>The MotoGP silly season is officially over and the riders have concluded their first day of testing in Malaysia. For those interested, the times can be found here. If you just want to hear about highlights and analysis, read on.
First and foremost before any thoughts go into this, remember the 2011 rules will be thrown out the window after this season. For 2012, the premiere class is going back to 1000cc from its current 800cc format (Hallelujah!). With that being said, it can be assumed that these bikes are highly modified versions of last year’s bike and not clean sheet designs. Sadly, the majority of the changes probably deal with the electronics for traction control and anti-wheelie. It would just be a waste of money and resources to build new bikes from the ground up for a single year.
That being said, the factory teams are still willing to throw around a lot of money. Look no further than the biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world to prove this. Honda, contrary to recent MotoGP practice, is running a three rider factory squad with Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, and Andrea Dovizioso. It seems to have paid off for Honda in these preliminary stages. Stoner topped the time sheets today just like he did during the test at the end of the 2010 season.
This isn’t terribly surprising as Honda makes very competent machines. Add in the fact that Casey just spent the last four seasons riding a bucking bronco in the form of Ducati’s Motogp contender and you can see why he can ride something as smooth as a Honda so effectively.
Casey was followed by Jorge Lorenzo (Factory Yamaha), Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), Marco Simoncelli (Gresini Honda), and Ben Spies (Factory Yamaha). No surprises here. They all rode for those manufacturers last year. The news that everyone wants to hear about is down in twelfth position.
Down there sits Valentino Rossi aboard his new-to-him Ducati Desmosedici GP11. Many of the Rossi faithful are a bit worried about this. Last time he switched teams was back in 2004 to the uncompetitive Yamaha. He won his debut race on the M1, went on to take the crown, and we all know the rest. Well, these days Vale is a bit older and still recovering from shoulder surgery. Trying to tame the GP11 is a monumental task for anyone. Consider the fact that Nicky Hayden is entering his third year with the Ducati and was a position lower than Rossi and it becomes understandable that the Desmosedici is a beast.
History has shown that Rossi along with Crew Chief Jeremy Burgess have been a dynamic duo. Just look at the seven Motogp titles. They’ve had the Midas touch with just about everything they’ve raced. Can they do it again even with Rossi in poor fitness? The answers will come after the curtain closes on the season opener on March 20.