At last, the MotoGP bikes have taken to the track, and to the surprise of absolutely nobody, Casey Stoner was the fastest man at the end of the first day of testing, and by a comfortable margin. But Stoner's time is a little deceptive: set at the end of the day, as the track started to cool, making life a little easier on the tires and quickening the track. At 5pm local time, Stoner was 5th fastest, four tenths off Jorge Lorenzo's time, but four laps later, the Australian had lopped well over three quarters of a second off his best time and had taken over top spot.
It's been a long winter. And the lack of action on the MotoGP front has made the anticipation of the fans even worse by the many questions left hanging after the last test the MotoGP bikes participated in, after the season finale at Valencia.
Back in November, thousands watched Valentino Rossi make his debut on the Ducati (and Casey Stoner make his debut on the Honda, though it was clear where the attention of the fans was focused), and the results were a huge surprise. That Jorge Lorenzo was fast at the test surprised nobody, nor the fact that Casey Stoner was fast out of the traps, though quite how fast the Australian was after just a few laps on the Repsol Honda for the first time did raise a few eyebrows.
The big surprise from the Valencia test was Valentino Rossi's times on the Ducati. The Italian ended the test with the 15th time, with only Moto2 returnee Toni Elias and MotoGP rookie Karel Abraham behind him. There was no doubt that Rossi's injured shoulder - hurt in a training accident early in the year - played a significant role; the Valencia test came at the end of a long season, and after a full weekend of racing, at a track Rossi dislikes intensely. But Rossi (speaking through Filippo Preziosi, as he was contractually unable to speak directly to the press) also complained of a lack of feel from the front end, and a general lack of confidence in the bike.
Below is the "provisional" MotoGP entry list issued by the FIM. Given the cost and complexity of a MotoGP entry, it should be regarded as anything but provisional, as all of the names are confirmed, and no new entries are expected, despite rumors that other manufacturers may make a surprise return.
While the eyes of the world were on Madonna di Campiglio, the Italian ski resort which hosted Ducati's Wrooom! event, where Valentino Rossi was officially introduced as a Ducati rider, over in the Czech Republic, another Ducati rider was taking center stage. On Wednesday, the Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati held their official launch, presenting Karel Abraham as their rider for the 2011 season.
Just as we did yesterday, here's the round of press releases from the official test at Valencia, the final day of the test. As both Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner are under contract to teams other than the ones they were riding for, there's no rider quotes from them. Stoner spoke to the press separately afterwards (more on that later), while Filippo Preziosi reported on Rossi's feeling on the Ducati Desmosedici. Below are the press releases, and a full list of times is here:
LORENZO AND SPIES WRAP UP SUCCESSFUL VALENCIA OFFICIAL MOTOGP TEST
Final line up for the 2011 MotoGP season:
With the weather greatly improved from Friday, our shooter-on-the-scene Andrew Gosling of TBGSport ventured beyond the confines of pitlane, and sent us back the following shots:
With the highest-profile moves all officially confirmed, MotoGP's Silly Season is starting to run out of steam. The big surprises are out of the way, and we are left with just over half the seats still unfilled. But even for the unsigned rides, names have already been penciled in, some rather more firmly than others.
The two big names still waiting to put their signatures under contracts are surely Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa. Lorenzo's Brazilian manager is said to be playing hardball with Yamaha, trying to extract the best possible conditions out of the Japanese factory now that the sales powerhouse Valentino Rossi has left Yamaha to go to Ducati. Rumors of a 14 million euro salary demand are unconfirmed, but with Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica likely to take on sponsorship of the Yamaha squad, Lorenzo might be expected to earn that in sponsorship by allying his selling power to the Telefonica brand.
Yesterday, we discussed who is going where in the factory teams in MotoGP. For the most part, those deals are either public, or really badly-kept secrets. Today, we'll look at the situation among the satellite teams, a situation which is much, much less clear-cut than the factory squad, in part because the factory deals have not all been announced yet. The number of changes are suprisingly few, reflecting in part the problems in MotoGP. As costs rise, the cost of being competitive is growing, and more importantly, the cost of failure is increasing as well.