Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the second day of practice at Qatar:
It's been a long time - too long, is the general opinion in the paddock, 5 months without MotoGP allows fan enthusiasm to sag - but MotoGP is back again. No more phony wars, this time, it's serious out in the desert.
Serious, maybe, but also very confusing. Thursday is normally a day for setting up, ending with the pre-event press conference, but not at Qatar. Here, because practice is spread over four days instead of three, to allow all of the bikes to get time on the track before the dew starts to form on the track, turning the conditions treacherous, Thursday starts with the group photos, is followed by the press conference, and then rounds up with five sessions of free practice for the three classes.
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The first batch of press releases from the MotoGP teams ahead of the season opener at Qatar:
In a week's time, the first race of the 2012 MotoGP season will be wrapped up and finished, and with a full preseason of testing behind us, it's time to take a look at the upcoming year. A lot is expected of the new season, and there's a lot to talk about, with a return to 1000cc MotoGP bikes, a brand new Ducati GP12, the advent of the CRT bikes, and much, much more. Time to make some predictions for the 2012 season.
Predicted Final 2012 MotoGP Championship Standings:
The preseason is finally over. The final day of the final test at Jerez saw a familiar pattern unfold, with the factory Hondas and factory Yamahas fastest, the rest some way behind. Jorge Lorenzo led the session for seven hours and fifty minutes, until Casey Stoner stepped up the pace. Was it so important to stage a last-lap dash and steal top spot, one journalist asked? "Nope, just trying to be cheeky!" The World Champion responded.
Despite sitting just off the top of the timesheets for much of the day - until he decided to make his point rather forcefully, that is - Stoner is blisteringly fast. In the middle of the day, the Australian posted a run of 10 laps, all but one of which were in the 1'39 bracket, the only aberration a low 1'40. Both Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo also posted long runs, but their pace was all low 1'40s, the 1'39s only coming on shorter runs with new tires. But for all three, what is most impressive is the metronomic rhythm of the lap times, Jorge Lorenzo being the most robot-like of the trio.
2012 IRTA MotoGP Jerez Test Day 2 Round Up: Rain, the Tire Saga, and Cost-Cutting vs Increasing Income
"What we should do," the Jose Maroto, the Spanish editor of Motociclismo said to me, "Is organize MotoGP in Ethiopia, or anywhere they are having a drought. It hasn't rained here in Jerez for 70 days, and this is what happens when we arrive." It had happened in Sepang, and it happened at Jerez, the weather was the major protagonist on the second day of testing at the Spanish circuit, with high winds and heavy rain dominating much of the day.
It almost had a remarkable effect. Avintia Racing's Ivan Silva was one of the few riders who went out early in the morning while the track was still dry, and it looked for a long time like the Spaniard would end the day on top of the timesheets, a first for the FTR Kawasaki CRT bike. But the weather cleared up in the last few hours of the test, leaving an almost dry track for the final 30 minutes, and seeing most of the riders go back out to prepare some work for Sunday. In the process, they stole Silva's chance of glory, demoting him to 6th spot at the end of the day.
The first day of the final test ahead of the MotoGP season, and normal service has been resumed. The factory boys - well, the factory Hondas and Yamahas - are top of the pile, and fairly comfortably ahead of the rest. In bright, sunny, but very windy conditions, it looked like Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa would battle it out for top honors, rather as they did at last year's race, but just as everyone in the press room - your humble author included - was trotting out the old "Jerez is Stoner's bogey track" chestnut, the Australian turned up the wick and took half a second off his best time, propelling him to the top of the timesheets, and well under race lap record pace.
On the eve of the final MotoGP test at Jerez, Yamaha used the opportunity to officially present their MotoGP team and livery for the 2012 season. The bikes are similar to last years, but with more white, giving a cleaner look, but once again, Yamaha have no title sponsor. Asked at the presentation whether that would be a problem, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis told the media that Yamaha was not in racing to make money, but to promote the Yamaha brand, something which is more difficult with a title sponsor.
With the Moto2 and Moto3 trucks all departed from the paddock, the Jerez circuit is now the domain of the MotoGP teams for the final test ahead of the season opener at Qatar. Thursday, the eve of the test, saw a massive amount of pit lane activity, but mainly among the photographers as they chased up and down the track shooting the riders in their full season livery for publicity shoots and the official MotoGP.com website.
Jerez is the first time that all of the bikes, both the CRTs which have tested in Spain and the factory prototypes which have tested in Sepang, hit the track at the same time. The difference was immediately obvious, from a mosey up pit lane with a camera. At the CRT end of pit lane, garages were open, and mechanics were working on their bikes in full public display. I strolled past bare chassis with engines standing separately waiting to be fitted, bikes in various stages of undress, and stood taking photographs as mechanics worked on their bikes, undisturbed by my presence.
At last a full day of testing: though Thursday started out overcast, the rain that threatened through the final day of the Sepang MotoGP test never really came in earnest, with only a few drops of rain keeping the riders off the track for an hour or so in the afternoon. After two days which were largely lost to the weather, worked was stepped up to an almost frantic pace to make up for lost time.
The name of the fastest rider of the day was as unsurprising as the direction the sun rose in the morning. Casey Stoner has established himself as the man to beat, realistically from the moment he left Ducati to join Honda. After yesterday's hiatus - forced on the Honda riders by HRC, after an engine warning light on Dani Pedrosa's RC213V saw the bikes confined to their garages as a precautionary measure - Stoner was back in charge, topping the timesheets comfortably once again.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the final day of the Sepang 2 MotoGP test:
2012 Sepang 2 MotoGP Test Day 2 Round Up: The Mystery Of The Disappearing Hondas, And Some Happy Yamahas
It never rains but it pours. That old proverb applies both literally and metaphorically to the MotoGP test at Sepang, with rain - a solid, heavy, tropical downpour - once again confining the riders to their garages at the Malaysian circuit, for the second day in a row, and severely limiting track time. A couple of good dry hours in the morning, and that was it. From then on, the only testing that went on was in the wet, and though useful, it is not what the MotoGP field came to Malaysia for.
For Honda, the poor weather came as a blessing in disguise. All four RC213Vs were sidelined on Wednesday, after Dani Pedrosa's Repsol Honda suffered a mysterious engine problem at the end of Tuesday. An engine warning light came on, and Pedrosa pulled in the clutch and rolled into the pits to have his bike checked over. The HRC technicians took the warning light very seriously, flying the engine back immediately to Honda's racing HQ in Japan for further examination. There, the engine was inspected to see whether the problem could create a safety issue if it happened again, and finally given the all clear.