2013 MotoGP Season Preview: The Best Season Ever? For A While At Least

Every year, about now, there is one phrase which you will hear over and over again. With MotoGP testing behind us, and the start of the season imminent, every race fan chants the same mantra: "This could be the best MotoGP season ever!" Reality tends to intervene rather quickly, and the races never seem to pan out the way race fans had been hoping. Intriguing? Yes. Entertaining? Often. Thrilling? Not nearly as often as hoped.

And yet there is a genuine chance that this year could be different. Events inside MotoGP have been converging to a point which promises to see a return to the thrills of a previous era in MotoGP, one in which epic battles were fought out on the old 990cc machines. Though the days of tire-smoking action are long gone - killed off forever by the insistence of the factories that electronics must continue to play a major role in premier class racing - the battles could be back.

The ingredients which will spice up MotoGP? Two men, well matched in talent and in equipment - though both would dispute the latter claim, saying the other bike holds the upper hand. A grand old champion, returning to a bike he understands and knows he can ride and keen to prove he has not lost his edge. A fast young upstart, a fearless - some would say reckless - challenger, brimming with self-belief, overflowing with talent, and spoiling to make his mark. A talented underdog, a bull terrier desperate to get his teeth into the front runners, and bristling with resentment at the lack of factory support he believes he deserves. A stricken factory, fallen from its former glory, and determined to make amends, starting on the long road to recovering what it believes is its rightful place at the front. And a gaggle of young riders - some younger than others - determined to claim their place in the spotlights, and preferably on the podium.

Champion and Challenger

What MotoGP has been missing most is a battle at the front. For one reason or another over the past few seasons, battles for the lead have been worryingly scarce. The situation picked up in 2012 with the return of the larger 1000cc capacity MotoGP machines, culminating in the breathtaking battle between Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa at Brno. The Yamaha had been the stronger of the two bikes in the first half of the season, while the Honda struggled with chatter, unable to benefit from superior acceleration. At Brno their development trajectories collided, leading to an exhilarating battle which saw the lead change hands three times on the final lap. It would be the turning point of the season: from then on, Lorenzo would struggle to stay with Pedrosa, the Honda almost unbeatable once it was sorted, but the appetite for racing was whetted.

This season sees a rematch between Lorenzo and Pedrosa, though the two men start from different points compared with last year. The Honda - in the hands of both Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez - dominated at both Sepang tests and at the private test in Austin. The tables were turned at Jerez, with Yamahas topping all three days, in varying conditions and in the hands of three different riders. The Honda is clearly better in acceleration, aided in no small part by its seamless gearbox, while the Yamaha is faster through corners, the extra speed it carries meaning it does not lose out as much as it might. The pumping of the Yamaha's rear suspension has been largely tamed on corner exit, giving it excellent drive with which to counter the sheer horsepower of the Honda. Yamaha is working on a seamless gearbox of its own, but it is unlikely to see action until the second half of the year once it has been fully tested. Given how tightly contested the 2012 championship was, a single mechanical failure during a race could be the difference between winning and losing the title.

Jorge Lorenzo's 2012 season, which saw him crowned MotoGP World Champion for the second time in his career, was a case study in preparation, consistency and perfection. The factory Yamaha man permitted himself just a single mistake last year, and even that only came at the very last race, once the title was well and truly in the bag. Where Lorenzo benefited most was at the very start of the season, however. The Spaniard arrived at Sepang in outstanding physical condition, and then pounded out several race simulations to test how the bike would hold up, but more importantly, how he would hold up after 45 minutes of pushing a MotoGP machine to the limit. Bigger, heavier, more powerful bikes would place different demands on his body, Lorenzo calculated, and he and his team figured out what he would need to do to survive. It worked: the Spaniard dominated the series, winning five of the first nine races, while Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner fought chatter on their Honda RC213V, and each other. By the time Pedrosa started catching Lorenzo, it was too late.

Be Prepared

Lorenzo's preparation for 2013 has been almost identical to last year. The Spaniard arrived at the tests in peak physical condition, and pushed himself and his machine mercilessly once there. At Sepang and Jerez, he put in race simulations of close to full race distance. Those simulations were run at full race pace, Lorenzo grinding out the laps at a punishing pace, and with a soul-destroying regularity. His pace is at once scorching and metronomic, sapping the spirits of his competitors. Lorenzo is as ready as he has ever been to defend his title, and he will not go down without a fight.

Lorenzo is up against the same man he held off last year. While many observers - myself among them - believed that Casey Stoner would be Honda's main candidate for the 2012 title, it was Dani Pedrosa who stepped up and took the title fight to Jorge Lorenzo. It was a different Pedrosa to the man of previous years who raced in 2012. He stood taller, more upright, seemed calmer, stronger. Entering the season without injury had boosted his confidence, but a changed approach helped here too, Pedrosa arriving at the track earlier and eliminating some of the stress generated by a race weekend. The change was visible in his results, Pedrosa winning seven of the eighteen races in 2012, having his best year in MotoGP.

Pedrosa arrives in Qatar this year in almost as good a shape as last year. Yet two question marks remain, issues which are perhaps related. The minimum weight of the MotoGP bikes has been increased once again, from 157kg to 160kg, and Pedrosa is suffering with sprained muscles in his neck, a problem he picked up at Austin. Was the neck sprain a result of the additional stresses placed on his body by the extra bike weight? Pedrosa, doubtless, would reject any such notion, but it is noteworthy that Jorge Lorenzo never appears to suffer such problems, arguably because of the intensity of his physical preparation.

Can Pedrosa take the fight to Lorenzo? Of that there is no doubt, despite concerns over his neck. The Honda is in exceptionally good shape, the chatter having been largely tuned out. Pedrosa is in form, as his speed at the Sepang test clearly illustrated. It will once again come down to Jorge Lorenzo trying to impose his will on Pedrosa, and grind out a pace which the Repsol Honda man simply cannot follow. As Pedrosa proved last year, that is going to be tough. Though there are still eighteen races to go before the title is awarded, the sensible money is on either Pedrosa or Lorenzo lifting the 2013 crown. For Lorenzo, a third title would put him into a very elite group indeed; for Pedrosa, this season is probably his best chance of becoming champion.

Something Old, Something New

Two men stand in the way of the two Spanish veterans' paths to the 2013 title: their respective teammates. Both Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez are extremely disruptive riders, unafraid of risk and willing to stuff their bikes into a gap which may not exist. And the two men have nothing to lose this year, increasing their appetite for risk. After two long and unsuccessful years at Ducati, failing to cope with the fickle and intransigent Desmosedici, Rossi is determined to prove that he can still win. Now back at Yamaha, the brand with which he won so much previously, he has a chance to show that he still has it.

Early testing was a little disappointing, the Italian remaining stubbornly slower than his teammate, though the difference was limited to a couple of tenths. But at Jerez, a track which suits both Rossi and the Yamaha he finally brought hope to his many millions of long-suffering fans. At last, Rossi's name was back at the top of the timesheets, even if it was just for a single day. Has Valentino Rossi lost any of his pace at Ducati? Looking just at his times, he appears to be as fast as ever, and his body language of the bike is the same as the Rossi of old, rather than the stunt double who appeared to be wearing Rossi's leathers during his two years at Ducati. Rossi's problem is that while he was wasting his time at Ducati, Lorenzo and Pedrosa moved the game on, with the able assistance of Casey Stoner. Rossi needs not only to get back to his old level, he needs to find a little bit more as well.

And he will have to hurry, as he has Marc Marquez breathing down his neck. The young Spaniard faced much criticism in some circles, and claims his speed was solely down to cheating on the part of his team, or having access to the best bike and best support package, or even favoritism on the part of series organizer Dorna. Marquez' pace at Sepang shut up much of the accusations, and topping the timesheets at Austin silenced them altogether.

Marquez is the most talented rookie to enter the class in a very long time, and he comes into a perfect situation. He has been taken under the wing of Casey Stoner's former crew, with former crew chief Cristian Gabarrini now overseeing the whole operation, and Marquez retaining his crew chief from Moto2, Santi Hernandez. He is riding the factory Repsol Honda RC213V, a bike of fantastic pedigree, and clearly competitive. He has the chance to become the youngest winner of a premier class Grand Prix, if he wins a race before the circus hits Silverstone, taking the record from the legendary Freddie Spencer. He can also become the youngest rider to win a race in all three classes, taking the record from his teammate, and is even in with a chance to become the youngest world champion ever, deposing Spencer once again.

Given the magnitude of the task, it is a big ask, but there is every reason to believe that Marquez is up to it. The young Spaniard is a mixture of Spencer's raw speed and Kevin Schwantz' fearless riding, with a touch of Marco Simoncelli's aggression thrown in for good measure. He reminds me, most of all, of Valentino Rossi, when the Italian entered the class back in 2000. Talented, fearless, confident, and with a strong preference for taking a gamble, and seeing how things play out.

Shaken And Stirred

This personality trait, above all, could help change MotoGP for the better. The mixture of 800cc MotoGP machines, the overarching control of electronics and the stiff, unforgiving, but unbelievably grippy Bridgestone tires placed a premium on perfection. Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner all learned to ride flawlessly, hitting the apexes within millimeters of the same spot for lap after lap, their concentration never flagging, their pace never dropping. That emphasis on perfection made attempting a pass you were not sure you could pull off too much to risk. It became imperative to play it safe, bide your time and wait for the right moment to strike. It meant that MotoGP went from pub brawl to hilltop sniper.

Marquez will not have any of that. He is happy to risk a pass, confident in his talent to make up lost ground should it not work out, and with nothing to lose if he can't make it stick. Bigger bikes and softer, more compliant Bridgestone tires have helped, but most of all it is about attitude, something which the young Spaniard has in spades. He will have assistance from Valentino Rossi in this, the Italian also preferring to roll the dice.

The most interesting part of the 2013 season will be seeing how the perfectionists Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa deal with such disruption. If Marquez and Rossi work together - or perhaps, more like sharks, loiter ready to strike should the other draw blood but not make the kill - the two title contenders are going to have to develop a fallback strategy. They, too, will have to mix it up. Given their histories in the smaller classes, it is a skill they once mastered, and will have to sharpen once again.

English Bull Terrier

That, in turn, should open up opportunities for those behind. Leading that chase will be Cal Crutchlow, the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha man having already proven his speed by topping the timesheets at the final MotoGP test at Jerez. Crutchlow was already impressive in 2012, making a huge step forward in his second season, but the Englishman looks even stronger this season. Standing at track side in Jerez, Crutchlow looked smoother, more in control, more comfortable than even last year, approaching Jorge Lorenzo's levels of smoothness.

Where has his speed come from? In part, from an extra year of experience, and a close analysis of what is needed to be fast. But perhaps even more from a dogged determination to prove his point. Crutchlow believes he deserves a factory ride - and given his performance last season, he has a case to make - and is annoyed that he is on a satellite bike for another year. Promises which he believes Yamaha made to him, of increased factory support, have not been delivered, and so Crutchlow wants to beat both Rossi and Lorenzo to drive his point home.

The question is, would Crutchlow be any faster on a factory bike? He would certainly have better equipment, worth a tenth or so a lap, but that might deprive him of the three tenths which his resentment, his anger, and his determination gives him. Crutchlow revels in the role of underdog; as top dog, would he still have the same fire in his belly?

The Proof of the Pudding

Two more men with points to prove will be chasing Crutchlow for the podium, both mounted on satellite Hondas. Stefan Bradl enters his second year of MotoGP with increased factory backing from Honda, and a bike that is close to that of the Repsol Honda riders. Alvaro Bautista also has strong support from Honda, but only in exchange for running Showa suspension and Nissin brakes. The Showas, in particular, have had their problems, performing well at some circuits, while being lost for set up data at others. Bautista still managed to secure the 5th spot in the championship last year, taking a pole and two podiums.

Compared to Bautista, Bradl is younger, and with more of a point to prove. The man who he beat to take the 2011 Moto2 championship has come into the factory Honda team, and has been faster in testing throughout. Bradl's talent is undisputed - they do not give out world championships with packets of breakfast cereal - but he is determined not to be overshadowed by Marc Marquez. He will have to step up his game if he is to take the fight to the young Spaniard.

Another man with something to prove is Bradley Smith, who faced loud criticism after securing the second Monster Tech 3 Yamaha seat in MotoGP. Smith's achievements in Moto2 had been rather modest, and many fans felt Smith had not done enough to deserve the ride. Those fans have pointed to Smith's times during preseason testing as evidence to back their argument, but the truth is that put in context, Smith's times have been extremely respectable. At each of the MotoGP tests, Smith has matched the gap which Stefan Bradl had to the leaders during his first batch of testing last year. Smith is right on course for what he is supposed to be doing: learning to ride a MotoGP bike, and gaining ground on the front runners at every outing.

That Bolognese Bike

But what of MotoGP's third factory - now very much a third factory, after two years of very public failure with Valentino Rossi? The truth is that 2013 is looking rather hopeful for Ducati, though that statement needs to be put into perspective. Ducati's two years with Rossi were spent frantically chasing solutions to the problems the Italian was reporting. In hindsight, they moved in too many directions at once, their sense of urgency creating chaos rather than order. There were certainly key improvements made, perhaps, but the pressure prevented any real progress from being obtained.

Free of the pressure of having a nine-time world champion in their pay, and with new owners Audi having put key personnel and working practices in place, development is now proceeding rather more methodically. From the outside, nothing radical has changed - the bike looks identical, with only telltale fins on the front of the tank showing the revised weight distribution now being used, with the gas moved much further under the seat, and the electronics hardware moved to the spot behind the headstock - but the small steps already made are harbingers of more to come. At the Jerez test, test rider Michele Pirro put in a lot of laps on the two "laboratory bikes" Ducati had brought, which featured a radically different exhaust, and what looked like a revised swingarm. The Ducati garage - and especially that of test rider Pirro - is a much quieter place in terms of media spotlight, but there is much, much more to see now.

Though Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso start the season with the old bike - or rather, the new version of the old bike with the revised weight distribution - more changes are in the pipeline. Paddock rumors suggest that Ducati will have a major upgrade at the Barcelona test in mid-June, with more to come before the end of the year. That should be a big step forward for the bike, with Dovizioso and Hayden closing the gap to the front.

But honestly speaking - as Dovizioso has told the press a number of times this year - things aren't as bad as they seem. The bike is better than Dovizioso had been expecting, and though the first test at Sepang was pretty dismal, since then, the Ducatis have been much closer to the front. Two seconds at Sepang 1 had been cut nearly in half by Sepang 2, while at Jerez (a shorter track, but still) the deficit was well under a second. Dovizioso's adaptation is proceeding apace, while Nicky Hayden continues to knuckle down and work, grinding out the hard laps needed to test the bike to its limit. Podiums look to be out of the question in the first half of the season, but by the second half, and if the changes currently being worked on pan out, the possibility will not seem so remote.

Ducati's joker is Andrea Iannone, the young Italian having impressed in Moto2, and adapted to MotoGP in typical style: sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but always interesting. Crazy Joe - a nickname he uses himself, not something imposed upon him - was particularly strong at Jerez, a surprise given that it has traditionally been Ducati's bogey track. The Italian got in among the factory riders, surprising many observers. He still has an awful lot to learn, however, despite having a relative wealth of experience (for a rookie) on the Ducati, having tested it a number of times last year.

While hopes are high for Iannone, they are matched by concern for his teammate Ben Spies. Spies had surgery on the cartilage in his shoulder at the end of last year, and he is still in the process of regaining his strength in the joint. Recovering from shoulder surgery, especially on ligaments and cartilage in the joint, is a painfully slow process, and it is going to be some time before Spies is even strong enough to try to ride the bike properly. On a machine like the Desmosedici, that weakness is something a rider can ill afford. The jury is still out on Ben Spies' move to Ducati, and it shows no sign of returning to the court any time soon.

To CRT, Or Not To CRT

Then there are the CRT machines, ill-fated bikes which have served their purpose as a stopgap measure, to fill the yawning void which threatened at the end of 2011. Honda have pledged to put five of their RC213V production racers on the grid in 2014, and Yamaha have committed to supplying four engines for lease, for teams to put in their own chassis - Kalex, FTR and Tech 3 have all been rumored to be involved, though at such an early stage it is hard to gauge the validity of the rumor - meaning that, with Suzuki expected to return to the grid, eleven of the twelve slots currently filled by CRT machines could be filled with machines more closely resembling prototypes - though still nowhere near as competitive as the prototypes.

So in what will likely be their final year - unless some teams decide that racing a 300,000 euro CRT machine is a damn sight more cost effective than racing a million euro production racer, with little difference in the results - the fight for CRT supremacy once again looks like coming down to a battle between the two Power Electronics Aspar riders. Last year it was Aleix Espargaro who got the upper hand, a situation which Randy de Puniet simply cannot let stand, especially if he is in the frame for a factory Suzuki ride next year. Espargaro has taken to the CRT class with great gusto, and his proximity to the prototypes will have some crew chiefs scratching their heads and worrying what to do about it.

While fans have only limited interest in the results of the CRT bikes, what is holding people's attention is the development of the new spec Magneti Marelli electronics. Though the teams using the spec system arrived at the Sepang test with a very basic working mapping - more emergency set up than something you could go racing with - they have spent all three tests getting the electronics to work. With no money for private testing, and lacking the high-end dyno needed to set the engines up properly with the new electronics, it is all being worked out at the racetrack. That is far from ideal, but the truth is that things have always been this way at the poor end of the paddock. There are many divides in racing, but the divide created by money is one of the most intractable to try to solve.

When The Flag Drops

So, looking forward to the 2013 MotoGP, will the fans' prayers finally be answered? Will the suggestion that this will be the best season ever survive beyond the first couple of races, or will it ebb slowly away, as it has done in the past. I am cautiously optimistic that the hope this time is not idle, and that things really are about to take a turn for the better. It's hard to believe that this will be the best MotoGP season ever, but it looks set to be the best season since the legendary battles of 2006. The stage is set for battles, the actors are primed and more than willing, and all of the pieces are in place to see the thrills return to MotoGP. Time to go racing and find out.

Total votes: 45
Total votes: 215

Back to top

Comments

I do expect Dani to be strong this year, but remember that last year he had only won a single race before Stoner's injury at Indy and Stoner was right on him (until he crashed) in that race. I really hope he wins it this year, but I wouldn't be surprised if Marquez ends up with more victories and Lorenzo leads the championship after every single round this year.

Total votes: 192

Didn't Dani start beating Casey before Indy?? At the Sachsenring and Mugello. Casey won LS but Dani had a nightmare weekend(As did Jorge with his huge highside after QP). He certainly battered Casey after he returned and Casey showed at PI he had lost non of his pace.. Dani also started beating Jorge as well who had finished ahead of Casey in 5 of the last 6 races up to LS. (Jorge was leading the table with Dnai in second after Laguna seca). Stoner who never crashed on the honda was under huge pressure from Dani and crashed a couple of times whilst being right on Dani suggesting he was closer to the limit than Dani needed to be to keep the pace up. No question Dani started to dominate last year.

Total votes: 193

Dani battered Stoner after his return? No shit, Stoner had a freshly reconstructed ankle! It was an injury that would have kept him out for longer except that he wanted to come out and race in front of his home fans. Stoner made a mistake trying to set up a last corner pass on Dani at Sachsenring, something David accuses the top guys of not trying to do recently. In the end it was a mistake but at least he had a go.

Prior to his mistake going for the win in Germany Stoner had beaten Dani in 5 of the first 7 races. And up to his season wrecking injury at Indy Stoner was still up 6 races to 4 having just won at Laguna. So to for me anyone suggesting that Dani would have dominated the second half of the season (Stoners best tracks) without Stoners injury is simply deluded, and Phillip Island was testament to that. Even on the Ducrappi Stoner usually managed to bag a few wins on the latter calendar tracks.

In 2012 the reigning champ was injured for half the season, the guy that won the title wasn't racing to win by his own admission, and the only other alien was still stuck at Ducati. In the end Jorge had Dani covered and Im not sure Stoner would have beaten him either. Jorge and Yamaha simply prepared better for the new rules than anyone else.

In 2013 Dani has his best chance yet to bag a title with Rossi not having any previous year data from the 1000cc Yamaha and Marquez still being a rookie. He has to show he can do what Stoner did and beat Jorge over the course of a season. Personally I think people are STILL underestimating how good the Yamaha is and overestimating Dani, given he's been the número uno rider at Honda for 7 years and managed roughly half Stoners total wins with two less titles. Time will tell, I'll be cheering for Marquez either way!

Total votes: 191

Well, I believe that when everything comes together for Dani... nobody can match him for raw speed.

He's a mystery, it's like when he decides he wants to win a race, I honestly think there is nobody else faster than him - that was the case for the 2nd half of 2012. Even with Stoner without injury, I can't see him beating Dani when he's in that kind of mood/form.

Total votes: 199

Casey Stoner is no longer racing in MotoGP. Discussion of his performance tragically always seems to descend into a slanging match between two opposing sets of fans. Any comments "debating" his performance have about a 75% chance of being deleted, unless they contain a lot of interesting other information.

Just a heads up, at the start of the season.

Total votes: 176

Dani is good on his day for sure, but his numbers don't stack up against Stoners at all well, and Stoner spent 4 years on a Ducati and 1 year in a satellite team. Dani on his best day vs Stoner on his best day.. I give the nod to Stoner on any track. Guys like Spies, Lorenzo, Crutchlow and Edwards have all said Casey was something very special when he had his ducks all in a row.

Anyway getting back to the article, I'm hoping for some great battles between Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Rossi and Marquez. Realistically I think Marquez will still be too green for a title shot but hopefully everyone stays fit and the title goes down to the last race.

Total votes: 168

this might sound dumb but I really don't like Marquez. Not that he's a bad guy or isn't talented (clearly its the exact opposite) I just don't like him like Red Sox fans hate the Yankees. Something tells me I'm going to have to get used to him being on the top step A LOT this season. This guy is blisteringly fast straight out the gate, it's incredible how he can just hop on that bike and give Dani and Jorge a run! From the very first test!!!

Total votes: 167

It'll be another matter altogether for Marquez to hang with Jorge or Dani. He's good though, he might just do it once or twice this season which would be a hell of an effort for a rookie. But peeps expecting him to win at Qatar are jumping the gun I think.

Total votes: 166

Qatar would be a big stretch, and tire management over race distance. But the kid is scary!

Total votes: 146

My crystal balls say.....

Lorenzo will set his usual metronomic pace, oblivious to the others around him, forcing the contenders to squabble & cause chaos behind. Like Moto2 last year. There will be many DNF's in the chasing podium pack.

With that in mind my call for the season. #1 JL, #2 CC, #3 DP #4 VR #5 MM. There we have it, neck stuck out. Cheers & goodnight.

Total votes: 160

... The BS stops. Like David, I'm looking forwards to the first race, and the next chapter in motogp. Nearly there...

Total votes: 151

Injuries have cost us at least four battles for the championship in the last few years. Not debating Stoner's performance, nobody can deny the championship would have been a lot tighter and exciting had Stoner been there for the latter half of 2012. Same goes for Dani in 2011 and Rossi in 2010. For that matter, Stoner in 2009 even though that was not a physical injury.

Let's just hope all four major players stay injury-free this season for once!

Total votes: 159

The best thing about the past couple of Moto GP series has been this website. Honestly, i loved 500cc, i also loved early moto GP, you mention 2006, if only we had something like that to watch again. It has been so dull that i prefer to watch the junior categories and then read about the moto gp race rather than have to sit through it.

So, 2013 the year it all changes and this becomes the best motorsport to watch again?

In response to a couple of comments here. Dani apologists, he has had the best bike for a few years in his career and has 0 championships. Stoner, 1st season on the same bike, blew him away. last year the same until he was injured. Sorry, but no contest. Dani has this year to do it, if he doesn't then he will not. i can't see it. He expects people to ride like he and Lorenzo ride, metronomic and no risk. When someone does something out of the ordinary he is not able to respond. or he gets hit. Honestly i think it would be better to put bradl on the bike if Honda want the championship.

Having read the article I am now much more interested and really hope it will be great. if not , it may prove to be the end of moto GP, for me at least.

Total votes: 175

Dave wrote about the perfection these factory bikes require to win and I don't think that is going to change this season, it is likely to rather intensify. There are going to be a rash of injuries and the championship will be determined by them. The question of CRT or production racer is very interesting and with sponsor money in short supply and Dorna's obsession with keeping MotoGP's light under a pail I would think the CRT's are going to be around for quite a while. It's absolutely flabbergasting to see Yamaha offering an engine LEASE package for 700,000 pounds! I'll be amazed to see any takers among the present set of private teams.

Total votes: 141

To be honest, a gambling man would bet with the odds on Lorenzo chalking up title #3. Fairy tales may intervene,but its hardly likely if George goes about his strictly business aproach as he did last year. He probably will. His biggest concern is obviously some dumb ass tackle in the early stages of any particular race,thus scuppering his potential 3rd title.
Furthermore, I cannot agree more with the editor's retort re- Casey Stoner. He's gone. End of story. Friend and foe alike, let it go.
As for Bologna,I really look forward to their progress,which I suspect will manifest itself sooner rather than later.
Really,without that prototype marque filling the grid and podiums of the 4 stroke era,MGP is Nippon Cup and not much else. Up the rev limit,the fuel limit and ban pneumatic valve gear until its available at street level. Not likely. Thoughts and prototypes. Of course it won't happen for all the wrong reasons. April fool's joke...NOT.

Total votes: 160

Great article, thanks. It's a great feeling getting ready to hear the terrifyingly awesome sounds of the GP bikes again and seeing the pressure the riders are feeling and wondering how they will cope.

CRT vs. Production Racers: I don't really get it. So, the teams pay all that money for a production racer to be 1.5 seconds off the pace instead of 2.5 seconds? Net result is that they still have zero chance of battling for podiums never mind wins.

This, to me, sounds like a semi-clever way the factories are appeasing Carmelo and the fans. In the meantime they are making boo-koo bucks selling inferior equipment to the teams, and the fans are semi-fooled into thinking we are watching all prototype racing again.

I'm not trying to be negative, and I suppose it's better than what we have now, but I don't really understand what we or the teams are gaining? But, I also believe, like the article says.... it's always been like this. I certainly don't remember when we've had 10 riders battling for a win? Some teams have more money, some riders have more talent.... kind of the natural way of things.

Total votes: 149

We have some great riders on 4-5 great bikes this year. George is a fantastic metronome on his day but that rhythm will be upset when he has to 'race'. He's capable of racing of course; but anything can happen.

That's why I love MotoGP and bike racing - anything can happen!

Agree about Stoner, miss him but lets all move on (yes, it would be great if he were in the mix too).

Fingers crossed for a better year.

Total votes: 147

People who object to CRT simply are incapable of looking at the long game, ignorant of the history, and ignoring the glaring need there was in 2010 to try *something* to shake up the factory grip on the grid. That grip was strangling the grid, it had squeezed out all the privateer teams - which GP racing always had *many* of in the past. CRT has, it seems, *succeeded* in shaking out bikes and engines from the factories for privateers. That's *great* news.

Finally, there is nothing wrong with having slower bikes on the grid. All the *healthy* years of GP racing have had grids full of them. From old, obsolete factory hand me downs, to bikes from specialist manufacturers. There is also often great racing to be found back there - though the TV directors these days rarely show it. The guys further down the grid are still amongst the best racers on the planet. Not #1, but they're still phenomenally good motorbike racers.

There can only be a few stars, but they can not shine without a supporting cast.

Total votes: 158