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.
All of the manufacturers are bringing new machinery, though some bikes are more different than others. The changes to the Yamaha revolve mainly around improving engine reliability, a challenge faced by all of the bike makers with just 6 engines to last for the entire 18-race season. The Ducati will be giving its heavily revised big-bang Desmosedici GP10 its first full outing, with all five riders - factory and satellite - using the new bike. Honda, though, has a completely revised bike at Sepang, with a modified chassis, different engine and radically modified fairing. The 2010 RC212V features a much more enclosed fairing, greatly improving the aerodynamics and airflow. This is a radical departure from their first 800cc MotoGP bike, in which the fairing had been stripped away to the bare minimum in an attempt to improve the bike's maneuvrability. The Italian site GPOne.com has a number of photos of the Honda, as does the Italian blog Motoblog.it.
Despite the addition of a day of shakedown testing, the weather could still disrupt the test for the officially entered riders - contracted riders, in the jargon which the testing restrictions and extra rookie tests now requires. Weather forecasts predict a downpour for Thursday, which could make riding impossible given the intensity of the tropical rainfall. Fortunately, the weather for Friday looks a good deal better, with sunny skies and hot and sticky temperatures predicted.
If the weather does blight the testing, fans will still have something to look forward to. The Fiat Yamaha team are due to unveil the 2010 bike at 9am CET, with the presentation to be shown live on-line on the Yamaha Racing website. Photos of the event are due to be shown on the FiatOnTheWeb Flickr page, starting at 3am CET on Thursday February 4th.