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.