2013 MotoGP Provisional Calendar Leaked: 3 US Rounds, 4 Spanish Rounds, 2 Italian Rounds, And Late March Start
The provisional MotoGP calendar has taken a little longer than normal to appear. An initial calendar had been expected at Brno in late August, but no calendar was forthcoming at the Czech Grand Prix. The next rumored date for the calendar to be released was the weekend of the Misano round of MotoGP, but once the paddock assembled at Misano, it became apparent it would emerge a few days later - MotoMatters.com was told by an IRTA representative that the calendar would be announced on Tuesday or Wednesday this week. On Tuesday, the Austin Statesman newspaper reported that the calendar would be out on Friday, but the excessive enthusiasm of Loris Capirossi saw the former racer and current MotoGP safety advisor leak the 2013 calendar on his Twitter page on Thursday night.
MotoGP's test schedule for 2013 looks set to be almost identical to the test schedule from last year. Just as last year, there will be four official tests comprising eleven days of testing. Spain and Malaysia will once again be hosting the tests, with the Sepang circuit playing host to MotoGP, and Jerez and Valencia the location for Moto2 and Moto3 testing.
Testing kicks off immediately after the last race of 2012 at Valencia. The Moto2 and Moto3 classes test on Monday, November 12th, directly after the race, while the MotoGP riders get a day's rest before taking to the track on their new steeds. General admission tickets will be available for the Valencia tests on Tuesday and Wednesday, where fans will get their first chance to see Valentino Rossi back on the Yamaha, and Ben Spies on the Ducati.
The test ban kicks in on December 1st 2012, and ends on February 1st, 2013. The MotoGP class start testing again five days later at Sepang, from the 5th to the 7th of February, then taking a two-and-a-half week break before returning to the Malaysian track for another three-day test from the 26th to the 28th. In between, the Moto2 and Moto3 classes test at Valencia from the 12th to the 14th, and then again at Jerez from the 19th to the 21st.
The introduction of the Claiming Rule Team regulations into MotoGP has divided fans and followers into two distinct camps. The anti camp have decried the CRT machines as thinly disguised World Superbike machines, claiming that allowing the use of production machinery into MotoGP is a betrayal of the spirit of Grand Prix racing. The pro camp, on the other hand, argue that the CRT machines are MotoGP's salvation, and a return to Grand Prix racing's roots - the Manx Norton was, after all, a development of the Norton International, and the very first 500cc two stroke machines to be raced were based on roadgoing engines from Suzuki and Kawasaki.
Much of the debate has of course centered on the ability of the CRT machines to be competitive, or whether they will be so slow as to form a danger to the factory riders, being lapped several times a race. While the CRT machines had barely turned a wheel on track, those questions were impossible to answer, but now that the CRT machines have had a few outings in public, it is possible to start drawing some preliminary conclusions.
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.
With the three days of testing at the MotoGP class' second visit to Sepang now over, some preliminary conclusions can be drawn on the progress or otherwise that the teams have been making over the course of the two tests. Below are two comparison tables: the first one compares the improvement shown by the riders over the three days of the Sepang 2 test, while the second table compares the best times from the Sepang 1 and Sepang 2 tests, and the difference between the two.
One of the patterns which emerges from both tables is that the factory teams appear to make the least progress. Casey Stoner only improved his time from day 1 by just under 1.3 seconds, less than half the improvement made by Andrea Dovizioso, and a second or more less than almost all of the satellite riders, while the factory riders have improved the least. Something similar is apparent when comparing progress between the two tests, with the factory riders mainly going slower in the second test than they did at the first test a month ago.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the final day of the Sepang 2 MotoGP test:
Casey Stoner leaves Sepang once more on top of the timesheets, after a brief hiatus on Wednesday. The Australian leads a Repsol Honda one-two, with teammate Dani Pedrosa just under two tenths behind, the Spaniard followed by a veritable Armada of Yamahas. Monster Tech 3 Yamaha Andrea Dovizioso was the fastest of the Yamahas on the satellite machine, just sneaking ahead of Jorge Lorenzo on the factory bike, though Lorenzo spent his day working on a race simulation (completed at an impressively constant and rapid pace) rather than chasing a fast time. Dovizioso's teammate Cal Crutchlow posted the 5th fastest time, ending the day just a tenth of a second slower than 2010 World Champion Lorenzo.
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.
Press releases from the teams that rode on the second day of the MotoGP test at Sepang:
Yamaha's Ben Spies topped the second day of testing at Sepang, but the session was once again badly affected by rain. While vastly improved track conditions in the morning saw most riders take over a second off their times from yesterday, heavy rain started after just a couple of hours, calling a premature halt to the proceedings for everyone. Once the downpour eased off a little, track action resumed as the teams started work on the wet setup of their bikes.
In the dry conditions of the morning, Spies led a Yamaha whitewash. The Texan was faster - by the slimmest of margins, a few thousandths of a second - than his factory Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo, while Andrea Dovizioso ended the day as 3rd fastest, beating his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha teammate Cal Crutchlow for the first time since joining the team. Behind the Yamahas, Nicky Hayden led the Ducatis, fractionally behind Crutchlow and a quarter of a second faster than the Pramac satellite bike of Hector Barbera. Valentino Rossi continued to work on the revised electronics package of the Ducati, ending the day in 7th, behind Barbera but within a second of Spies.
The justification for flying halfway around the world to go testing in Sepang is simple: While Europe is still dealing with the after-effects of winter, plagued by cold, wind and rain, the temperature at Sepang is reliably warm, and despite the usual tropical storms in the afternoon, the chance of having a dry track to test on is very good.
Of course, it doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes, the rain falls much earlier, and the intensity of tropical thunderstorms makes it unsafe to go out on the track until the storm has passed, and the amount of rain that falls leaves a lot of water on the track.
Such was the case on the first day of the second MotoGP test at Sepang. A tropical storm moved in shortly after lunchtime, and the heavy rain left wet patches on the track for most of the afternoon. All the air miles gathered by riders and team staff flying in from around the world were mostly in vain, as they sat in their garages waiting for the rain to pass.
2012 Sepang 2 MotoGP Test Day 1 Press Releases - Including An On-Board Video Lap Of Sepang With Casey Stoner
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after day 1 of the second test at Sepang. Included is a video lap of the Sepang circuit, shot from on-board Casey Stoner's Honda RC213V:
Casey Stoner sits on top of the timesheets at the end of a weather-affected first day of testing at Sepang. The Repsol Honda man ended the day ahead of his teammate Dani Pedrosa, with the factory Yamahas of Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies behind. Alvaro Bautista put the satellite Gresini Honda into 5th, ahead of Ducati's Nicky Hayden, while Cal Crutchlow ended the session in 7th, just ahead of Valentino Rossi. Pedrosa and Lorenzo were the only riders to get within a second of Stoner's best time, however.
With heavy rainfall interrupting proceedings shortly after lunchtime, track time was limited; few riders put in much more than 30 laps, with Casey Stoner and Avintia's Yonny Hernandez - the Colombian having saved his MotoGP ride by promising to pay the sponsorship he will bring in installments - the most garage-bound of riders with just 16 apiece. The rain came on top of a track that was already dirty from car races held at the Sepang circuit just over a week ago, and the intense track temperatures meant that grip levels were much lower. With difficult conditions, posting fast times was hard, despite the lower grip removing some of the chatter which the riders had suffered at the previous test.
Where the first MotoGP test at Sepang at the end of January was an emotionally-charged affair - returning to the Malaysian circuit for the first time since the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli, and with massive anticipation of the brand new GP12, designed and built in record tempo over the winter break - the second test there seems almost humdrum in comparison. With just four weeks between the first and second tests for the MotoGP class, there has been no time for radical changes to the bikes that rolled out here in January, the focus instead being on the hard grind of crunching the numbers on the massive quantities of data that are gathered at every test, analyzing and testing the setup of the new machines, and finding out exactly how to go fastest with the bikes.
But if the glamor of the first test is missing, these will be a far more telling and a far more important three days than the first run out of the year in January. The easy improvements, achieved by grinding off the rough edges of the machine, have been found, and now the teams will focus on polishing, polishing and more polishing, looking for hundredths where previously they sought tenths of a second. The data from this test will form the basis for the bikes in race trim.
Bridgestone issued the following press release after the first Sepang MotoGP test, in which Bridgestone's general manager Tohru Ubukata and Dorna's newly appointed Safety Advisor, Loris Capirossi, discuss the reaction to and development of the 2012-spec Bridgestone tires for MotoGP: