|Pos.||Rider||Fast Lap||Diff||Lap||Total laps|
The problem with practical jokes is that they can all too easily get out of hand. At the end of December, rumors first started emerging that Michael Schumacher was poised to make the switch to MotoGP, riding a Ducati. The rumor was based on the time Schumacher is alleged to have set at Valencia after the final Grand Prix of 2007, with the German former F1 champion riding the Ducati GP7 to within 5 seconds of the MotoGP lap record.
The weather stopped play during the final session of day 2 at the official IRTA test at Jerez, after the rain returned and the wind damaged advertising signs around the track. Officials red-flagged the session after less than an hour, with parts from the damaged signs forming a hazard for the riders. Only 4 riders had been out prior to the red flag being shown, completing a total of just 15 laps between them. Frenchman Randy de Puniet was the fastest in the meaningless session, in a time of 1'55.568.
If there were any lingering doubts about who is favorite for the 2008 MotoGP title, Sunday's qualifying practice at the official IRTA test in Jerez should have laid these well and truly to rest. Within just 11 minutes of the start of the session, one rider had stamped his authority on qualifying with such force that the 2nd place rider at that moment was nearly three and a half seconds behind. Three and a half seconds. And though his lead was reduced, after the 40 minutes were up, the winning margin was still over 1.3 seconds. This wasn't a contest, it was a massacre.
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Manufacturer||Fast Lap||Diff||Diff Previous|
The rain in Spain has been falling mainly on the track at Jerez today, turning up a few of the usual wet weather suspects. Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen shone as always in the rain, with Casey Stoner also putting in a strong performance. Dani Pedrosa decided to sit this morning's session out, not wishing to risk further injuring his recovering hand.
The first day of testing at Jerez was yet another object lesson on ignoring the headline times and focusing on the big picture. If you were to judge Saturday's times just on the timesheet printed at the end of the day, then it would be simplicity itself to fall into the gaping trap laid by a smattering of qualifying tires.
|Pos.||Rider||Bike||Fastest Lap||Diff.||Total Laps|
|2||Randy de Puniet||Honda||1'39.444||0.244||82|
|Pos.||Rider||Best Lap||Lap No.||Total Laps|
|4||Randy de Puniet||1'41.082||0.441||45||45|
Even MotoGP addicts such as myself can't keep track of every single fast lap at every single racetrack round the world, so as an aid to our collective memories, here's a list of the fastest laps set at Jerez over the past few years. Whenever you see times posted on this or other websites around the internet, you have a yardstick against which to measure them right here.
The 2007 times were or course set at the second race of the 800cc era, while the circuit record and pole record were both set on the old 990s.
Grand Prix Zero: The unofficial jocular name for the official IRTA tests at Jerez. The joke, after the idiosyncratic tendency of computer programmers to start counting at zero instead of one, is that the only "official" preseason test has grown so much in popularity, importance, and status that it has become a de facto Grand Prix, albeit a rather strange one.
With the season not yet even started, beds in the MotoGP sick bay have already been filling up. Kawasaki's John Hopkins suffered a very painful groin injury after a fall at Phillip Island, and Dani Pedrosa had even worse luck, breaking a bone in his hand in a huge crash on the first day of testing after the winter ban ended. Both men had question marks hanging over the start of their seasons, but luckily for them, their recovery has been remarkably swift.
In 2007, just as everything seemed to be going against Valentino Rossi, with the Yamaha M1 too slow and the Michelin tires seemingly unable to last an entire race, the Italian tax authorities added insult to injury by slapping a monster fine of 112 million Euros. Coming as it did just prior to the Brno round, the media attention distracted the Italian from racing, adding yet another obstacle in his path to regain the MotoGP title.
There had already been plenty of speculation, but now there's yet more confirmation: Ben Spies is getting ready to make the switch to MotoGP. On Thursday, he told Roadracing World that he'll be racing both US MotoGP rounds, at both Indianapolis and Laguna Seca. He also told Roadracing World that he hopes to have two tests lined up on the Suzuki GSV-R MotoGP bike before the races.
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.