With the first full day of MotoGP testing behind us, we can start to compare times between this year and last year. Conditions were broadly similar, though as the CRT bikes had done a few laps over the past couple of days, there was slightly more rubber on the track than at the end of January in 2012. But discarding the difference in conditions between the two tests, a pattern emerges from the relative improvement or decline of the various riders.
The rider who improved most between 2012 and 2013 is a bit of a surprise: Honda test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi made a huge leap of over 4 seconds between this year and last, but other than the occasional wildcard, Akiyoshi will take no part in 2013, and so not too much should be read into those times.
Stefan Bradl made a huge leap forward: unsurprisingly, given that Sepang in January last year was the first time the German got to ride the 1000cc version of Honda's RC213V, having only tested the 800cc bike at Valencia three months' earlier. Much of the improvement comes from Bradl himself; the LCR Honda man has learned a lot in his rookie year, and will clearly be a factor in 2013. Cutting nearly 1.9 seconds off his time between 2012 and 2013 is a very positive achievement.
It's nearly time. In a few short hours, the full MotoGP field will roll out onto the track for the first time this year, and the 2013 MotoGP season will officially get underway with preseason testing.
That, at least, is the hope. For testing to truly get underway, MotoGP needs the weather to cooperate, something it has been reluctant to do for the past couple of days during the two days of extra testing laid on for the CRT teams using the new Magneti Marelli ECU. Part of Sunday and just about all of Monday were lost to rain, and the forecast for the next three days is for more rain than usual in this part of the world. Fortunately, the mornings look like being dry, so the fans will at least get to see some action on track.
And there is plenty to look forward to. The biggest topic of conversation among fans, unsurprisingly, is Valentino Rossi's return to Yamaha. The Italian got off to a false start upon leaving the Ducati garage and heading a few doors down to Yamaha, when the weather at the Spanish track made conditions tricky and comparisons difficult. Yamaha then decided to up sticks and head to Aragon, in the hope of finding some dry track time. They were disappointed.
So Sepang should be the first real test of just how competitive Rossi still is once he is back on a bike which he understands and has a front end which provides him with the feedback he relies on to go fast. Rossi has seen his career come to a standstill for the past two years at Ducati, while the men he will have to beat this year have grown in stature and experience, and are now at the peak of their careers. The Italian will have to hit the ground running if he is to catch Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, and it will not be easy by any stretch of the imagination.
The second day of the special CRT test at Sepang, laid on to allow the teams using the brand new Magneti Marelli spec ECU, was as beset by problems as the first day. If technical problems and a lack of parts had been the bane of day 1, it was the weather which dogged the teams, though technical problems persisted. Heavy rain in the morning meant that only Danilo Petrucci went to put in a few laps before running into an electrical issue with a coil left the engine running on two cylinders. The rain stopped in the afternoon, but the track remained wet, leaving the riders present to do only a few laps.
The first day of the extra two-day test for the CRT teams laid on to allow the teams using the new Magneti Marelli spec ECU has been almost entirely wasted. A lack of parts and above all, a lack of data with the new system meant that the day was spent mostly in the garage, with very few laps turned out on the track.
Only CAME Ioda's Danilo Petrucci got in any serious track time, the Italian posting a total of 27 laps. All of those laps were set without any assistance from the electronics, however: with no data, the team had no base set up to work from, and Petrucci was lapping without any electronic aid. "It's really hard to ride a bike without any electronic controls," Petrucci posted on Twitter afterwards, a fact that is borne out by his times. Petrucci's fastest lap was a 2'06.841, two seconds slower than his best time from the race weekend at Sepang, and four seconds behind the best CRT time set back in October of last year.
The prospects of both MotoGP and World Superbikes visiting Wales took a step closer yesterday. Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta and Events Managing Director Javier Alonso flew to the UK earlier this week for a series of meetings about the proposed Circuit of Wales, a new facility that is to be built near Ebbw Vale, in South Wales. The Dorna bosses met with several key figures involved in the project, including Lord Kinnock, former UK Labour Party leader and now ambassador for the circuit, and Welsh Minister for Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science Edwina Hart.
Ezpeleta and Alonso also met with media, including Motorcycle News and local news organizations. Ezpeleta expressed how impressed he had been with the plans for the facility, which include an FIM and FIA approved race track, a motocross track, a karting track, as well a technology park, hotel facilities, and a motor sports racing academy, aimed at providing training for young riders and drivers. Having another track in the UK was a positive thing for racing, Ezpeleta told the Gwent Gazette. "“For me, I will say that out of all the races we have in the year, for us and all the people involved, we feel British people know much more about racing," the Dorna boss said. Once the track receives planning permission - a hurdle the facility still has to clear - the track could be ready to host a MotoGP or World Superbike round as early as 2015, Ezpeleta told MCN's Matt Birt.
The MotoGP off-season training regime has taken its usual toll. On Friday, Blusens Avintia rider Hiroshi Aoyama crashed while training at a motocross track, fracturing a bone in his wrist in the processs. Aoyama was examined by Dr Xavier Mir at the Dexeus Institute in Barcelona, which treats many of the Europe-based motorcycle racers, where a minor fracture in Aoyama's left wrist was found.
Though painful, the injury should not prevent Aoyama from taking part in the first MotoGP test due to start at Sepang on February 5th. Injuries to the left wrist are easier to manage than those to the right, for the obvious reason that the right hand is needed for braking and controlling the throttle. Aoyama has been instructed to rest the wrist for a full week, to allow the wrist to recover.
The rider line up for the 2013 Moto3 season:
The rider line up for the 2013 Moto2 season:
One more slot in the 2013 MotoGP line up has been filled. Today, the Go & Fun Gresini team announced that they have signed Bryan Staring to ride the FTR Honda CRT bike for them in MotoGP in 2013. The 25-year-old left his native Australia to contest the Superstock 1000 Cup two years ago, winning races in 2012 and contending for the title all season, before ending in 4th.
Staring will continued to develop the Honda CBR1000-powered FTR machine contested by Michele Pirro in MotoGP in 2012. The name of Ryuichi Kiyonari had been linked to the ride, the former WSBK and MotoGP rider seen as one candidate to help HRC develop the production racer version of the Honda RC213V which they intend to start selling for the 2014 MotoGP season.
The signing of Staring leaves just a few CRT rides to fill for 2013. An announcement on the PBM rides is thought to be imminent, with Michael Laverty currently being hotly tipped by UK insiders to get one of the two seats. The second seat should go to Yonny Hernandez, the spectacular Colombian who had impressed in his first year in MotoGP in 2012. The latest, updated list of MotoGP riders for 2013 can be found here.
Below is the press release announcing the signing of Staring to Go & Fun Gresini:
BRYAN STARING TO RIDE WITH TEAM GO & FUN HONDA GRESINI IN 2013
Press releases from the MotoGP teams who stayed at Valencia and actually got some track time, and from Yamaha, who went to Aragon, and sat about watching the rain:
Press releases from the teams, from the single tire supplier and from Honda after Sunday's dramatic MotoGP race at Valencia:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and single tire supplier after a rained-out day of practice at Valencia:
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and the single tire supplier ahead of this weekend's season finale at Valencia: