Every year, as the MotoGP season commences, a veritable jungle of MotoGP Fantasy Leagues springs up around the internet, give fans the chance to test their skills in running a MotoGP team against like-minded individuals. Although we're big fans of those kinds of games, MotoMatters.com wouldn't be MotoMatters.com if we didn't do things just a little bit differently.
Another season of MotoGP approaches, and as every year, the fans (and far too many journalists) will spend the first race struggling to pick out which rider is which, after the traditional off-season merry-go-round and livery change. The wise heads over at Spanish motorcycle magazine Motociclismo.es have anticipated this problem, and thoughtfully snagged all of the riders at the last Qatar MotoGP test and got them to hand over their helmets for a quick snapshot. The result is an overview of the helmets of all 17 MotoGP riders, as they are going to be used in MotoGP for 2010. The one exception ('t was ever thus) is Valentino Rossi, who as always is using his "Old Chicken" helmet throughout testing, but is likely to return to a more traditional design once the flag drops.
Nicky Hayden's 2010 helmet. For the rest of the helmets, head over to Motociclismo.es and see all 17.
Overall times from both days of testing at Qatar:
Casey Stoner finally managed to break Valentino Rossi's stranglehold on testing on the final day at Qatar, the Australian putting his Marlboro Ducati on top of the timesheets early on, and only occasionally ceding the lead to the Fiat Yamaha man. The Australian was fast throughout the session, not even a minor crash slowing Stoner down.
Despite finishing half a second down to the rider he has annointed as his main challenger, Rossi pronounced himself happy with the way the test went, telling GPone.com that he believed the new Yamaha M1 had proved it was competitive at Qatar. The Italian also tested some tires for the 2011 season; after testing a hard front in Sepang, Rossi tried the softer compound 2011 front tire at Qatar, but revealed he did not believe it represented a huge leap forwards.
The first day of the final test for the MotoGP class before the season commences saw Valentino Rossi continue his domination of testing, ending the session three tenths ahead of his nearest rival Casey Stoner. The Fiat Yamaha rider was constantly at the top of the timesheets, only really ceding the top spot when he paused for dinner late on in the evening. Despite the track cooling and the evening dew which started to form, Rossi took another half a second off his best time to stamp his authority on the session.
Casey Stoner found himself demoted to second, at a track where he has won three years in a row, but the Australian pronounced himself happy with the test, telling GPOne.com that the bike was working really well, especially on used tires. The Ducati Marlboro rider did comment that he would like some more power with the long-life engines, as would everybody, but he praised the new engine character, which made the Ducati much easier to ride.
It is a truism that motorcycle racing fans love to collect items connected to their favorite sport. If your budget can't quite stretch to a genuine FTR Moto2 bike, then Indianapolis Motor Speedway can help you out, while helping to do good. The legendary US racetrack is auctioning off a collection of various memorabilia for an excellent cause, the American Red Cross' relief effort in earthquake-stricken Haiti.
Honda is caught between a rock and a hard place. Like all of the other manufacturers, Honda has been hit hard by the recession, and is looking to cut costs wherever it can. However, the factory is also desperate for another World Championship, having had only one since Valentino Rossi left the factory in 2004 after winning nine out of the previous ten. The factory has to find a way to win another MotoGP title without breaking the bank.
The way they have selected to marry those two very different objectives is simple yet efficient. As of this season, all of the teams, whether satellite or factory, will be given the same bike. The only difference between the two machines will be the electronics, which control the performance of the bike to a significant degree.
The move marks a huge change in direction for Honda. In previous years, HRC supplied two different specifications of machine: A factory spec RC212V provided to the factory Repsol Honda team and a few selected satellite riders; And a satellite spec for the other satellite teams. The different spec of these machines could be significantly different, with different chassis, engines, fairings and exhaust systems. Even the factory spec machines were not identical, the Repsol bikes always at least a few iterations ahead of the bikes supplied to satellite rider.
Looking back at the two days of MotoGP testing at Sepang throws up only a few surprises. The Aliens continue to dominate, as ever, and Colin Edwards is still firmly in place as #5. Behind, the top 5, the picture is a little more interesting. Loris Capirossi's strong outing on Thursday shows that the Suzuki can be fast, but the GSV-R has a long history of being outstanding in testing, yet falling short during the season. Whether it's business-as-usual for Suzuki or a breakthrough will have to wait until the first few rounds have been run.
Ben Spies continues his methodical improvement, but with the Texan complaining of jet lag and telling reporters that he is still very much just learning, he should soon be edging Colin Edwards out of 5th spot and closing on the top 4. Spies is holding station with Andrea Dovizioso, the Italian improving but still looking for more pace.
The rain that held off yesterday finally came to Sepang on Friday, disrupting testing during the morning and at the end of the day. The rain in the morning combined with the limit on engines to persuade most of the riders to sit in the garage, or restrict their laps to a minimum. The track started to dry out at lunchtime, and from then, all 17 MotoGP riders, along with a couple of Yamaha test pilots, got to work on their testing program. By the time the rain came around 5pm, it was Valentino Rossi who had set the fastest lap, finishing ahead of Casey Stoner and Rossi's Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo. Dani Pedrosa completed the top four, the Aliens still clearly a breed apart in the MotoGP paddock.
While both Rossi and Stoner finished in the same positions as yesterday, both Jorge Lorenzo and especially Dani Pedrosa made a huge leap forward. Lorenzo jumped from 5th spot to 3rd, though he did not close the gap to his Fiat Yamaha teammate. Dani Pedrosa, on the other hand, closed the gap by over half a second, while working on the all-new Honda RC212V. Given that the bike has new Ohlins suspension, new electronics, a new chassis and a number of swingarms, there would appear to be plenty of room for improvement once the Repsol Honda team find the right setup for the bike.
The rain that threatened to ruin the first day of testing for 2010 luckily decided to stay away, but the session was still disrupted by the weather. Instead of water, it was the oppressive 40°C tropical heat that sapped the strength of the riders, limiting the amount of testing the riders could do. The rain finally came just before 5pm to cool the track from the scorching 50° Centigrade it was at most of the day, though only adding to the humidity.
Valentino Rossi ended the day with the fastest time, a comfortable half a second ahead of Casey Stoner on the Ducati. Stoner had suffered chatter for part of the day, and the hot asphalt made it difficult to judge the difference adjustments to the bike were making. The riders in 3rd and 4th place were a big surprise, Colin Edwards' 3rd spot slightly less so than Loris Capirossi's 4th fastest time. It's clear the Yamaha is good, but even the satellite bikes are so good that on their day, they can match the speed of the factory bikes, Edwards finishing ahead of Jorge Lorenzo and nearly a quarter of a second faster.
MotoGP makes a long-awaited return to action on Thursday, with the 17 official entries all taking to the track at Sepang. For the veterans, it marks the first time they will have ridden a MotoGP bike in nearly three months, their last outing being at the Valencia post-race tests in November last year. Even the rookies, who got extra tests at the end of 2009, have not been been on track since late December, with Marco Simoncelli and Hiroshi Aoyama the most recent to test here at Sepang before Christmas.
Wednesday saw the bikes already on track in the hands of the testers, who gave all of the teams' bikes a shakedown to ensure they are all working properly. This had been agreed as part of the cost-cutting measures limiting testing, allowing test riders an extra day on track to ensure that the teams would not lose any testing time to mechanical problems. Honda's Kosuke Akiyoshi was fastest, in a relatively meaningless 2'04.43, between three and four seconds off the pace the MotoGP riders will be aiming for at Sepang.
There was much consternation among Marco Melandri's many fans when the FIM issued the provisional entry lists for MotoGP earlier today. For besides Melandri's name was not the #33 which the Italian has used since he moved up to the MotoGP class in 2003, but instead #24. Had Marco Melandri wanted to put his past behind him and start with a new number? Was he tired of #33 and wanted a change? To the vast majority of Melandri's fans, the idea was akin to blasphemy.
Melandri's fans can all breathe a sigh of relief. A spokesperson for the San Carlo Honda Gresini team told MotoMatters.com that it was all just a mistake by the FIM, Melandri's name filled in the space vacated by that of Toni Elias, while forgetting to remove Elias' number. Melandri will be using #33 after all.
It will not just be the fans who will be relieved. For the many journalists and commentators who follow MotoGP around the globe, the San Carlo Gresini team is going to be confusing enough, with the Two Marcos (Melandri and Simoncelli). For Melandri to have taken a new number would have made the situation infinitely worse.
The FIM today released the provisional entry lists for the MotoGP class, and the list has no surprises in it. The list contains official confirmation of the numbers the MotoGP rookies will be using, most of which are the numbers they used previously. Hiroshi Aoyama is the only exception, taking number 7 as the number 4 which he used in the 250 class has already been claimed by Andrea Dovizioso - who in turn had been forced to take 4 because his preferred number 34 has been retired in honor of Kevin Schwantz.
Rather surprising is Marco Melandri's entry. He was listed under the number 24, and not the number 33 which he has used since entering MotoGP. This turned out to be a mistake, as pointed out to us by the San Carlo Honda Gresini press office. Melandri will be running number 33 in 2010 after all.
2010 MotoGP Rider Lineup
Though the gift-giving season may be past, the motorcycle racing season is still a long way off. To help ease the wait, and to aid you in planning your life around the MotoGP and World Superbike racing series, as befits a true race fan, you can still get your hands on one of our beautiful 2010 Motorcycle Racing Calendars. With January one quarter gone, you will have missed eight days of looking at Scott Jones' beautiful action shot of Colin Edwards, but February's stunning shot of Valentino Rossi, brakes lit up at Qatar, should more than compensate you for that, along with 10 other fantastic photos and a double-page spread of the 2009 World Champion Rossi.
Another day, another set of beautiful photographs taken by MotoMatters.com snapper Scott Jones. That weekend saw the weather play a major role, with race day finally drying up and producing three great races, including a scintillating MotoGP contest. Relive it all again in glorious color: