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After a brief respite at Valencia, the rain was back in full force at the Jerez test for the Moto2 and 125cc class, so bad that it was causing flooding in the nearby towns of Cadiz, Conil and Chiclana. The handful of kilometers that separated the Jerez circuit from the flood-affected areas were sufficient to spare the assembled riders most of the problems, other than being cold and wet for much of the session.
The rain dried up in the afternoon, though the track remained tricky, and by the end of the day it was Alex de Angelis who proved best at mastering the difficult conditions for the Moto2 riders, his time of 1'55.835 still over 13 seconds off track record pace. De Angelis finished the day ahead of Tech 3's Raffaele de Rosa and Gresini's Toni Elias, with Swiss rider Thomas Luthi in 4th position.
De Rosa's 2nd place is remarkable turnaround for the Italian, as at Valencia and Barcelona he had been outclassed by his teammate Yuki Takahashi. De Rosa wasn't the only rider whose relative standing changed on a wet track: Heroes of the previous test at Valencia Julian Simon and Kenny Noyes dropped down to 10th and 12th respectively in the wet, two seconds off the pace set by Alex de Angelis.
The weather gods, having given the Moto2 class its first break at Valencia, have struck back with a vengeance at Jerez. The first morning of the three-day test has so far been rained off, with only Toni Elias and Sergio Gadea having braved the conditions, and lapping well over the 2 minute mark, over 20 seconds off the pace. With the wet weather expected to continue for the remainder of Saturday at least, not much is likely to happen today, and the teams will have to hope for better conditions tomorrow.
When the riders are out on track, you can follow the action via live timing, which is available online, and shown embedded below:
The status of the FB Corse project has been shrouded in mystery ever since the Italian team announced they would be contesting the 2010 MotoGP season. Though the bike has been officially presented, and details about the three-cylinder MotoGP machine widely circulated, the bike has yet to turn a wheel in public, and no one knows whether the bike is even capable of achieving race speeds. This latter point has caused some concern inside IRTA, the organization representing the race teams and charged with ensuring the quality of the teams involved. IRTA boss Mike Trimby told MCN last week that FB Corse would not be allowed to take part in MotoGP until the bike had demonstrated its competitiveness, by lapping at a Grand Prix circuit within three seconds of race pace.
FB Corse has now risen to that challenge. Today, the team issued a press release stating that Garry McCoy is to test the FB01 at Valencia on the 15th and 16th of March, before running a timed test in front of Franco Uncini, who will be watching the test on behalf of Dorna. A representative from IRTA will also be present to monitor the test, to ensure the team is proficient enough to be allowed into the MotoGP paddock.
As much as they will be missed, there was one very clear reason the 250s were replaced by the Moto2 class: Cost. The virtual monopoly that Aprilia had in the 250cc class meant that the Italian factory could ask whatever it liked for a competitive bike, and could pick and choose the riders to bless with competitive material. If you wanted to win races and have a shot at the title, you had little choice but to stump up the million plus euros that Aprilia was asking for a factory-spec RSA 250. It was possible to compete on the cheap - a privateer LE spec machine could be had for as little as 250,000 euros, though engine and chassis upgrades were still extremely expensive - but the only chance of success (and therefore publicity) would come in the rain, when the power advantage of the top bikes disappeared.
Julian Simon was the fastest man over the three full days of testing at Valencia, the first time the Moto2 bikes had been on track with the official spec engine. The Mapfre Aspar rider topped the timesheets on Tuesday, finishing ahead of Kenny Noyes on the Banderas Jack&Jones bike and Toni Elias on the Gresini Moriwaki. The top ten was virtually unchanged from Tuesday, only Alex de Angelis improving his time, though not his position.
Where previous tests have provided little comprehensible information due to poor weather and wildly differing engine specs being used, Valencia offered a prolonged period of dry track and the introduction of the spec Honda CBR 600 engine, meaning that for the first time, it is possible to make some comparisons and draw some conclusions. And there are certainly some interesting perspectives being opened up. The fact that springs most prominently to your attention is the dearth of 125 riders at the top of the timesheet, the sole exception being the reigning 125cc World Champion Julian Simon. But to call Simon a 125 rider is to do him an injustice, Julito spent two years racing 250s before making the step into Moto2, and has clearly lost none of his experience of bigger bikes.
The final day of testing started a washout, with the overnight rain continuing into the morning, and leaving the track soaked. For about half the field, this was the signal to pack up and head to Jerez, where the Moto2 class will continue to test from Saturday, but a sizable group remained. Only a few braved the wet conditions of the morning, Ant West topping the timesheets early, the Australian renowned for wet weather riding, having taken his only 250cc victory in a downpour in 2003.
Once the track dried up in the afternoon, the track saw more action, but few riders bettered their times from Tuesday. Alex de Angelis was one exception to the rule, and the three tenths of a second he took off yesterday's time put him firmly atop the timesheets, exactly half a second quicker than Monday's fastest man Toni Elias, and nearly nine tenths faster than Tech 3's Yuki Takahashi.
The second day of testing at Valencia saw some fairly big shakeups in the timesheets, with some riders making big steps while others barely improved, but at the end of the day, the same bunch of names sat at the top of the timesheets that had been there at the end of Monday. The order, though, was slightly different, with Julian Simon the fastest man of the day, the Aspar rider getting stuck just outside the 1'36s, his best time a lap of 1'37.156, which would have qualified him in 7th place at the last 250cc race here at Valencia.
Simon's progress was matched by Kenny Noyes of the Banderas Jack&Jones team, both men improving their times by some three tenths of a second, despite considerably cooler temperatures at the Cheste circuit. Yesterday's fastest man, Toni Elias, could not go any faster on Tuesday, ending the day with a time a hundredth slower than his best lap yesterday. Claudio Corti of the Forward Racing team - the remnants of last year's Hayate squad - once again finished 4th, while Tech 3's Yuki Takahashi improved to 5th place, less than half a second off Simon's best time.
The first day of testing with the official Honda engine is over for the Moto2 class, and finally we have some kind of indication of both what the lap times and what the relative strengths of each rider, team and chassis are. And those indications are throwing up some very interesting surprises.
The name at the very top of the timesheet is very far from a surprise: Ever since it was clear that Toni Elias would be returning to MotoGP's middle class, he has been favorite to take the title. Elias got his campaign off to a good start, lapping in the mid 1'37s, a respectable pace which would have put him in 12th on the grid for the last ever 250cc race here just over 4 months ago. The name of Julian Simon, reigning 125cc World Champion is no real shocker either, the Mapfre Aspar rider also being hotly tipped by both fans and insiders.
Places 3 through 5 are more of a surprise, though they range from an insiders' tipped rider to a complete wildcard. Kenny Noyes in 3rd may come as a surprise to MotoGP fans, but anyone who has kept half an eye on the Spanish CEV Formula Extreme championship in recent years will know the American's name, and will know that he is fast. Noyes has had some experience on Moto2 bikes already, having tested immediately after the race at Valencia.
The waiting is over, and the Moto2 bikes are finally out on track at Valencia on equal terms, with equal engines. At last we can start comparing times properly, as everyone is now using the official standard Moto2 engine. Using the spec Honda engine, Kenny Noyes is so far quickest, confirming the form the Antonio Banderas Racing rider has shown at all of the Moto2 tests so far. The American - son of US journalist and Spanish TV commentator Dennis - leads the Gresini squad, with Russian newcomer Vladimir Ivanov surprisingly ahead of the championship favorite, Toni Elias. Yuki Takahashi, who has also been fast throughout Moto2 testing, sits in 4th, the Tech 3 rider currently about eight tenths off Noyes' pace.
But the times so far don't mean too much, as no one has put in a great many laps yet, and a sizable group of riders are still in the pits waiting to get underway. Some of the teams are suffering the consequences of - unsurprisingly - the economic crisis: One such is Scot Honda, who according to GPOne.com were forced to wait until this morning before receiving their Moto2 engines, as the team still has unpaid back payments for their MotoGP adventure last season. The team, which is to field Alex de Angelis and Niccolo Canepa, has been given a reprieve for this test, but could still be in trouble before the season starts.
After a very long wait, the official Moto2 engines have finally been delivered to the Moto2 teams. The teams, assembled at Valencia for testing over the next three days, have had to wait for the engines since November last year, but reliability issues have prevented Honda from supplying them to the teams earlier.
Each rider has been issued with one engine, assigned at random by IRTA officials, which they will have to make last for the upcoming two official IRTA tests and the first three races of the season. The engines are numbered and marked, the numbers unrelated to the numbers the riders use, though Andrea Iannone of the Speed Up team will be using engine number 73, the reverse of the number he will be running on his FTR Moto2 bike this season.
With the engines now being fitted into the chassis, the riders and teams are preparing for tomorrow's test. And for once, the weather gods appear to have looked kindly on the Moto2 class, for though the northern part of the Iberian peninsula has just been lashed by storms, the weather at Cheste looks like being largely dry and relatively warm for all three days, with rain forecast to fall only when the bikes aren't on track.
The MotoMatters.com 2010 Motorcycle Racing Calendar has been a huge hit, and is now adorning the walls of homes and offices around the world, helping hardcore motorcycle racing fans plan their weekends around their favorite sport. With each race weekend clearly marked, keeping up with when the next race is now incredibly easy for the lucky souls who purchased the calendar. But those who have not yet done so are about to get even luckier: We have slashed a sizable chunk off the purchase price, to help sell the last few copies we have in our storerooms.
On top of the price cut, we will also be offering a free Riders for Health sticker (graciously provided by the US chapter of Riders) to the first 15 people to place an order. 10% of the purchase price already goes to Riders for Health, and the bonus sticker is our way of showing our support to this outstanding organization, and can be your way of joining the mass of people who have helped Riders become what it is today.
At the end of the day at each MotoGP event, journalists crowd into hospitality suites and pit garages to question the riders on how the day went, and find out what they have been riding on. Unfortunately, those interviews are not usually available online during the racing season. However, our good friends over at GPOne.com have been recording these interviews at the current MotoGP test at Sepang, and have put up edited versions for their readers to listen to.
Valentino Rossi finished the second day of testing at Sepang in the same style he finished the first day: On top of the timesheets, with a comfortable lead over his closest rival Casey Stoner. The Italian smashed his existing pole record on a used tire early on the session, before going on to work on the electronics of his Fiat Yamaha M1. At the end of the day, Rossi pronounced himself very happy with the progress of the Yamaha, and even took time to try the Yamaha Test Team's bike, setting the 15th fastest time in the process on a bike not set up for him.
Rossi finished nearly a quarter of a second faster than Casey Stoner, the Australian having also lapped under Rossi's previous pole record. There was also good news for Stoner's teammate, 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden. After struggling yesterday, Hayden improved his time by over 1.5 seconds, setting his best ever testing result on the Ducati. The Kentucky Kid had complained of a lack of strength from the arm pump surgery he had just a couple of weeks ago, but a day back on the bike was sufficient to sort those problems out too. Hayden took it a little easier than his usual marathon testing sessions, with 10 other riders doing more laps than the American.
The new MotoGP regulations for 2012 have the MSMA caught on the horns of a dilemma: In the long run, the 1000cc formula should be cheaper than the current crop of 800s. In the short run, the switch requires that the factories design a new engine based on the new limitations imposed by the rules. With the factories still reeling after the global economic crisis has left their finances in turmoil, a significant investment to develop a brand new engine is not an attractive prospect at all.
Consequently, at the meeting the MSMA held at Sepang three weeks ago, the factories agreed to allow the 800cc bikes to remain in the class as a separate category for the foreseeable future. The 800cc bikes were to be given a 3 kilogram weight advantage over the 1000s, but were to be subject to the same fuel, engine limits and 81mm maximum bore restriction to be imposed on the liter bikes. This would allow the factories to get more value out of the 800cc bikes they have already poured so much investment into, and prevent them from having to persuade their management boards from dipping heavily into the rapidly-dwindling coffers to develop a new bike.
Valentino Rossi continued his dominance at Sepang, picking up where he left three weeks ago and topping the timesheets at the end of the first day of testing at the Malaysian track. The Italian put in his fastest time early, and has spent much of the day working on the electronics, content with the work done on the engine and chassis at the previous Sepang test.
Casey Stoner was the second fastest man, and the only rider to get close to the Italian. Stoner has been testing a new carbon fiber swingarm on the Desmosedici GP10, as Ducati continues to work on incorporating the advantages the aluminium swingarm offers into the carbon fiber version.
Third and fourth fastest men were Andrea Dovizioso and Loris Capirossi, the two Italians throwing up a bit of a surprise. Dovizioso took half a second off his time from the previous test, the Repsol Honda team starting to integrate the data they collected three weeks' ago into finding a strong setup for the new Honda RC212V. Dovi's teammate Dani Pedrosa was less fortunate, suffering a slow speed fall that kept him off the track for a couple of hours, before returning and setting the 7th fastest time.