The sun is shining and the bikes are out on track at Jerez for three days of testing. The test will see a wide variety of bikes take to the Andalucian asphalt, including the BQR MotoGP team with their FTR-built, Kawasaki-powered CRT bike, Colin Edwards getting his first outing on the BMW Suter CRT bike, a bevy of Moto2 teams including Marc VDS Racing testing the Kalex further, Tech 3 riders Xavier Simeon and Bradley Smith, the Pons and Aspar teams, Maverick Viñales testing the FTR Moto3 bike for the first time, the factory BMW World Superbike squad of Marco Melandri and Leon Haslam, and the Ducati MotoGP test team, with test rider Franco Battaini and the specially drafted in Carlos Checa to help test the Ducati Desmosedici.
Alongside the on-track action, the final round of MotoGP at Valencia saw a flurry of activity to fill the final seats of the 2012 MotoGP grid. That process was not as easy as it could have been: the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli left the picture complicated at Gresini, and the continuing uncertainty over Suzuki's plans for 2012 made it difficult for riders to commit to the Japanese factory.
In the end, though, most of the vacant seats have now been filled. The single bike that Pramac Ducati will field next year will be taken by Hector Barbera, as expected. Alvaro Bautista finally announced he would be leaving Suzuki and joined Gresini, to race the single Honda RC213V that the team will have at its disposal for next year. And though the place at LCR Honda is still officially empty, the performance of Stefan Bradl aboard the Honda 800 during the two-day test was sufficient to secure the deal, sources report, with official confirmation expected over the next few days.
Suzuki's situation remains unclear, though the team continues to fight valiantly to remain on the grid, at least with an 800 for the first half of 2012, and after a strong test on the bike, Randy de Puniet is now favorite to take that spot.
After 10 days of delay, the list of 2012 MotoGP entries has finally been announced. Or rather, the list of entries under the CRT rules, as the new manufacturers (such as Norton) talking about entering the class on the same footing as the factory teams have yet to be announced, with talks ongoing between the FIM, Dorna, IRTA and the new manufacturers about who will be admitted and on what grounds.
The Moto2 class produces a huge dilemma for the organizers of the MotoGP championship. The huge entry field has proven to cause major problems at the start, with multiple-rider pile ups in the first corner a firm fixture during Moto2 races. And yet the class has been extremely popular, producing close, exciting racing, and throwing up plenty of surprise contenders.
Just a few days before the season is about to begin, and the Moto2 class is to take to the track for the very first time, a new provisional entry list for Moto2 has been issued by the FIM. The new list contains two changes, one minor (Stefan Bradl changing his number from 4 to 65), and one major. The big change is the dropping of Belgian rider Vincent Lonbois by the Marc VDS Racing team, which is also fielding British rider Scott Redding, and his replacement with former 125 and 250 star Hector Faubel.
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.