Analysis

2012 MotoGP Testing Time Comparison: Dovizioso Most Improved, CRT Bikes Making Most Progress

With the three days of testing at the MotoGP class' second visit to Sepang now over, some preliminary conclusions can be drawn on the progress or otherwise that the teams have been making over the course of the two tests. Below are two comparison tables: the first one compares the improvement shown by the riders over the three days of the Sepang 2 test, while the second table compares the best times from the Sepang 1 and Sepang 2 tests, and the difference between the two.

One of the patterns which emerges from both tables is that the factory teams appear to make the least progress. Casey Stoner only improved his time from day 1 by just under 1.3 seconds, less than half the improvement made by Andrea Dovizioso, and a second or more less than almost all of the satellite riders, while the factory riders have improved the least. Something similar is apparent when comparing progress between the two tests, with the factory riders mainly going slower in the second test than they did at the first test a month ago.

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2012 Sepang 2 MotoGP Test Day 2 Round Up: The Mystery Of The Disappearing Hondas, And Some Happy Yamahas

It never rains but it pours. That old proverb applies both literally and metaphorically to the MotoGP test at Sepang, with rain - a solid, heavy, tropical downpour - once again confining the riders to their garages at the Malaysian circuit, for the second day in a row, and severely limiting track time. A couple of good dry hours in the morning, and that was it. From then on, the only testing that went on was in the wet, and though useful, it is not what the MotoGP field came to Malaysia for.

For Honda, the poor weather came as a blessing in disguise. All four RC213Vs were sidelined on Wednesday, after Dani Pedrosa's Repsol Honda suffered a mysterious engine problem at the end of Tuesday. An engine warning light came on, and Pedrosa pulled in the clutch and rolled into the pits to have his bike checked over. The HRC technicians took the warning light very seriously, flying the engine back immediately to Honda's racing HQ in Japan for further examination. There, the engine was inspected to see whether the problem could create a safety issue if it happened again, and finally given the all clear.

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2012 Sepang 2 MotoGP Test Day 1 Round Up: Track Conditions And The Search For Traction

The justification for flying halfway around the world to go testing in Sepang is simple: While Europe is still dealing with the after-effects of winter, plagued by cold, wind and rain, the temperature at Sepang is reliably warm, and despite the usual tropical storms in the afternoon, the chance of having a dry track to test on is very good.

Of course, it doesn't always work out that way. Sometimes, the rain falls much earlier, and the intensity of tropical thunderstorms makes it unsafe to go out on the track until the storm has passed, and the amount of rain that falls leaves a lot of water on the track.

Such was the case on the first day of the second MotoGP test at Sepang. A tropical storm moved in shortly after lunchtime, and the heavy rain left wet patches on the track for most of the afternoon. All the air miles gathered by riders and team staff flying in from around the world were mostly in vain, as they sat in their garages waiting for the rain to pass.

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2012 Sepang 2 MotoGP Test Preview: Now, The Hard Graft Starts

Where the first MotoGP test at Sepang at the end of January was an emotionally-charged affair - returning to the Malaysian circuit for the first time since the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli, and with massive anticipation of the brand new GP12, designed and built in record tempo over the winter break - the second test there seems almost humdrum in comparison. With just four weeks between the first and second tests for the MotoGP class, there has been no time for radical changes to the bikes that rolled out here in January, the focus instead being on the hard grind of crunching the numbers on the massive quantities of data that are gathered at every test, analyzing and testing the setup of the new machines, and finding out exactly how to go fastest with the bikes.

But if the glamor of the first test is missing, these will be a far more telling and a far more important three days than the first run out of the year in January. The easy improvements, achieved by grinding off the rough edges of the machine, have been found, and now the teams will focus on polishing, polishing and more polishing, looking for hundredths where previously they sought tenths of a second. The data from this test will form the basis for the bikes in race trim.

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2012 Philip Island WSBK Round Up - Biaggi and Checa Can't Be Stopped

If the opening round of the 2012 World Superbike Championship taught us anything, it's that this looks to be a two-horse race. Assuming no major wrenches are thrown in the works. Aprilia's Max Biaggi and Althea Ducati's Carlos Checa had the pace of everyone else in the field covered. Handily. And each of the early championship-protagonists cruised to victory without having to worry about the other after a couple of off-track excursions.

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2012 Philip Island WSBK Round Up - Tragedy In Support Class Forces Superpole Cancelation

Saturday’s World Superbike Superpole and World Supersport final qualifying sessions from Philip Island were cancelled after a serious accident in the Australian Supersport race resulted in the death of Australian rider Oscar McIntyre. The 17-year-old collided with fellow racers Luke Burgess and Michael Lockhart on the second lap of the Australian support race and died despite receiving immediate medical treatment at the scene. Because of the seriousness of the accident, the event organizers decided to cancel Superpole.

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2012 Phillip Island WSBK Round Up - Rea, Ducatis and Injuries

Jonathan Rea was quickest in Friday's first qualifying session from Philip Island, joining Carlos Checa as the only two men to put in sub-1.32 minute laps this weekend. 
 
The Ulsterman shot to the top of the timesheets in the afternoon session, after struggling with an electrical issue earlier in the day. Despite Rea’s provisional-pole, he said he still doesn’t have the race pace to stay with Checa and clinging on to Max Biaggi could be a tough ask, as well.
 
Things on the other side of the Ten Kate garage were not quite as rosy. Former 250cc World Champion Hiroshi Aoyama fell off early, leaving his crew to fix a sticky gear selector for much of the day, finishing in 15th, just more than a second behind his teammate.
 
Ducati looked again impressive at the Island, occupying three of the top five places after QP1. Although, not in the order one would imagine. Qualifying superhero Jakub Smrz put his Effenbert Liberty Ducati second in the order, ahead of Althea Ducati teammates, defending World Superstock Champion Davide Giugliano and defending World Superbike Champion, Carlos Checa.
 

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2012 Sepang 1 MotoGP Test Day 3 Round Up: Taking Stock After Sepang 1

The MotoGP bikes have been back in action for three days now - four, if you count Randy de Puniet and the other Aprilia ART (as Aprilia's CRT bike is called) riders' outing at Valencia - and fans and followers now have some real meat to chew over. The days of endless speculation based on nothing more than ill-informed gossip and rumor is over; the days of endless speculation based on slightly better-informed gossip, rumor and lap times are here.

So what preliminary conclusions can we draw from the test at Sepang? Has the Ducati really been fixed? Are the 1000s going to provide more exciting racing? Will the Honda be as dominant this year as it was last? Can Jorge Lorenzo take the fight to Casey Stoner? Do the times set by the CRT bikes mean that the project is a failure? Wouldn't it be nice if we could provide a simple yes-or-no answer to all of these questions?

The big question over the winter is what has happened at Ducati, and whether Filippo Preziosi and his band of laboring engineers could come up with a bike that Valentino Rossi could be competitive on. That question is incredibly hard to answer from the lap times: Rossi ended the test over 1.2 seconds behind Casey Stoner, and a good six tenths behind Jorge Lorenzo; in 2011, the Italian was just a second behind Stoner on the Honda, suggesting that Ducati may have gone backwards instead of forwards.

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2012 Sepang 1 MotoGP Test Day 2 Round Up: Work Starts In Earnest, And Ezpeleta Talks 2013

With the excitement of MotoGP bikes being back on track subsiding to more manageable levels, the riders and teams were back hard at work again on Wednesday. The track had improved sufficiently to see times start to drop to where they might reasonably be expected to be. At Mugello in July of last year, Ducati Corse boss Filippo Preziosi had told the press that the simulations Ducati had run comparing their 1000cc bike - now radically changed since then - to the 800 showed that the 1000s should be about half a second faster round Mugello than the 800s, and that prediction proved to be just about spot on at Sepang.

The name of the rider at the top of the timesheet should surprise no one, Casey Stoner returning from a back problem - though still clearly stiff and not back to full strength - to post a scorching lap time, clear of the two Yamahas of Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo. Stoner did only a relatively few laps on the RC213V, concentrating on getting the parts tested he had on his work list, rather than working on a setup for the 2012 season. He compared the two chassis he had been given - and asked for the best parts of both chassis again, unsurprisingly - and concentrated on the big stuff.

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2012 Sepang 1 MotoGP Test Day 1 Round Up: Yamaha's Progress, The Phoenix Rises, And CRT Thwarted By Electronics

The MotoGP bikes are finally back on track - though it took a little longer than expected, after an overnight rain shower left the track damp in the morning. Much had been expected of this test, and it has delivered already, after just a single day. In fact the test has been almost perfect, real bikes running on a circuit putting an end to the intrigue and subterfuge that play such a major role in every winter break, whilst raising enough new questions to pique the interest of anyone with a passion for motorcycle racing.

The overnight rain made conditions far from ideal, a fact reflected by the fact that in the main, there was little difference in times between the first day of the 2012 test and the first day of the same test last year, despite the bikes having grown in capacity by 200cc. The extra power was all too evident around the track: controlling wheelies while retaining drive out of corners is going to be key this year, and while the extra torque makes the bigger bikes easier to control, and reduces some of the electronics needed, the resources spent on taming a highly-strung 800cc engine have now been diverted to keeping the front wheel of the fire-breathing 1000s within a parsec or two of the tarmac.

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