Almost everything about Moto2 is new: A new formula, new bikes, new riders - at least, a significant number of new riders. To introduce all this novelty to our readers, and give them a peek into the new series, here's a selection of photos taken at the Moto2 at Jerez, which took place this weekend. All photos courtesy and copyright of Honda Pro Images:
At the end of the three days of testing for the Moto2 class at Jerez, Forward Racing's Claudio Corti comes away at the top of the timesheets. The Italian, riding a Suter for the former Hayate team ended the final day as the fastest rider, just a fraction ahead of the time Toni Elias set on Saturday. Elias himself dominated much of the test, but a nasty crash in the final session saw the Gresini rider forced off track between turns 1 and 2 when a much slower 125cc rider blocked Elias' line, leaving him no choice but to hit the deck. Elias was immediately flown back to his hometown of Barcelona to undergo medical examination and and treatment if necessary. Elias has a suspected fracture of his left hand, as well as heavy bruising to his left hand and left foot. The Gresini rider is expected to be fit enough to race in the season opener at Qatar.
Tech 3's Yuki Takahashi was the fastest man on the second day of testing for the Moto2 class at Jerez, just squeaking ahead of Marc VDS Racing's Scott Redding and Ant West on the MZ. Takahashi's time was half a second slower than yesterday's fastest man Toni Elias, who today was just 5th fastest and three quarters of a second slower than his time from Saturday.
So far, this final Moto2 test has shown how close the field has become in the class, and shaken up the list of favorites a little. The top 20 riders are all within a second of each other, with 20th place man Karel Abraham just 0.938 behind Takahashi. Kenny Noyes, the American who has been so fast in the earlier tests is now down the order in 12th, though still only half a second off the fastest time at Jerez, while Scott Redding had been languishing near the bottom of the timesheets in previous tests, and has now leaped up into 2nd spot. Testing concludes tomorrow.
Results from the first day of testing for the Moto2 class at Jerez, courtesy of Bikeracing.it:
Since the rumblings began emanating from the machinations of Colin Edwards’, Hervé Poncharal’s, and Lin Jarvis’ closed-door meetings to figure out how to get Ben Spies and Tom Houseworth into MotoGP in 2010, and the subsequent announcement last Fall, one of the most popular ways to cast the story (and indeed, one of the few speculative avenues that doesn’t automatically involve Silly Season 2011) is to suggest that the tensions between Colin Edwards and James Toseland will somehow be amplified in the arrival of the superior abilities of Ben Spies. I realize magazines and newspapers need to manufacture material in the off-season to sell copies, and we who post on The Web need to draw traffic when potential advertisers don’t care that the sport is on hiatus. But I am here to tell you that this particular road is a dead end street. Headlines of “Tension at Tech 3”, “Monster Battle Brewing”, and “Trouble in Paradise” (a city in Texas, but not home to either rider), can be summarily ignored.
Rain once again ruined testing for the Moto2 test at Jerez, the bad weather chasing the class all over Spain throughout its off-season testing program. Hopes that the weather might brighten up for Monday's session were dashed, the rain falling on and off all day. "These three days at Jerez have been pretty much a waste of time," Tech 3 boss Hervé Poncharal told MotoMatters.com, "Even on Sunday, the track was never really dry, there were wet patches still in places."
Ant West took advantage of the wet conditions in the morning to set the fastest time of the mixed session, ahead of Alex de Angelis and Mike di Meglio, but in the 50 minute qualifying simulation at 4pm, De Angelis moved easily ahead of the rest of the field, ending the session and the day with three quarters of a second advantage over his competitors. Toni Elias confirmed his role as favorite for the title, finishing the day in second spot, the Gresini rider having been at or near the top at every test held so far.
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.
Rider lineup for the inaugural 2010 Moto2 season:
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.
Once they got over the tragedy of losing the 250cc two-stroke, motorcycle race fans have turned their gaze to the Moto2 class. So little is known, and so much is up in the air for the class that fans are poring over photos in minute detail trying to work out the crucial differences between the different bikes. Cue the outstanding Italian website GPOne.com, who shot some close up video of six of the bikes due to contest the Moto2 championship next season. The video below gives a brief tour and explanation (albeit in Italian) of the RSV used by the Aspar and Cardion AB teams, the Moriwaki to be used by Gresini, the Holiday Gym team and Interwetten, the Blusens BQR bike, the Kalex Pons machine, Tech 3's Mistral 610 bike designed and built by the team's engineers, and the most popular choice on the grid, the Suter MMX.
The gods have not looked kindly on the advent of the Moto2 class. Nearly every time the new bikes have taken to the track for testing, the elements have intervened, throwing wind, rain and even snow into the paths of the CBR600-engined prototypes. The final day of testing at Barcelona was no different, the day starting wet and the track only drying out some time after 2pm, leaving precious little time for the riders to work further on developing and setting up their brand new Moto2 machines.
Despite the conditions and the lack of track time, the majority of riders still at the circuit did manage to improve their times. Once again, it was Shoya Tomizawa who was fastest, sharing the honor on Friday with Julian Simon and Yuki Takahashi. In the unofficial standings, Jules Cluzel was awarded the 4th fastest time, ahead of Ant West on the MZ.
But twelve riders finished the test within a second of each other, though being unofficial and self-reported, the lap times need to be treated with an artery-clogging helping of salt. A potential lead group seems to be appearing, but given the well-reported difference in engine tune being used, it is hard to judge just how much difference in time is being disguised by superior engines.
The second day of testing for the Moto2 class at Barcelona took place under far better conditions than the first. The day started off relatively sunny and dry, but damp patches and a cool track made for a treacherous track, which caught many riders out. The main victims were Roberto Rolfo and Alex Debon, two of the men tipped for success in the class, who both suffered serious shoulder injuries. Rolfo dislocated his shoulder and will be out for four weeks, while Debon fractured a collarbone and is likely to be out for a similar period. The Spaniard was taken to Valencia in the afternoon to undergo surgery to set the collarbone. Rolfo's injury came at a time when the Italian was doing well. He had just set the second time of the day behind American Kenny Noyes when he went down on a damp part of the track. In addition to Rolfo and Debon, the list of fallers included Thomas Luthi, Fonsi Nieto, Raffaele de Rosa and Julian Simon, though these riders came away relatively unscathed.
At the end of the day, it was the Japanese rider Shoya Tomizawa who reported the fastest time on a Suter MMX, ahead of Frenchman Jules Cluzel, also on a Suter, with the Colombian Yonni Hernandez in 3rd aboard a Blusens BQR. But while the teams are still using a mixture of engines - with a power difference of over 15 horsepower in some cases - the times need to be taken with a very large helping of salt, especially as these times have been released by the teams, rather than recorded by the official timekeeping.