Dani Pedrosa leads a horde of Hondas after the first day of practice at Honda's home track of Motegi, the Repsol Honda man topping the timesheets for the second session of free practice for the MotoGP class. Pedrosa heads up a Repsol clean sweep, the Spaniard just edging his Australian teammate Casey Stoner, and his Italian soon-to-be-ex-teammate Andrea Dovizioso. Remarkably, all three Repsol bikes ended the session faster than the circuit lap record, set by Stoner back in 2008 on the Ducati.
Casey Stoner picked up in Motegi where he left off at Aragon, topping the timesheets in the first session of free practice for the MotoGP class at the Japanese circuit. Stoner ended the session ahead of his Repsol Honda teammate Andrea Dovizioso, the Italian clearly set on demonstrating why he deserves to get a factory Honda ride somewhere. Nicky Hayden ended the session in 3rd, the American showing signs of starting to gel with the GP11.1.
It was billed by the respected Italian website GPOne.com as "The Grand Prix Of Fear" and finally it's here. Unless something extremely untoward happens - highly unlikely, but the zone is one of the most geologically active regions in the world - by Friday evening, everyone will have gotten over themselves and we'll be talking about bikes on track again.
Over the past few days, I have been asked by a number of people - either directly or via Twitter - whether I will be going to Motegi for the Japanese MotoGP round this weekend. The short answer is I won't, but I felt I owed my readers an explanation of just why not.
Two important tests for the future of Honda are to take place over the next couple of months.
John Hopkins continues to sidle up to a MotoGP ride for 2012. After replacing Alvaro Bautista at Jerez and then entering as a wildcard at Brno, the current BSB championship leader is set for another wildcard aboard the Rizla Suzuki, this time at the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. Hopkins will line up in Sepang alongside Bautista again, as he did at Brno, though he will be hoping for a better outcome, the American unable to race in the Czech Republic after crashing out during practice on the Saturday of the Brno meeting.
Press release previews from the MotoGP teams ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi:
Suzuki's home GP leads trio of Pacific races
Publish Date: Friday, September 23, 2011
Rizla Suzuki heads into a run of three Pacific Rim races over four weekends - with Suzuki's home race at Motegi the first venue on the trip.
The announcement by Honda at Aragon that the Japanese factory would be fielding two wildcards at Motegi, in the form of veteran rider Shinichi Itoh and test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi, as a display of solidarity with the tsunami-stricken region of East Japan meant that for once this year, it looked like there would be a grid of 19 riders in MotoGP. But a crash early in the race saw Loris Capirossi fall heavily on the shoulder he had previously injured at Assen, and the Italian was advised not to race in Japan by famous paddock physician Dr Claudio Costa.
After much debate about the amount and costs of testing for the MotoGP class, IRTA and the MSMA have agreed to loosen the reins a little for 2012. Preseason testing for the 2012 MotoGP testing will be increased by 1 day, from the 8 days the teams had in 2011 to 9 days next season. To help contain costs and make better use of the available time, the night tests at Qatar which preceded the season opener in previous years has been dropped in favor of the Jerez circuit in the south of Spain.
Marco Simoncelli has won the unofficial Battle of the HRC Italians. Today, the San Carlo Gresini team announced that Simoncelli would be staying with the squad for 2012, and would be doing so with a HRC contract and a factory-spec Honda RC213V.
Testing the 2012 MotoGP bikes, when the series ups its capacity limit to 1000cc once again, has raised more questions than it has answered for the media and fans trying to follow the series. The first public test at Brno saw some promising results, with the Hondas and Yamahas fairly evenly matched, and the 1000cc bikes between 0.5 to 1 second faster than the 800s.