The first day of testing with the official Honda engine is over for the Moto2 class, and finally we have some kind of indication of both what the lap times and what the relative strengths of each rider, team and chassis are. And those indications are throwing up some very interesting surprises.
The name at the very top of the timesheet is very far from a surprise: Ever since it was clear that Toni Elias would be returning to MotoGP's middle class, he has been favorite to take the title. Elias got his campaign off to a good start, lapping in the mid 1'37s, a respectable pace which would have put him in 12th on the grid for the last ever 250cc race here just over 4 months ago. The name of Julian Simon, reigning 125cc World Champion is no real shocker either, the Mapfre Aspar rider also being hotly tipped by both fans and insiders.
Places 3 through 5 are more of a surprise, though they range from an insiders' tipped rider to a complete wildcard. Kenny Noyes in 3rd may come as a surprise to MotoGP fans, but anyone who has kept half an eye on the Spanish CEV Formula Extreme championship in recent years will know the American's name, and will know that he is fast. Noyes has had some experience on Moto2 bikes already, having tested immediately after the race at Valencia.
Claudio Corti in 4th place is more of a surprise, the Italian riding for the former Hayate team being another unknown in the GP paddock, but having a strong history in the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup, where he was always a front runner. But 5th place is a real shocker, demonstrative of just how open the class could be. Vladimir Ivanov was widely assumed to be just a filler, a way of funding the Gresini team, as the Russian is known to have paid a significant sum to ride alongside Toni Elias. It was known that Ivanov was competent, having scored podiums in the highly competitive IDM Supersport class, but 5th in this company, and just outside the 1'37 bracket is extremely impressive. Ivanov is currently cheap in just about every Fantasy MotoGP league which features Moto2 riders, and is likely to be severely underpriced. The Russian has established himself as one to watch.
Yuki Takahashi is another name that was expected, the Tech 3 rider having performed very well throughout earlier Moto2 tests. Yonny Hernandez, on the other hand, is much less well-known, and much more of a surprise in 7th.
What the results seem to indicate at this early stage is that the role of the 125cc class as a training ground appears to have significantly diminished. Of the top 10 riders, 7 have spent at least the last year racing four strokes in one form or another, and only Julian Simon has come to the class from the 125s. Even Simon is not a real rookie, as he previously spent a year racing 250s before returning to the 125s. The first of the 125 riders is Dominique Aegerter in 15th, 1.5 seconds off Elias' pace and at the head of a host of former 125 racers, including Joan Olive, Axel Pons, Sergio Gadea and Stefan Bradl.
Another item of note is the close clustering of times: two tenths separate the top 4; five hundredths separate 5th from 6th, and there's just three tenths between places 8 through 16. In between those times are sizable jumps, which suggests the racing will be very close between small groups, rather than 15 riders all contesting a single corner, as we sometimes saw in the 125cc class.
And finally, we are starting to find out what the official engine is like. Both Kenny Noyes and Julian Simon were pleasantly surprised by the power, remarking that it was down on top end, but that the mid-range was very strong and the engine response was excellent. In a press release, Noyes noted that the most interesting aspect of having a control engine was that it made slipstreaming and drafting incredibly important. "What is really fun is the slipstreaming," Noyes wrote. "I'll tell you what it is like…it's like getting a tow down the straight at a dirt track mile. This is gonna be a fun class!" It certainly sounds like it.
Testing continues tomorrow and Wednesday.
Results of the first day of testing for the Moto2 class at Valencia:
|11||35||Raffaele De Rosa||Tech3||1'38.727||1.197||0.056|
|14||63||Mike di Meglio||RSV||1'38.882||1.352||0.025|
|15||15||Alex de Angelis||Scot||1'38.899||1.369||0.017|
|16||77||Dominique Aegerter||B&B Team||1'38.988||1.458||0.089|
|27||95||Mashel Al Naimi||BQR||1'40.076||2.546||0.014|