With the first results of MotoGP testing in 2012 in, it is worth making a comparison with the times from previous times set at Sepang, though just as at Valencia, conditions were hard to compare, as the day started on a damp track. Below is a set of three comparisons, comparing times set during the first day of the 2012 test at Sepang with time set on day 1 of the Sepang test in 2011, and with times set during qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix in October, the race that was cancelled after the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli in a second-lap crash.
Jorge Lorenzo was the fastest man after the winter break at Sepang, the factory Yamaha rider the only man to crack the 2'02 barrier. Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa ended the day in 2nd, a third of a second behind Lorenzo, while Monster Tech 3's Cal Crutchlow impressed on his return to a MotoGP bike by ending the day in 3rd, over half a second behind Lorenzo, but just ahead of the factory Yamaha of Ben Spies.
So the day that MotoGP fans have been waiting for throughout the long, dark, bikeless winter break has nearly arrived. In a few short hours time, the MotoGP bikes will be tearing up the track in Malaysia once again in preparation for the 2012 season. Indeed, all day Monday, a few MotoGP bikes - the cynics and naysayers would refute that the Aprilia CRT bike is a MotoGP bike, but they are wrong - have been howling round Valencia, but as that is a private test it has not impinged upon the consciousness of MotoGP fans as much as Sepang has.
MotoGP is back at last, and while the factory bikes are being unveiled in the tropical heat of Malaysia, ready for the first day of test at Sepang on Tuesday, the Aprilia CRT bikes of Aspar and Speedmaster took to a much colder track at Valencia. By the end of the first day, Randy de Puniet - who has experience of the bike, having ridden it at Jerez at the end of last year - set the fastest time, with a lap of 1'35.3, his Aspar teammate Aleix Espargaro 1.4 seconds behind de Puniet, while Speed Master's Mattia Pasini was 2.5 seconds off the pace of the Frenchman.
With the MotoGP testing season kicking off at Valencia with the private CRT test, and the factory bikes starting on Tuesday at Sepang, Bridgestone issued a press release containing information on their 2012 tires for MotoGP. The tires have been changed from 2011, the carcass is now less rigid with the aim of helping the tires warm up faster and provide better feedback. Only the riders at Sepang will have the new tires for the moment, while the Aprilia CRT bikes will be using the "old" 2012 tires as debuted at Valencia in November.
On the eve of first official Sepang MotoGP test of the year, the Repsol Honda team held the traditional launch of the 2012 season at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There, HRC presented the Honda RC213V MotoGP bike, while Casey Stoner unveiled the #1 plate he will be running.
The press release after the launch is below, while the official launch photos (courtesy of Honda Racing) appear underneath the press release:
Repsol Honda Team return to centre stage in Malaysia
Yamaha has confirmed that Japanese oil company JX Nippon will be partnering the Yamaha MotoGP team as sponsor in 2012. As uncovered by Greek website motograndprix.gr and reported here earlier this month, JX Nippon will be using their sponsorship of the Yamaha MotoGP team to promote the ENEOS brand, a range of performance oil products sold worldwide.
With the MotoGP paddock about to descend on Sepang, a circuit they left with much sadness after Marco Simoncelli was tragically killed there, now is a good moment to reflect on Simoncelli's life. Top MotoGP photographer Andrew Wheeler has produced his own personal tribute to the Italian, a beautiful photo book containing 58 photos of Simoncelli. More information about the book below:
58 of #58 - Marco Simoncelli
With the news coming out today that Ant West will not be able to make the grid for the 2012 motor GP season, due to his inability to find funding for his ride, brings up an interesting take on where the sport of MotoGP, motorcycle racing, and motor sports in general fits in with life today in our current economic environment.
Just hours after Ant West announced on his Facebook page that he would not be racing in MotoGP, as he was unable to find the sponsorship to fund his ride at the Speed Master team, the team issued a press release announcing West's replacement. Italian rider Mattia Pasini is to take West's place, and ride the Speed Master Team's Aprilia CRT bike in MotoGP for 2012.
Below is a press release on the injuries suffered by Alex Rins, Spanish 125cc champion who will be riding for Monlau Competicion in Moto3 this season:
Alex Rins injures shoulder in training accident
Repsol rider fractures left shoulder in preseason training and undergoes successful operation at the USP Dexeus Hospital
MotoGP's long winter break is drawing to a close, and the testing season is about to kick off once again. For the last couple of years that's been very easy to follow, as everyone headed to the official MotoGP tests organized by IRTA. With the introduction of the Claiming Rule Teams, however, MotoGP's testing schedule has become a lot more complex, as some of the CRT teams will be joining the test in Sepang, while others will be remaining in Europe.
Popular Australian rider Ant West is to retire from motorcycle racing. The popular Australian made the announcement on his personal Facebook page, citing the failure to raise sufficient sponsorship to be able to pay for a ride for 2012. West was signed up to ride an Aprilia CRT machine for the Speed Master team in MotoGP in 2012, but was unable to find the 250,000 euros that the team had demanded he bring to the ride.
The BMW World Superbike squad spent two days testing at Valencia, where they worked mainly on electronics strategies and the latest version of the BMW S1000RR engine. Below is the press release issued after the test:
Winter testing – Valencia.
25th to 26th January 2012.
The Kawasaki World Supersport team issued the following press release after their test at Valencia:
Successful Supersport Test For Kawasaki DeltaFin Riders At Valencia
Newsflash, 26 January 2012
Kawasaki's factory supported DeltaFin Supersport World Championship team completed a two-day test at Valencia today and will now head to Australia for more pre-season preparations in optimistic mood.