Latest times from Day 2 of Qatar MotoGP test at 10:15pm:
Latest times from Qatar MotoGP test. The wind has dropped and stopped gusting, so times are faster:
Latest times from the second day of testing at Qatar, at 8:15pm. It's very windy, and there's some sand on the track:
The big technical news of MotoGP testing, in case you missed it, is Honda's mystery gearbox. Speculation has centered so far on a system either identical or similar to the Xtrac Instantaneous Gearchange System, which uses a system of ratchets to allow two gears to be engaged simultaneously while driving only one.
The system provides several benefits, not just in terms of time gained in changing gears, but even more in terms of stability. Andrea Dovizioso explained that the biggest benefit of the system is that it keeps the bike much more stable when shifting gears while leaned over, making it easier to get drive out of corners.
Whenever MotoGP testing is underway, there is a ravenous hunger for times among fans and followers of the sport. Every update is greedily consumed, every time heatedly debated, as we search to make sense of the posted times.
Two factors stand in the way of making an accurate analysis of the times, however. The first is that only the fastest lap time set by a rider is posted to the results page, and the second - related - issue is that the full timesheets - containing the times for every lap set for each rider - are not made available to the public. The times are printed out and distributed in the media center, but they are not published on the official MotoGP.com website, unlike the results for each session during a race weekend.
Being at Qatar, we get to see the actual timesheets, and it is immediately clear that the final posted times do not tell the full tale. The order the riders finished in is distorted by a couple of riders who set a very fast lap. Here's how the top 7 riders finished, including everyone who set a time under the 1'57 mark:
With the MotoGP season opener now just a week away, the final test before the season starts feels more like a couple of extra days of practice rather than a genuine test, especially with the Qatar race being spread over four days instead of the usual three. A point made repeatedly by the riders themselves, none of whom really had anything positive to say about the new four-day format. They all understood why it was being done, but it was a problem they felt could be fixed by holding the race later in the year, when the humidity which suddenly rolls into the circuit at about 10:30pm every night in March and early April would be less of a problem.
So with most of the big decisions already made - HRC has its chassis, the "standard 2011" version, the new version introduced at Valencia last year and the slightly stiffer of the two options Honda had been preparing for this season - teams are starting to work on minor tweaks, adjustments to setup rather than major revisions of new parts. Casey Stoner has two identical bikes with just seating positions and height differences, Dani Pedrosa has been working solely on mapping and electronics, and Jorge Lorenzo had a new swingarm to test.
The press releases issued so far after the first day of the final MotoGP test at Qatar:
Final times from Day 1 of the MotoGP test at Qatar:
Times at 10pm local time at Qatar:
Times from 8pm local time at Qatar:
John Hopkins made a brief return to MotoGP yesterday, taking the Suzuki GSV-R 800 out on the track for some promotional filming for Suzuki. The Rizla Suzuki team issued a press release about it, which you can read below:
Hopkins and Rizla Suzuki reunited in Qatar
HRC issued the following press release after the Japanese earthquake which caused so much devastation:
HRC EMPLOYEES ESCAPE UNHARMED AFTER JAPAN QUAKE
As news broke around the World of Japan's biggest earthquake since records began, Honda Racing Corporation is very relieved to announce that all employees have escaped unharmed.
The HRC headquarters in Asaka (Saitama Prefecture in Tokyo area) suffered no structural damage and no injuries were reported.
HRC and the Repsol Honda Team's heartfelt wishes and condolences now lay with those that have been affected by this terrible tragedy.
About 99.9% of the time, motorcycle racing is treated with deadly earnest, but from time to time, something comes along to remind us that in the grand scale of things, it rates pretty low down, only marginally above the question of the height of Paris Hilton's heels, to pick a celebrity with at least some connection to racing. This was brought home all too sharply by the news that Japan was hit by a massive earthquake in the early hours of Friday morning, wreaking havoc and destruction. The huge shock - magnitude 8.9, the largest ever recorded in Japan - also created a huge tsunami, inundating the coast of Honshu, Japan's main island.
The scale of the disaster was merciless, touching every corner of Japanese life. Industry and business came to a halt, all transport was stopped dead in its tracks, gas and electricity supplies are badly hit, and patchy in places. The disaster even touched Japan's motorcycle industry, with one worker dead and thirty injured at Honda's R&D plant in the Tochigi Prefecture. The effects of the quake could affect production, and supplies of some selected Honda motorcycles are expected to be limited, according to the respected motorcycle news site Asphalt & Rubber.