The good news is that Dani Pedrosa has finally confirmed that he will be racing at Mugello. After missing three races with an injured collarbone - sustained in a race crash with Marco Simoncelli at Le Mans - Pedrosa now feels sufficiently confident that his collarbone has healed that he has decided at last to return to competing in MotoGP. The operations - Pedrosa had one a couple of days after Le Mans to put a plate on his collarbone, then another one shortly after the Silverstone round of MotoGP to fix a loose piece of bone in the collarbone - have been a success, and Pedrosa's collarbone now feels sufficiently strong for the Repsol Honda rider to feel comfortable competing again.
The Monday test after Mugello was one of the most anticipated occasions in recent memory. For that was to be the first time that the media - and therefore vicariously, the fans - would get a chance to see all three of the factory MotoGP bikes due to be raced next season. Most of the shine has now come off that test, though: After Ducati and Honda let it slip that they would not be testing their 2012 machines at Mugello a week on Monday, today, Yamaha announced that they, too, had decided against taking their 1000cc M1 on track at the test. Instead, Yamaha will wait until the post-race test at Brno in mid-August before putting factory riders Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo on the machine.
As predicted yesterday, Honda have finally confirmed that Dani Pedrosa is to miss the Assen MotoGP round. HRC today issued a terse press release announcing that Pedrosa would not be racing in Assen, and that Hiroshi Aoyama is to take his place in the Repsol Honda team, while Honda test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi will move in to Aoyama's seat at the San Carlo Gresini Honda team. Pedrosa is now expected to make his return at Mugello, as he stated in Repsol's press release.
Much has been made of the fact that the Ducati Desmosedici GP11.1 (as it has so geekily been dubbed) that Valentino Rossi is to race at Assen this weekend features a large number of parts - some would say, almost an entire motorcycle - that have been developed for next year's machine, the GP12. Rossi has tested the GP12 now on 3 separate occasions, but the parts and concepts he tested at both Jerez and Mugello are now being rolled out for the 2011 bike. This, some fans and media are claiming, is in clear breach of the rules; after all, contracted riders are only allowed to test this year's machines during the official tests at Estoril and Brno.
Yet MotoGP Technical Director Mike Webb today told MotoMatters.com that his team have been monitoring the tests closely, and that everything at the Ducati tests has so far been completely legal and within the bounds of the rules. Obviously, the GP12 Rossi and teammate Nicky Hayden have been testing is not a 2011 bike (the capacity was checked to ensure this) but if the bike is basically the same except for the engine, why this test legal?
The answer is simple. Section 126.96.36.199 of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations covers testing restrictions, and subsection A is phrased as follows:
Practice by contracted riders with machines eligible for the MotoGP class is forbidden:
The combination of extremely limited in-season testing for the current MotoGP machines (introduced as part of the cost-cutting measures in response to the global financial crisis) and expanded testing for the 2012 machines, allowing 8 extra test days for the 1000cc machines, was always likely to leave the factories open to accusations of bending the rules. After all, with the differences between the 2011 and 2012 machines being limited by the rule changes put in place (limiting the 1000cc bikes to four cylinders and an 81mm bore), and testing taking place in private, the opportunities for testing the 2011 bikes unseen were all too obvious.
The incident between Dani Pedrosa and Marco Simoncelli has had much bigger consequences than anyone believed it would. Pedrosa broke his right collarbone in the crash, just weeks after having a plate removed from his left, due to the plate causing the Repsol Honda rider to suffer Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Since then, Pedrosa's return has been much longer in coming than expected, his injury shrouded in mystery, with rumors that Pedrosa had aggravated his injury in a training accident emerging in the Spanish press.
The return of the 1000cc MotoGP bikes in 2012 is keenly awaited, and testing for the 2012 season is now well underway. Ducati has had two days of testing at Jerez back in April, while Casey Stoner put in two days on the Honda at Jerez earlier this month.
As they did for the switch to 800cc back in 2007, Ducati is getting a lot of work done early, as Valentino Rossi is back on track at Mugello today (Thursday), testing the GP12 again, according to reports at GPOne.com. Rossi's test day will be the third of the eight days testing allowed with contracted (i.e. current MotoGP) riders on the 2012 machine, and as GPOne.com suggests, is a clue that the emphasis for Ducati is very much on being competitive from the start of the 2012 season.
Because of the earthquake in Japan, the FIM released a revised 2011 MotoGP calendar, with the Motegi MotoGP round rescheduled from April 24th to October 2nd.
2011 MotoGP calendar
The 2011 MotoGP season has many things to be excited about - Valentino Rossi on a Ducati, Casey Stoner on a Honda, Ben Spies on a factory Yamaha, and so much more. But the 2012 season is probably just as eagerly anticipated, even though it is still over a year away. For 2012 sees the return of the 1000cc machines, and hopes are high that having the larger capacity back will see closer, more exciting racing.