided to pass up on testing today, meaning that for example both Marc Marquez and Bradley Smith did not make it out onto the track today. Marquez will be testing at Sepang at the end of the month, while Smith will ride tomorrow if the heavy rain which is expected arrives.
Two eagerly awaited debuts did take place, however: Valentino Rossi turned a number of laps on the Yamaha, the Italian quickly up to speed and looking much more comfortable on the bike, despite the conditions. Andrea Dovizioso also took to the track on the factory Ducati for the first time, taking the place of the departing Rossi. It was far from ideal, but Dovizioso said afterwards he had been positively surprised by the bike. It was too early to make comparisons with the Yamaha and Honda - dry time on the bike would be needed before it would be possible to do that - but the engine had been less aggressive than he expected and the bike had better traction in the wet than the Yamaha, something he had noted when riding with Rossi earlier this season.
The 2013 season is already well underway, and already it's been badly affected by the rain. Though Tuesday dawned bright and sunny, the first showers started moving in shortly before 10am, when the test was due to start, sprinkling just enough to make slicks a risky proposition, but not enough to be able to use wets properly. It started raining more heavily later, and with a track now fully wet, there has been a mixture of riders on the track already.
Given the massive difference in the conditions, the times are meaningless. Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl got out early to test the track, but soon headed back once it started raining more heavily. Bradl has two bikes in his garage, one 2012 satellite spec RC213V, and one factory Honda RC213V. Valentino Rossi made a very early appearance, rolling out onto the track immediately after 10am. Rossi is notorious for hating mornings, and this is probably the earliest he has ever taken to the track at a test, normally only rolling out an hour or so after everyone else.
Rossi does look supremely comfortable aboard the Yamaha M1, however. During one wet stint he was out posting consistent 1'47 laps, and looking very comfortable. Andrea Dovizioso, out for the first time on the Ducati, was nowhere near as fast, running in the 1'50s at the same time Rossi was lapping several seconds faster.
The sense of expectation in the air at Valencia is wound so tight it hums. Tomorrow morning, some time after 10am, some of that expectation will start to dissipate as we get the first glimpses of answers that have preoccupied MotoGP fans for the past few months.
Two things we hope to see: a glimpse of the past and a glimpse of the future. After two long, hard years, the army of Valentino Rossi fans will be hoping to see something they haven't since 2010, or maybe even 2009: a flowing, comfortable, aggressive Valentino Rossi at one with the machine underneath. That was something he never showed while riding the Ducati, the figure in the Rossi replica helmet sitting on the Ducati always looking more like a club racer had sneaked into the back of the Ducati garage to take the bike out for a spin, terrifying himself in the process. Rossi looked stiff, awkward, uncomfortable, his back arched like a cat negotiating a dog-infested yard.
Pol Espargaro has started the 2013 Moto2 season in much the same way he finished the last. The HP Pons rider was the fastest man of the day at a sunny if rather chilly Valencia, posting a time already a couple of tenths quicker than his pole record set on Saturday. Julian Simon was immediately quicker on the Kalex than he was on the Suter, having moved from Team BQR to Team Italtrans, while Mika Kallio was 3rd quickest on the Marc VDS Racing bike. Nico Terol underlined his speed at the Valencia circuit by ending the session in 4th.
It was a day of bike and team swaps, though riders were being reshuffled rather than having new riders enter the class. The rookies are few, though Tech 3 has a brace of them in Danny Kent and Louis Rossi. Sandro Cortese is also new to the class, though he did not test at Valencia, but will make his Moto2 debut at Albacete instead later in the week.
Unofficial times for the Moto2 class, provided by the circuit:
2012 Valencia MotoGP Post-Race Round Up: On Marquez' Talent, Pedrosa's Gamble, Lorenzo's Crash, And A Debt Left Open
So the 2012 MotoGP season is over, and someone with a great deal of courage and a little bit of money to wager could have ended the year rich beyond their wildest dreams. If you could have found someone to take your bet seriously, you would have got a very, very good return on one race being won from the back of the grid, and the other from a rider starting from pit lane. Just one of those events is highly unusual, having both of the happen on the same day is unheard of.
The odds on Marc Marquez winning from the back of the grid were probably disappointingly short. By now, every bookmaker in the world will have seen the onboard clip of Marc Marquez after stalling his bike on the grid at Motegi, and the way he disposed of twenty Moto2 competitors in the space of half a lap. The first lap at Valencia is likely to create as much of a sensation - or at least it would, if Dorna would either resist the temptation to take down Youtube videos before they go viral to keep their TV rights holders happy, or make the videos available free of charge on the MotoGP.com website so that they can go viral while retaining control - as Marquez passed another twenty riders in the space of five corners.
Press releases from the teams, from the single tire supplier and from Honda after Sunday's dramatic MotoGP race at Valencia:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the race on Sunday: