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.
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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.
Day 2 of the Sepang test saw HRC pick up where they left off yesterday: with five of the top six on Honda RC212Vs, and Repsols in first, second and fourth. Wednesday saw Dani Pedrosa take top spot, getting within a couple of tenths of the pole record. The Spaniard setting the time very early, on just his 4th lap out of the pits when temperatures were still bearable. Yesterday's fastest man, meanwhile, waited until the end of the session to set his fastest time, Casey Stoner jumping from fifth into second as the track began once again to cool.
Sponsorship at all levels of motorcycle racing is a difficult proposition, as witnessed by the fact that the factory Yamaha team, home of the reigning MotoGP world champion, is yet to announce a title sponsorship deal, despite the tens of millions of fans that watch each race live on TV. How much more difficult then is it to find funding for the support classes, where a competitive 125cc entry may cost between 1 and 2 million euros a year, and TV coverage is far more restricted geographically?
At last, the MotoGP bikes have taken to the track, and to the surprise of absolutely nobody, Casey Stoner was the fastest man at the end of the first day of testing, and by a comfortable margin. But Stoner's time is a little deceptive: set at the end of the day, as the track started to cool, making life a little easier on the tires and quickening the track. At 5pm local time, Stoner was 5th fastest, four tenths off Jorge Lorenzo's time, but four laps later, the Australian had lopped well over three quarters of a second off his best time and had taken over top spot.
On the eve of the first MotoGP test of 2011, the Repsol Honda team held their launch in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. There, team boss Shuhei Nakamoto presented Andrea Dovizioso, Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa to the waiting press, and the three riders talked about their hopes for the 2011 season.
It's been a long winter. And the lack of action on the MotoGP front has made the anticipation of the fans even worse by the many questions left hanging after the last test the MotoGP bikes participated in, after the season finale at Valencia.
Valentino Rossi took to the track today, to assess the state of his shoulder ahead of the resumption of official testing for the MotoGP class next week. Banned from testing a MotoGP bike, Rossi instead tested a WSBK-spec Ducati 1198SP, putting in a respectable 25 laps of the Italian circuit, just a few miles from his home, to judge his strength, mobility and fitness.
Question marks continue to hang over the Italian Dream combination of Valentino Rossi and Ducati, as Rossi's recovery from shoulder surgery is proceeding at a much slower pace than the Italian had hoped for. Rossi had voiced these fears at the Ducati's Wrooom! launch event in Italy two weeks ago, telling the assembled press that he did not expect to be at full fitness until the end of April at the earliest.
Below is the "provisional" MotoGP entry list issued by the FIM. Given the cost and complexity of a MotoGP entry, it should be regarded as anything but provisional, as all of the names are confirmed, and no new entries are expected, despite rumors that other manufacturers may make a surprise return.
Provisional Moto2 rider list for the 2011 season:
Provisional lineup for the 125cc class in 2011:
The most common question asked of hardcore motorcycle racing fans by their partners is surely this: "Is that the one that Rossi's in?" That deceptively simple question encompasses just about all of the problems and challenges faced by world championship motorcycle racing both at present and into the future: The similarity to the casual observer of the World Superbike and MotoGP championships; the primacy and importance of Valentino Rossi within motorcycle racing; and the fact that both series appear to be fighting over the same core audience.