As if to emphasize the point that motorcycle racing is approaching once again, after the past three days of testing by the World Superbike and World Supersport field at Portugal's spectacular Portimao circuit, a reduced field of 250 and 125 riders took to the track a couple of hundred miles further east at Jerez.
But unlike the overflowing World Superbike paddock, the 250 and 125 tests were significant more for who was absent than for those present. The biggest name missing is of course reigning 250 champion Marco Simoncelli, but there's no doubt that the Italian Gilera man will be on the grid next year. For others, though participation is less certain, as sponsorship deals are still being haggled over in an attempt to finalize budgets.
And so none of the Pons team riders are present, which includes Hector Barbera and Simone Corsi, and neither of the Espargaro brothers will be testing either; Alex Debon is absent, his future still unclear; and Hector Faubel turned up at the track, but will not be riding until tomorrow.
Of the riders that did test today, Alvaro Bautista was the fastest, as might be expected of a serious title contender. The Spaniard finshed ahead of Swiss rider Thomas Luthi, and the Scot Honda rider Ratthapark Wilairot. Reigning 125cc champion Mike Di Meglio managed only the 6th fastest time, after a tumble in the morning which left him relatively unharmed.
As for the 125 riders, it was the Aspar Aprilia pairing of Julian Simon and Bradley Smith who topped the timesheets, ahead of the tiny Marc Marquez on the factory KTM. Britain's Scott Redding was fifth fastest, while American Cameron Beaubier, who stepped from the Red Bull Rookies Cup last year managed the 11th fastest time. The 125s shared the track with leading riders from both the Spanish CEV championship, as well as the Italian CIV championship.
Testing continues tomorrow, and concludes on Wednesday.