As promised, the weather on the final day of testing for the Moto2 and 125 classes at Estoril was better. Unfortunately, and also as promised, "better" was still a very long way from anything resembling suitable for serious testing of racing motorcycles. The track never really dried out, despite the sun showing its face every now and again, and strong winds blowing across the circuit, but despite the weather, a larger group braved the conditions to put in a few laps on Thursday, if only to avoid the trip to Estoril having been a complete waste.
Latest MotoGP News
Day 2 of the test at Estoril was, if at all possible, even more of a lost cause than the first. More rain came in throughout the day, accompanied by very heavy winds, making riding almost impossible. Tech 3 Moto2 team boss summed it up in a couple of sentences. "You can't get anything done in this weather," he said. "You go out for two laps and then it starts raining again."
It's been hard being Carmelo Ezpeleta these past few years. Ever since the capacity reduction to 800cc, MotoGP fans all around the world have been baying for the Dorna CEO's blood. The fans blamed Ezpeleta personally for killing off the spectacular 990s and allowing the 800s to degenerate into the rather sterile racing that it has become.
While the MotoGP riders get to bask in the tropical heat of Sepang, the 125 and Moto2 riders are left to test in the more temperate climes of Valencia. While Eastern Spain at this time of year can be an uncertain proposition, the weather gods were favorably inclined for this test, leaving MotoGP's support classes to practice under excellent conditions. Good conditions meant the teams all got plenty of work done, and after posting around 150 laps each, there was lots to talk about.
Polish motorcycle racing is clearly looking up. After many years of almost total absence from the world stage, Poland now has not one but two racers active in World Championships, as well as a Polish-backed team. In the World Supersport class, the Bogdanka PTR team will be fielding Pawel Szkopek alongside veteran British rider James Ellison. And on Saturday, it was announced that Lukasz Wargala would be contesting the 2011 Moto2 championships, riding alongside Rafaelle de Rosa in the G22 team.
Now that both Ducati and Honda have held the launches of their MotoGP bikes, attention turns to Yamaha. The factory Yamaha team, with 2010 World Champion Jorge Lorenzo and 2010 Rookie of the Year Ben Spies, are due to be presented officially to the press on Monday, February 21st, the day before the second test is to be held at Sepang.
Suzuki's decision to field just a single MotoGP bike in 2011 may have helped save the factory money, but it also left them with a serious problem. Any injury or illness to Alvaro Bautista leaves the Suzuki team riderless, not a situation that Suzuki can afford to happen.
The curtain has finally fallen for the Molenaar Racing team, the Dutch 125cc team that was scheduled to field Dutch rider Jasper Iwema and Spaniard Luis Salom for the 2011 season, but as we reported last week, the failure of a Dutch TV deal saw several key sponsors pull out, leaving the team desperately short of funds. A decision had been expected at the end of last week, but the media coverage of the team's plight generated more interest from sponsors.
As the Moto2 grid gathers at Valencia for the first major test of the year, one of the top favorites for the 2011 championship will be missing. Kenan Sofuoglu was forced to return to Istanbul to see his father, who has fallen critically ill, and has decided to remain in Turkey rather than return to Spain for the Valencia test. The decision was taken in consultation with the team, who declared their full support for Sofuoglu's decision to return to Istanbul in a press release.
While the testing season for the MotoGP riders got underway at the beginning of February, the Moto2 riders were forced to wait an extra week or so. First to take to the track were the Pons Kalex team of Aleix Espargaro and Axel Pons, the Caixa Catalunya Repsol squad of Marc Marquez, the Technomag CIP team of Kenan Sofuoglu and Dominique Aegerter, and Andrea Iannone's Speed Master team.
If ever there was a rider who epitomizes the phrase "checkered career", it's Fonsi Nieto. The Spaniard - and nephew of the legendary 13-time 125cc and 50cc champion Angel Nieto - has ridden in every class but World Supersport over the course of his 14 years in world championship motorcycle racing, seizing any opportunity to ride that he was offered, his best result coming in 2002, when Nieto ended the 250cc championship in 2nd, behind Marco Melandri.
That a Honda topped the timesheets at the end of the three-day test at Sepang should surprise exactly nobody. Hondas have dominated the timesheets throughout the Sepang test. That a satellite Honda should be fastest would perhaps be a little more surprising, were it not for the fact that Marco Simoncelli's RC212V is a full-fat factory machine with HRC backing.
Xavier Simeon has had a wild ride in Moto2 so far. The 21-year-old Belgian spent the 2010 season as a substitute rider for the HolidayGym team, replacing both Fonsi Nieto and Yannick Guerra when they were injured. Those replacement rides turned out very well indeed: Simeon had a couple of very impressive outings on the Moriwaki, scoring an 8th place at Silverstone, and a couple more points at the end of the season.