More Number Changes - Pedrosa To Take #2 Plate

Once upon a time, it was pretty easy to see who the fast guys were and who the slow guys were. The fast guys all had low numbers, taking the numbers allotted to them by virtue of the championship performances in the previous year, while the guys with the high numbers were privateers, or rookies, or people heading towards the tail end of their careers. Then, after a young British champion insisted on using his lucky number instead of the #1 plate he had earned by winning a title, riders, teams and sponsors saw the power of marketing, and numbers became a part of a rider's identity.

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Sepang 2 Test Day 3 - Lorenzo Takes Top Time

The final day of testing at Sepang saw an already depleted field thin out even more, with Nicky Hayden electing to head for home yesterday. That left only the Fiat Yamahas of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo and the Gresini Hondas of Shinya Nakano and Alex de Angelis running laps, with the Kawasaki and Yamaha test teams making up the numbers.

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Sepang 2 Test Day 2 - Rossi Fastest, Hayden Closer

On the second day of testing at Sepang, it was once again Valentino Rossi who was fastest, dipping below the official pole record for the second day running, although not as fast as the time he set yesterday. Rossi was also fast on race tires, dipping into the 2'01 bracket for 19 of the 70 laps he put in today.

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Sepang 2 Test Day 1 - Rossi Shatters Pole Time Again

Testing resumed at Sepang today with a much-depleted field, with only the Fiat Yamaha team and the Gresini and Repsol Honda teams testing, along with test teams from Yamaha and Kawasaki. Honda was further restricted by the temporary absence of Dani Pedrosa, currently recovering from a broken hand in Spain, and forced to leave the development work of the 2008 RC212V to Nicky Hayden, a fact Pedrosa has been complaining bitterly about. After all, the last time Nicky Hayden developed a bike, it won a championship.

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Hopkins To Miss Testing At Phillip Island After Crash

Any hope John Hopkins may have had of getting his 2008 season off to a better start than in 2007 were dashed today, after Hopper crashed in damp conditions during the second day of testing in Phillip Island. The American Kawasaki rider suffered a torn abductor muscle in his groin, after a highside at turn one flicked him off the bike.

The only consolation for Hopper is that the injury, while painful, is less serious than the broken hand he suffered testing at Qatar prior to the 2007 season. Hopkins was scheduled to fly back to California as soon as possible, to receive treatment from the renowned sports physiologist Dr Ting.

Hopkins will hope to return to testing at the official IRTA test at Jerez in mid-February.

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Casey Stoner Wins Young Australian Of The Year Award

In a boost to the profile of MotoGP in Australia, Casey Stoner won the Young Australian of the Year award for 2008. Stoner's award was announced at a special ceremony in Canberra, Australia, part of celebrations for Australia Day, the country's national holiday. The awards were presented by Australia's newly-elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Stoner edged out Australian teenager Daniel Adams, who organized Australia's first Make Poverty History day.

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Pedrosa Out For At Least 3 Weeks

The operation on Dani Pedrosa's hand has left him in a bit of a quandary. With an injury which would keep ordinary mortals away from motorcycles for at least six week, Pedrosa has been told by his doctors that he could be back riding within 3 weeks, which would be just in time for the official IRTA test at Jerez from February 14th. That, however, is a risk: If his hand isn't healed properly, then riding early could aggravate the injury, endangering the start of his season. On the other hand, if he waits until the test at Qatar the end of February, that would leave him just those two days of testing to develop and prepare his 2008 Honda RC212V before the start of the season.

So far, the Spanish triple world champion seems to be erring on the side of caution. At a press conference in Barcelona, Pedrosa told journalists "for now, my priority is to work on recovering (from the injury) quickly." He was reticent his plans for returning to testing: "we'll see over the next few days whether we can attend particular tests or not".

More details from the press conference are available over on, with an English summary on Autosport.

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News We All Expected: Monster Energy To Sponsor Kawasaki MotoGP Team

In the summer of 2007, John Hopkins made two separate, but unrelated announcements: That he was leaving Red Bull, and would be sponsored by Monster Energy; and that he was leaving Suzuki, and would be joining Kawasaki. Almost immediately the second announcement was made, MotoGP followers put two and two together, and speculation was rife that Monster Energy (whose corporate colors are black and green) would be sponsoring the Kawasaki MotoGP racing team (whose corporate colors are green, with some black) for the 2008 season. Of course, Kawasaki refused to comment on such speculation.

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Sepang Jan '08 Test Day 3 Times - Hayden Smashes Circuit Record

The final day of testing at Sepang threw up a few surprises to add to the drama of the first two days. The biggest surprise was the return of Nicky Hayden to the top of the timesheets, after a couple of days ending mid-pack. The Kentucky Kid's was back with a vengeance, shattering Valentino Rossi's circuit lap record by nearly 3/10ths of a second.

Hayden wasn't the only rider to smash records, both Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner went faster than the race lap record on race tires today, proving beyond any doubt that the 800s are already faster than the old 990s were.

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Sepang Day 3 Comparison - Rossi vs Stoner

The resumption of MotoGP testing brings welcome relief to fans starved of news over the long winter break, but it usually causes more questions than answers. For although the fans finally have some times to pore over and speculate about, the published times are usually just for a single lap for each rider, with no indication of whether the times were set on race or qualifying tires, with a full or nearly empty tank, with the bike in race trim or not. Genuinely useful times, which include long sequences of laps are hard to come by, and like all rare commodities, highly prized.

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Sepang Jan '08 Test Day 2 Times - De Puniet Fastest Once Again

After the drama of Day 1, the second day of testing at Sepang got off to a much more normal start. Adding to the sense of normality was Casey Stoner, performing his usual trick of being fast right out of the gate and setting the fastest time early. But Stoner would not sit atop the timesheets for too long. By midday, Colin Edwards had taken over top spot on the Tech 3 Yamaha, only to pass the baton on to Randy de Puniet in the afternoon.

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Pedrosa Out Of Sepang Test, Likely To Miss Phillip Island

Dani Pedrosa's ill fortune at Sepang continues. His fiery crash at the end of testing on Tuesday resulted in a fractured hand, and is on his way home. As expected, the Repsol Honda rider will miss the remainder of the test in Malaysia, but the situation is looking bleak, as Pedrosa is also highly likely to miss out on the Phillip Island test next week, with the next test at Sepang in the first week of February also looking doubtful.

Sepang has been cruel to Pedrosa over the years, as he injured himself badly there in a practice crash during his rookie season. The excruciating pain from the gaping hole in his leg did not prevent the tough little Spaniard from finishing on the podium, however.

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