After the high-profile rollout Ducati gave their 2012 MotoGP machine at Jerez in early April, where both Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden put laps on the new, larger capacity Desmosedici GP12, attention turned to the other manufacturers, with speculation beginning on when Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha would start to test their 2012 prototypes. Most of that attention was focused on Honda, as HRC had been due to test their bike for the new 1000cc capacity limit in mid-March, but the devastating Tohoku Earthquake (as it has now been named) which took place just a few days before the planned rollout put a stop to the test.
HRC was forced to postpone the test, but once the situation in parts of Japan started to normalize, the Japanese manufacturing giant could start to think about rescheduling the bike's on-track debut. The postponement would eventually be only a month, with the 2012 machine finally undergoing its shakedown test at Suzuka, on April 14th and 15th. The bike was put through its paces in a shakedown test by HRC's test riders Kousuke Akiyoshi and grizzled MotoGP veteran Tady Okada, according to a report on MotoGP.com.
With its first miles under its wheels, the new Honda prototype is now ready to make its debut in the hands of Honda's factory riders. According to Gazzetta dello Sport reporter Filippo Falsaperla, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner are due to take part in a private test on the 2012 Honda at the Jerez circuit some time after the Le Mans MotoGP round on May 15th. Little is known about the new machine - likely to be given the designation RC213V, if HRC remains true to its machine nomenclature - other than that the aim of the new engine is to produce more torque and more horsepower at lower revs. The photo of the machine on MotoGP.com gives very little away, the fairing and swingarm looking very similar to the 2011 RC212V, though the fairing side panel is slightly different, a sign perhaps that heat dissipation will play less of a role in the lower-revving 1000cc machine. The capacity is also unknown, though Honda is more likely to build a bike closer to 1000cc and focus on torque, rather than pursuing the option that Ducati has publicly touted of running a slightly smaller capacity - 900cc of 930cc - to maximize combustion efficiency given the 81mm bore limit.
With the Ducati and the Honda already rolling, the waiting is now for Yamaha and Suzuki. Jorge Lorenzo has already acknowledged he will be testing the 2012 M1 at the first official 1000cc MotoGP test on the Monday following the Mugello MotoGP round in early July, but so far, Yamaha has not given any hints of taking advantage of the apparently private pact among MotoGP's manufacturers to allow private testing of the 1000cc bikes with official riders, as Ducati have already done and now apparently Honda are about to do. No doubt that Yamaha will make their plans public at the upcoming Portuguese MotoGP round being run at Estoril this weekend. Teams wishing to enter the 2012 MotoGP championship as a Claiming Rule Team will also have to submit their entries at Estoril, though an official entry list will not be published until after the French MotoGP round at Le Mans, two weeks later.
As for Suzuki, serious doubts remain about their continuing commitment to the MotoGP class. No word has been forthcoming about Suzuki's plans for the 1000cc era, though Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta remains convinced that he has sufficient leverage over the Hamamatsu factory to ensure they race multiple machines in 2012. The signals coming from the Rizla Suzuki squad, however, would appear to point in entirely the opposite direction.
With both the Ducati and now the Honda having finally been given their first runs out on track, the new era of MotoGP is finally upon us. The 2012 season starts here.