So the first shoe has dropped. Valentino Rossi is to remain at Yamaha for two more seasons after this, signing on to compete for 2017 and 2018. The signing of Rossi will have major repercussions for the rest of the MotoGP rider market, and has made it all a little more unpredictable.
If the second day of practice for the 2016 MotoGP season taught us anything, it taught us that everything is still wide open. Yesterday, the Movistar Yamahas were clearly a cut above the rest during FP1. During the two free practice sessions on Friday, the top of the timesheets looked a little different. In FP2, it was a wild mixture of Ducatis, Hondas and Maverick Viñales on the Suzuki GSX-RR. In FP3, when the stakes were raised with direct entry to Q2 on the table, Jorge Lorenzo put his Yamaha M1 back into contention, but his previous clear superiority from Thursday was gone.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at Qatar:
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Start First Qatar FP Session with Perfect 1-2
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP took its first strides towards the 2016 MotoGP title challenge today at the start of the Commercial Bank Grand Prix of Qatar. Riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi made their intentions for the new season clear in the first free practice session of the season under the scenic floodlights at the Losail International Circuit, securing first and second place respectively.
Bikes are on track, and the roar of racing four strokes is filling the desert skies in Qatar. We can check our moral compasses at the door, sit back and once again revel in the glory of Grand Prix racing. The fog of testing is lifting, exposing the reality which lies beneath. We don't need speculation any longer. We have actual timesheets.
There is good news and bad news for MotoGP fans. The good news is that the 2016 season is just a few hours away from kicking off, with the Moto3 bikes the first to go out at 6pm, shortly after the sun sets in Qatar. The good news is that the season opener takes place at the Losail International Circuit, a first class facility featuring a fantastic track, with a good mixture of fast and slow curves, and a serious test of both rider and machine.
Press releases from some of the MotoGP teams previewing this weekend's season opener at Qatar. Includes Repsol video giving a brief rundown of the new rules
The 2015 MotoGP season will go down in history as one of the best and most memorable of all time. The title was tightly contested between two of the best motorcycle racers of all time, while two more of the best motorcycle racers of all time won races and helped make the championship exciting. It saw a resurgence of Ducati, bringing the grand total of competitive manufacturers back up to three, along with a solid return to the fold of Suzuki. It saw rising young stars join the class, showing promise of becoming possible future greats.
Though much of the attention during this year's Silly Season will be on the Yamaha and Honda garages, which we wrote about yesterday, the more interesting stories are to be found in the rest of pit lane. With Yamaha and Honda looking likely to remain virtually unchanged, the other factories in MotoGP could see a lot more changes.
The 2016 MotoGP season hasn't even got underway yet, and there is already so much to talk about. New bikes, new tires, new electronics: viewed from this point in the season, the championship is both wide open and highly unpredictable. Testing has given us a guide, but it was clear from the three preseason tests that much will change throughout 2016, with the balance of power changing from track to track, and as Michelin bring different tires to different circuits.
Testing is over. If the teams had anything more they wanted to test before the season starts in just under two weeks, they will have to do it during practice for the first race in Qatar. They start the first race of the 2016 MotoGP season with what they left the test with on Friday.