It seems that Ducati's first world championship title has upset the major Japanese manufacturers a very great deal. After Honda got the FIM and MSMA to reduce the capacity to 800cc, they fully expected to be able to dominate the MotoGP class as they had after the previous change, the switch to four-stroke engines in 2002. They had not reckoned on a tiny Italian factory stealing their thunder by gambling on maximum horsepower, and humiliating the big players, and natural heirs to the MotoGP crown.
With the MotoGP teams switching back and forth between "big bang" and "screamer" firing orders, there is a lot of discussion about the relative advantages and disadvantages of the two engine configurations. On the one hand, Ducati has elected to switch back to the screamer configuration, with a great deal of success, while Kawasaki is working hard on its own version of the screamer, their task made more complicated by the fact that the Green Machine is an inline four.
As the World Superbike opener in Qatar approaches, the media is focusing its attention on some of the more unusual aspects of the World Superbike paddock. One of those anomalies is the HANNSpree Ten Kate Honda team, which is fielding not 2 but 3 top names in the Superbike championship: former MotoGP veteran Carlos Checa, double British Superbike champion Ryuichi Kiyonari, and reigning World Supersport title holder Kenan Sofuoglu.
The problem with practical jokes is that they can all too easily get out of hand. At the end of December, rumors first started emerging that Michael Schumacher was poised to make the switch to MotoGP, riding a Ducati. The rumor was based on the time Schumacher is alleged to have set at Valencia after the final Grand Prix of 2007, with the German former F1 champion riding the Ducati GP7 to within 5 seconds of the MotoGP lap record.
The weather stopped play during the final session of day 2 at the official IRTA test at Jerez, after the rain returned and the wind damaged advertising signs around the track. Officials red-flagged the session after less than an hour, with parts from the damaged signs forming a hazard for the riders. Only 4 riders had been out prior to the red flag being shown, completing a total of just 15 laps between them. Frenchman Randy de Puniet was the fastest in the meaningless session, in a time of 1'55.568.
If there were any lingering doubts about who is favorite for the 2008 MotoGP title, Sunday's qualifying practice at the official IRTA test in Jerez should have laid these well and truly to rest. Within just 11 minutes of the start of the session, one rider had stamped his authority on qualifying with such force that the 2nd place rider at that moment was nearly three and a half seconds behind. Three and a half seconds. And though his lead was reduced, after the 40 minutes were up, the winning margin was still over 1.3 seconds. This wasn't a contest, it was a massacre.