Analysis

2012 Sepang 1 MotoGP Test Day 3 Round Up: Taking Stock After Sepang 1

The MotoGP bikes have been back in action for three days now - four, if you count Randy de Puniet and the other Aprilia ART (as Aprilia's CRT bike is called) riders' outing at Valencia - and fans and followers now have some real meat to chew over. The days of endless speculation based on nothing more than ill-informed gossip and rumor is over; the days of endless speculation based on slightly better-informed gossip, rumor and lap times are here.

So what preliminary conclusions can we draw from the test at Sepang? Has the Ducati really been fixed? Are the 1000s going to provide more exciting racing? Will the Honda be as dominant this year as it was last? Can Jorge Lorenzo take the fight to Casey Stoner? Do the times set by the CRT bikes mean that the project is a failure? Wouldn't it be nice if we could provide a simple yes-or-no answer to all of these questions?

The big question over the winter is what has happened at Ducati, and whether Filippo Preziosi and his band of laboring engineers could come up with a bike that Valentino Rossi could be competitive on. That question is incredibly hard to answer from the lap times: Rossi ended the test over 1.2 seconds behind Casey Stoner, and a good six tenths behind Jorge Lorenzo; in 2011, the Italian was just a second behind Stoner on the Honda, suggesting that Ducati may have gone backwards instead of forwards.

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2012 Sepang 1 MotoGP Test Day 2 Round Up: Work Starts In Earnest, And Ezpeleta Talks 2013

With the excitement of MotoGP bikes being back on track subsiding to more manageable levels, the riders and teams were back hard at work again on Wednesday. The track had improved sufficiently to see times start to drop to where they might reasonably be expected to be. At Mugello in July of last year, Ducati Corse boss Filippo Preziosi had told the press that the simulations Ducati had run comparing their 1000cc bike - now radically changed since then - to the 800 showed that the 1000s should be about half a second faster round Mugello than the 800s, and that prediction proved to be just about spot on at Sepang.

The name of the rider at the top of the timesheet should surprise no one, Casey Stoner returning from a back problem - though still clearly stiff and not back to full strength - to post a scorching lap time, clear of the two Yamahas of Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo. Stoner did only a relatively few laps on the RC213V, concentrating on getting the parts tested he had on his work list, rather than working on a setup for the 2012 season. He compared the two chassis he had been given - and asked for the best parts of both chassis again, unsurprisingly - and concentrated on the big stuff.

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2012 Sepang 1 MotoGP Test Day 1 Round Up: Yamaha's Progress, The Phoenix Rises, And CRT Thwarted By Electronics

The MotoGP bikes are finally back on track - though it took a little longer than expected, after an overnight rain shower left the track damp in the morning. Much had been expected of this test, and it has delivered already, after just a single day. In fact the test has been almost perfect, real bikes running on a circuit putting an end to the intrigue and subterfuge that play such a major role in every winter break, whilst raising enough new questions to pique the interest of anyone with a passion for motorcycle racing.

The overnight rain made conditions far from ideal, a fact reflected by the fact that in the main, there was little difference in times between the first day of the 2012 test and the first day of the same test last year, despite the bikes having grown in capacity by 200cc. The extra power was all too evident around the track: controlling wheelies while retaining drive out of corners is going to be key this year, and while the extra torque makes the bigger bikes easier to control, and reduces some of the electronics needed, the resources spent on taming a highly-strung 800cc engine have now been diverted to keeping the front wheel of the fire-breathing 1000s within a parsec or two of the tarmac.

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2012 MotoGP Sepang 1 Test Monday Pre-Test Round Up: Phoenix Unveiled, HRC's Launch, And New Tires For All

So the day that MotoGP fans have been waiting for throughout the long, dark, bikeless winter break has nearly arrived. In a few short hours time, the MotoGP bikes will be tearing up the track in Malaysia once again in preparation for the 2012 season. Indeed, all day Monday, a few MotoGP bikes - the cynics and naysayers would refute that the Aprilia CRT bike is a MotoGP bike, but they are wrong - have been howling round Valencia, but as that is a private test it has not impinged upon the consciousness of MotoGP fans as much as Sepang has. On Tuesday morning, the winter is officially, finally over.

A very great deal of the interest in the Sepang test has been focused on Ducati, a rather logical result of Valentino Rossi's dismal debut year with the iconic Italian brand. In the break between the Valencia test and tomorrow's test at Sepang, the Desmosedici GP12 has been redesigned from the ground up, Ducati Corse boss Filippo Preziosi claiming that the bike is 90% different, even though it would look strikingly similar to the bike labeled the "GP Zero" by the press at Valencia. To further stir the interest of the fans - as if they needed any stirring - Ducati then failed to display the bike at their traditional Wrooom! launch event in mid-January, leaving even more room for speculation and conjecture. Even a private test of the bike organized by Ducati Corse at Jerez went off without anyone managing to sneak any photos or information out to the ever-eager press.

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Yamaha Looks East: Lin Jarvis Explains Why MotoGP Needs To Be Racing Outside Europe

MotoGP is looking eastward. As the involvement and interest from and in Asia has continued to grow in recent years, the importance of the region - beyond the historic role that Japan has played in the series, that is - to both the MotoGP series and the manufacturers has become increasingly evident. With Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies visiting the region a couple of times over the winter, and Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta hinting at more races in Asia in coming years, the Asian dimension in MotoGP is set to grow in the near future.

The addition of "Semakin di Depan", the slogan used by Yamaha's subsidiary in Indonesia, to the factory Yamaha M1s back in 2010 was the first sign of change, and Honda followed suit in 2011, with the addition of the "Satu Hati" slogan, used by Honda's Indonesian subsidiary, to the factory Repsol Honda machines. Meanwhile, Yamaha's factory riders have been making marketing trips to Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and other countries in the region on a regular basis since 2008.

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How The Robot ASIMO Helped Build Honda's MotoGP Electronics Package

The major leap forward which Honda's MotoGP bike has taken in the past two seasons has come in two distinct areas, the chassis and the electronics. Much of the work of sorting out the RC212V's chassis was done during the 2010 season, when the factory tried out five different chassis variations and several different swingarms, before getting the bike right early in the 2011 season. Parallel to the chassis, Honda spent two years improving their MotoGP bike's electronics, after poaching two of Yamaha's key staff to work on HRC's electronics package. The resulting machine, in the hands of Casey Stoner, proved unbeatable throughout the 2011 season.

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Wrooom 2012 Wednesday Round Up: Preziosi Giving Little Away About The Ducati GP12

Fifty-three minutes is how long Filippo Preziosi spoke to the press at Ducati's 2012 Wrooom event at Madonna di Campiglio. The Ducati Corse General Manager spoke extensively on the work that had gone in to the Desmosedici GP12 to be debuted by Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi at Sepang, on the data gathered by Ducati's riders throughout the 2011 season and in the post-race test at Valencia, on the Bridgestone tires and the problems they caused for engineers, on the lessons learned from comparing a carbon fiber chassis using the engine as a stressed member against an aluminium twin spar chassis, and about the approach taken to solving the problems encountered during the 2011 season. But despite his extended and fascinating presentation, he gave virtually nothing away about the actual bike itself.

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Ezpeleta On The Future Of MotoGP: Bikes Costing 1 Million Euros, Fewer Spanish Races And Performance Balancing

Although the Wrooom event at the Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio is formally meant as the launch for Ducati's MotoGP and Ferrari's Formula One season, many other big names from the world of racing are also in attendance. One such person was Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, and given the major changes coming to MotoGP for 2012 - and even bigger changes from 2013 onwards - Ezpeleta had arranged to give a short press conference to talk to journalists about some of his plans for next season and beyond. But he barely made it into the press conference: on his way in, he was doorstepped by a group of journalists who started grilling Ezpeleta about the future of MotoGP, leaving the Spaniard with little left to say in the press conference. His answers did provide a compelling look at the future of MotoGP as Dorna sees it.

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Wrooom 2012 Tuesday Round Up: Rossi And Hayden Talk About The New Ducati, New Contracts, And The 1000s

The launch of Ducati's 2012 season got properly underway this morning, when Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden faced questions from the press at Madonna di Campiglio, the Italian ski resort that hosts Ducati's Wrooom event. After a disastrous 2011, much of the focus of questioning was on the new Ducati GP12, the bike missing from the festivities at Wrooom, but to make its first public appearance at the Sepang test. The delay, according to various reports, is more to do with finalizing the livery, with details still to be hammered out with sponsors.

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Will Marc Marquez Be Ready For The 2012 Season?

That may be the most difficult question to answer of the 2012 preseason. After suffering a crash at Sepang caused the Moto2 rookie to lose his shot at the 2011 Moto2 world title, the double vision problems he suffered as a result have continued throughout the winter. Now the 2012 season is just around the corner, but Marquez' problems are not fixed yet.

Motomatters.com spoke to the man behind Marc Marquez on Monday. The 1999 125cc World Champion Emilio Alzamora talked about the dramatic end to Marquez's 2011 season, the improvement his eye problem has shown during the last few weeks and his hopes for a complete recovery before the 2012 season starts next February: "Everybody knows that since Marquez crashed at Sepang, he has been suffering from an eye problem", said Catalunya Caixa Suter Moto2 team manager Alzamora. "He sustained some damage to one of the four nerves that control his eye. That made him see double when staring up or down. It is a kind of problem that should simply disappear in a matter of time, so just after Marquez's accident doctors told us that it could take up to four months to recover completely. But then there was a different doctor who said that it could be fixed earlier. That's why Marc kept his championship ambitions to race in Valencia. But when we went to Ricardo Tormo for the last round of the season, it became clear that there was no chance for Marc to take part in the race".

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