The Crystal Ball: A Few Predictions For The 2012 MotoGP Season

In a week's time, the first race of the 2012 MotoGP season will be wrapped up and finished, and with a full preseason of testing behind us, it's time to take a look at the upcoming year. A lot is expected of the new season, and there's a lot to talk about, with a return to 1000cc MotoGP bikes, a brand new Ducati GP12, the advent of the CRT bikes, and much, much more. Time to make some predictions for the 2012 season.

Predicted Final 2012 MotoGP Championship Standings:

  1. Casey Stoner, Repsol Honda
  2. Jorge Lorenzo, Factory Yamaha Racing
  3. Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda

This can hardly come as a surprise. Buoyed by the #1 plate and a strong winter of testing behind him, Casey Stoner is the man to beat. The Australian is without question the fastest man in MotoGP at the moment, and on a well-sorted Honda, he will not be denied the title. Jorge Lorenzo won't give up without a fight, though, and this year he has the weapon to do it with. The gap between the Honda and the Yamaha has been closed - the Honda still has the edge on power, but the Yamaha is not far behind, and probably handles marginally better - and so Lorenzo will take the fight to Stoner all the way to the end. Stoner should have the edge to once again wrap up the title in front of his home crowd at the penultimate round. Pedrosa is and will remain the best of the rest, though Ben Spies and perhaps Andrea Dovizioso will push him hard.

Predicting Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa for the top three slots in MotoGP hardly counts as the most courageous call in the world, but when Stoner and Lorenzo are clearly the two best riders in the world, with Pedrosa a close third, then anything else would be folly.

Predictied Final 2012 Moto2 Championship Standings:

  1. Marc Marquez, CatalunyaCaixa Repsol, Suter
  2. Thomas Luthi, Interwetten Paddock, Suter
  3. Scott Redding, Marc VDS Racing, Kalex

The only thing that stood between Marc Marquez - Moto2's own alien - and the 2011 championship was a pool of water that went unnoticed by the marshals at Sepang, causing the Spaniard to crash and be ruled out of the last two races. Only a similar occurrence can keep Marquez from the 2012 title - his decision to stay in Moto2 had prompted a number of team managers to share their disappointment with me as they saw their rider's shot at the title disappear. Marquez learns fast, and an extra year of maturity may calm him down sufficiently to stop being the danger to himself and, occasionally, others which he showed flashes of last season.

Best of the rest is Thomas Luthi, the Randy Mamola of Moto2, and a rider destined to be ever the bridesmaid. Luthi has shown a touch more speed and a touch more aggression during testing, and that, added to his already mature and balanced approach, should get him as close to Marquez as any mere mortal is likely to get.

The race for third in the championship looks like being the most interesting, with lots of fast-but-flaky riders challenging often. Though Andrea Iannone will win more races, and Pol Espargaro, Claudio Corti, Toni Elias and Julian Simon will push him hard, Scott Redding should have the sheer speed and consistency to bag third. The Kalex is the bike to have in Moto2 this season, but in the end, it will come down to the rider, and Marquez' brilliance and Luthi's maturity will beat Redding's speed.

Predicted Final 2012 Moto Championship3 Standings:

  1. Maverick Viñales, Blusens Avintia, FTR Honda
  2. Danny Kent, Red Bull Ajo, KTM
  3. Sandro Cortese, Red Bull Ajo, KTM

Moto3 is the hardest category to call, with a whole new set of bikes and a young crew of riders to boot. At Jerez, the bikes were already on the pace of the 125cc machines, and the switch to four-stroke engines has made the bikes a little easier to ride, though the sound remains, well, a little odd. The KTMs dominated preseason testing, until Jerez, when the Hondas got the latest kit parts from Geo Tech. Maverick Viñales, who ended third in his rookie season last year, is clearly the cream of the crop in Moto3, and was besting the KTMs despite having a slight horsepower disadvantage. With a solid structure behind him, Viñales is the hot favorite for the title.

Best of the KTMs looks like being Danny Kent, the young Briton coming up through the Red Bull Rookies and showing a lot of natural speed. Kent finds himself on an excellent bike and in arguably the best team in the Moto3 paddock, and so has every chance to shine. Viñales is in a league of his own, but Kent will not be intimidated by the Spaniard. Sandro Cortese will continue to be fast, and win the occasional race, but a championship seems as far away as it ever was.

MotoGP Season Victories: Casey Stoner 8, Jorge Lorenzo 6, Dani Pedrosa 2, Ben Spies 2

Casey Stoner will not get the runaway championship victory that we saw in 2011, but the Australian will still take the majority of the spoils. Stoner should take Qatar, Phillip Island, and Aragon, while Lorenzo is hot favorite to win at Jerez, Laguna Seca, and my instinct says he will win a thriller at Barcelona, the race decided on the last lap. Dani Pedrosa and Ben Spies will pick up the crumbs when Stoner and Lorenzo fall short, or hold each other up. The level of the current top flight means that even in the case of rain, the very best riders will pick up the wins, leaving satellite riders with only the podium to hope for.

Valentino Rossi Will Score More Podiums But No Wins in 2012

To state that the Ducati Desmosedici GP12 is radically revised from its previous incarnation is an understatement. The only thing that is unchanged is the angle of the engine - though there are even those who suspect that Ducati have ditched the 90° angle between the cylinders - and the bike now responds to setup changes and gives the riders some feel from the front end.

But not enough. The bike still wants to run wide in corners, and lacks traction in the rear. Rossi can now at least brake into corners the way he wants to, though getting it to turn is a little bit trickier. The nine-time World Champion will be much closer to the front this year, close enough to see regular visits to the podium. But not close enough to beat Stoner and Lorenzo, nor to beat Pedrosa and Spies when the two title contenders fall short.

The good news for Ducati is that with an improved front end and a bigger bike, Nicky Hayden should start to bag the odd podium too. Laguna Seca and Indianapolis have to be favorite for the American to get his boots on the box, but he could surprise a few people this season.

Randy De Puniet Will Score At Least One Top 6 Finish

The new CRT machines have been either impressive or disastrous, depending on which end of the results you look at. Most impressive of all have been the Aprilia ART bikes, a revised version of the WSBK-spec RSV4 with a heavily modified chassis, especially with Randy de Puniet at the helm. De Puniet is out to prove a point, and the Aprilia gives him at least some of the tools he needs to do so, and with development expected as the season progresses, he will creep ever closer to the satellite bikes and start to shake a few of them up at the slower tracks. So strong is the Aprilia, and so motivated is De Puniet, that in the right conditions - a flowing track where setup is more important than top speed, such as Assen, and a smattering of rain to shake up proceedings - that the top 6 is within the Frenchman's reach. He will need some luck, mechanical or otherwise, from a couple of the riders in front of him, but there's always at least one race like that all year.

There Will Be Plenty of Complaining About, But No Claiming of CRT Bikes

The Claiming Rule Teams are going to take center stage in MotoGP in more ways than one this season. The slower riders - particularly the underdeveloped bikes such as the Avintia FTR Kawasakis of Ivan Silva and Yonny Hernandez - are the kind of pace that will see them getting lapped with a few laps to go. All of the riders will be given very strict instructions on getting out of the way in time, but at some point, lapped riders are going to play a role in the outcome of at least one race.

That, however, is not necessarily a bad thing. As long as the lapped riders know to stay out of the way as safely as possible and obey the blue flags, the art of picking the lapped rider could be reinstated in all its glory. At Jerez, Ben Spies told Dennis Noyes and I a story about winning the AMA Superbike championship against Mat Mladin, with a carefully timed pick heading up towards the Corkscrew. We could see some of that this season.

Most of the ire of the factory prototype teams will be aimed at the Aprilias, however. Already at Jerez, the factory teams were insinuating that the ART machines were really factory Aprilias in disguise. Though the plethora of ART shirts in the Aspar garage gave some credence to their concerns, the fact is that Jorge Martinez will own those bikes at the end of the year, unlike, say Monster Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal, who will pack up his Yamaha M1s and hand them back to Yamaha after the Valencia race in November. Despite their complaints, however, not one of them will claim an engine, as the factories are allowed to do. The loss of face implied - that a factory with a specialized racing department capable of building prototype engines suitable solely for racing could learn something by examining the internals of an engine that is basically a hopped-up version of a production bike - will prevent Honda, Yamaha and Ducati from taking that step.

Silly Season 2013: All Three Factory Line Ups Will Remain Unchanged For 2013

Despite the fact that all six of the factory riders in MotoGP - Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden at Ducati, Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa at Honda, and Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies at Yamaha - see their contracts end on December 31st, 2012, leaving them free to go elsewhere if they wish, none of them will. In contrast to the last time the contracts all ended at the same time - at the end of 2010 - either the motivation or the option to move to another team will be lacking for all six factory men.

At Honda, Casey Stoner is happy following in the footsteps of his hero Mick Doohan, who he resembles more every day - untouchable, and always wanting the bikes to be more difficult to ride, as his unshakeable faith in his own ability makes him believe that will be to his advantage - and the Australian is not going anywhere. Stoner will end his career with HRC - probably at the end of 2014, with a handful of titles under his belt - once he has sated his ambition and had another child.

As for Dani Pedrosa, he is still good enough to deserve the second seat at Repsol Honda, and until Marc Marquez has served his apprenticeship with a "satellite" team, his seat is safe. He will not get another two-year contract with Repsol, though, as HRC and the Spanish petroleum giant clear the way for rising star Marquez.

At Yamaha, Jorge Lorenzo has staked his claim as the Japanese factory's hope for the future, and at the moment, he is the only rider capable of giving Casey Stoner a run for his money. Lorenzo is the rider that Yamaha risked losing Valentino Rossi for, and given his efficacy at promoting the brand in Yamaha's key Asian markets, he will happily sign up for another two years.

The second seat at Yamaha is a more precarious one, with Andrea Dovizioso having Ben Spies bikes firmly in his sights. But Spies will do enough - just - to hang on to his ride, while Dovizioso might be granted a little bit of extra help for another year at Tech 3.

At Ducati, all eyes are on Valentino Rossi, and a large section of his fans are hoping he will abandon the - so far failed - adventure at Ducati. But Rossi is caught between a rock and a hard place; the nine-time World Champion is all too keenly aware of his place in history, and his reputation as a magical rider who can both win on a less capable machine, and help develop such a bike into something that anyone can win on. Indeed, this was one of the reasons Ducati gave for signing him. If he leaves Ducati without doing just that, his reputation will be forever diminished.

And it is not just himself that Rossi would be damaging by going to another manufacturer - if there is one who would be willing to sign him. When Rossi left Yamaha, he took Jeremy Burgess and almost all of his crew with him, just as he had when he swapped Honda for Yamaha. Burgess, too, has established an immense reputation for turning racing motorcycles around and transforming rough old dogs into race thoroughbreds. If Rossi dumps Ducati without having won on the bike - and preferably ensured that other Ducatis are closer to the front as well - then it is not just his own reputation he will have damaged, he will also have left Burgess having lost a good deal of his magic, and at Burgess' age, the veteran Australian has little enthusiasm for another risky adventure. Rossi is fiercely loyal to his crew, and will want to make his move to Ducati into a success, no matter how long it takes. Leaving is not an option.

On the other side of the Ducati garage, Nicky Hayden's contract is also up for renewal. The American is a lot more comfortable on the bigger bikes than he was on the 800s, and he feels that the GP12 is the best Ducati he has ever ridden. With Hayden being a PR dream and working hard to help successfully sell large numbers of Ducatis in the US, staying within sight of his teammate will be enough to secure his job for 2013 and beyond.

Though Hayden makes a strong case for staying with Ducati on his merits alone, there are other reasons to suspect his seat is safe. Valentino Rossi's disastrous first year at Ducati has made the bike an unappetizing prospect to top-flight riders, and so finding a replacement as good as Hayden could well turn out to be nigh-on impossible.

Just how accurate this prediction turns out to be should be settled fairly quickly. Both Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner have already signaled their intention to stay where they are, and contracts are likely to be signed early rather than late in the season.

Riders To Watch In 2012

MotoGP: Danilo Petrucci, Ioda Racing

It's a major step up, from the FIM Superstock 1000 Cup to MotoGP, but Petrucci's debut so far has been impressive. Petrucci ended the IRTA test at Jerez less than three tenths behind Aleix Espargaro, a rider who has experience on MotoGP machines. What's more, the IODA chassis he was using for the Aprilia engine was only on its third test, unlike the Aprilia ART which has been under development since the end of last year.

But that belies the potential of both bike and rider. IODA Racing is the brainchild of ormer head of Aprilia racing Giampiero Sacchi, and Petrucci's garage is full of former Aprilia 250 and World Superbike staff, including Giovanni Sandi, Max Biaggi's former crew chief. The bike will improve rapidly, and Sacchi's legendary eye for picking young riders has seen him bring riders such as Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo through the ranks. Petrucci won't be winning any races, but he will be raising plenty of eyebrows.

Moto2: Takaaki Nakagami, Italtrans

Though just 20 years' old, Nakagami already has two full seasons of Grand Prix racing behind him, though with rather modest results aboard a 125. Since returning to the GP paddock aboard the Italtrans Kalex, he has run consistently at the front of testing, and will ruffle plenty of feathers in 2012. That this should be so is hardly surprising: Nakagami is a product of the MotoGP Academy, the precursor to the Red Bull Rookies Cup started by Alberto Puig.

Moto3: Niccolo Antonelli, San Carlo Gresini

A fast, furry Italian wearing San Carlo Gresini colors. Antonelli is a reminder of the late lamented Marco Simoncelli, and shows plenty of promise. The 16-year-old is the reigning Italian 125cc champion, and showed both speed and consistency to take the title in 2011. Fast since the start of testing, Antonelli should be a regular top 10 scorer from the off, and have a shot at a couple of podiums before the season is out.

The Italian Resurgence

After years of waning Italian influence in the Grand Prix paddock, Petrucci and Antonelli are just two names in a growing wave of strong Italian riders. Add European 125cc champion Romano Fenati to the mix, along with the usual suspects - Andrea Iannone, Alex de Angelis and Mattia Pasini - in the larger classes, and Italy is finally looking capable of providing some counterweight to the tidal wave of Spaniards washing through MotoGP. The FMI Italia Moto3 team is a start, but there is surely more to come. And with no sign as yet of an end to Valentino Rossi's travails, strong Italian challengers are desperately needed to keep Italian interest in the series up.

The 2013 Rules - No War, But a Rev Limit And a Price Cap on Leasing

Since the contract between the MSMA and Dorna giving the factories a monopoly over the technical regulations lapsed on the last day of 2011, the two sides have been engaged in a delicate and sometimes forceful tango around the rulebook for the 2013 season and beyond. Both sides have been at such pains to assert that the atmosphere in the talks has been cordial and positive that it is hard not to believe that they do protest just a little too much. Proposals and and counterproposals have been put forward by both sides, and the rule book should be just about settled by the end of June.

After the dust settles, the two main proposals to make it into the rulebook for 2013 are likely to be a rev limit - and probably a low one, around 15,000 RPM - and a price cap on the cost of leasing a satellite machine. Both decisions will be good for the private teams in particular; the rev limit will make the CRT machines more competitive, though still inferior to the factory prototypes, and the price cap will make satellite bikes affordable once again, cutting the price in half, or by two thirds, in the case of the Hondas. Tech 3 has apparently already put its CRT project on hold, hoping to fulfill the second year of their leasing contract with Yamaha, instead of building their own bikes.

Though initially, the factories put up a fight over a potential rev limit, they will able to live with it if it is sold as a safety measure. Concerns have already been raised over the bikes reaching 360 km/h at some tracks, and a rev limit would limit top speed simply but effectively. What's more, it would be very easy to police. In exchange, the factories will demand that Dorna drop any suggestions of limiting the role of electronics, or imposing a spec ECU. Dorna will be able to accept the continued extensive use of electronics, for as long as the CRT bikes are competitive with the satellite machines.

With the season set to kick off in just a few days, my predictions will be tested on track soon enough. We'll return to these predictions after the season is ended, and see how close I got. I like to think that my crystal ball is pretty good, but until it starts producing winning lottery numbers, I'm not betting the entire farm on it, just the occasional barn.

Have any predictions of your own? Add them below in the comments, and we'll revisit them at the end of the season.

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I would agree with almost all of your predictions, except I think Scott Redding will finish outside the top 5 in the Moto2 championship standings.

I hope that the Silly Season produces something interesting, but you're probably right that none of the big players will move.

The only real questions for silly season are who will Bradley Smith out when he moves to Tech 3? And what Honda team will Marquez ride for in 2013?

The call on the top 3 in MotoGP is definatly a tough call but with so many new variables this season such as the tire change from BS causing wear issues to be a greater concern, especially on more abrasive track surfaces, I wouldn't be so sure that testing is going to be a very accurate indicator of race performance. I bet we will see race distance be more of a factor than it has been which could provide opprotunity for other riders to flex an advantage.

I don't see Spies achieving much this year. It became apparent to me last year that he is unable to adapt his riding style into one which carries more apex speed as it is in the area of apex speed where he is sorely lacking, along with not being neat enough under braking. His ability in the wet is also questionable. I see Dovizioso giving him a hard time, possibly even beating him with Crutchlow also hot on his heels.

much difference in riding styles this year, apex speed will still separate the good from the aliens.

That's what predictions are about, right? I just wonder, with lots more torque and tyres that are expected to 'go off' earlier in the race, maybe the 'stop it, turn it and fire it out' technique the Americans first brought to Europe might see a resurgence towards the end of some races. Although this might not work well with the restricted amount of fuel they have, I suppose?

Stoner himself says that the new 1000s will have to be ridden the same way the 800s were ridden to get the most speed out of them.

I disagree somewhat... Yea, for sure he had a hard time adapting from the Superbike style to the GP style (although he did better than most). But, he is so mechanical and methodical to his approach of riding, I think he will be better this year as he continues to refine his style.

Also, he is a racer's racer. He really shines when he is on the heals of someone and gets a whiff of an overtake. So with the tires falling off more this year during a race, I think we will see his aggressiveness really pay off.

Not enough to regularly beat Stoner of Lorenzo, and assuming he gets better starts, but we should see him up at the front more this year.

I'm putting spies down for 4 wins this year (Laguna Indy Brno and Valencia). He can now ride the gp bike like a superbike if he desires and when the tires start to go off he'll be very strong (as we saw in wsbk )
I figure stoner Lorenzo and spies will make up the top 3
Agree with Rossi netting a few podiums.
Also think rdp will wind up in the top 5 of a dry race this year.

and still he's the only one who got away with a dry race victory over the established aliens. To me he also looks more comfortable with the 1000's so I too think that 2 or 3 victories are possible this year.

is for Randy De Puniet to visit the podium. Which might in turn shake up your CRT predictions, David :)

RdP is the dark horse this season, I think no one really knows whether his bike just might function exceptionally good in the wet or on some particular track. And I'd *love* to see him kicking some a$§&s!

I would not be at all surprised to see Rossi retire if he is not able to put the Ducati on the top step of the podium at least once. Or finishes off the podium most of the time. I mean, think about it: we're talking about Rossi, the guy 'who just won' for so many years. Now he might be, again this year, more or less just riding around, struggling to think up more reasons (excuses?) each week, and may not even always beat non-factory riders. Would he still have hope the Ducati/Rossi package would be more competitive next year? And where would he go? I cannot see either Yamaha or Honda having enough interest to foot his hefty salary; it's not like they lack very good alternatives. We'll see...

Ducati has the biggest problem. If Rossi departs, they are left with Hayden as their top rider, not an enviable position. Cannot see any of the other top guys jumping on that bike, which has proved practically a career killer (e.g. Melandri). I hope Hayden really does bring enough off the track, because IMO he does not do nearly enough on it.

Despite the rumored demands from Yamaha that Spies do more this year, I see it as unlikely that he'll be (bad enough to warrant being) dumped. After all, he's only had one full year on a real factory bike; compare to how many Hayden has been allowed.

Looking forward to see what happens with Dovizioso and Crutchlow. Also Bradl.

I think this year will see the bigger heavier riders gaining on the brakes.
Ben will be a lot nearer Lorenzo than last year.
lets not forget that chatter the Honda was showing.

Oh and the corner speed - will just be as quick.
I think the Yamaha's Stability under braking may play a big part
I hope so anyway

That the championship battle will come down to Stoner Vs. Spies.

I know a lot of people might think I'm nuts, but you just wait and see.

In all fairness,only the fickle finger of fate can upset the scribe's applecart.
Well thought out and summed up. Glad you made special mention of IODA/Petrucci. This youngster is seriously tallented,so yes,Ducati do have a fantastic rider option for 2013 should things go awry for them with the latest GP12/rider combo. Of course,Danilo will have to ride the wheels off that IODA Aprilia as Stoner did with the 990 Honda back then to attract their attention at this level.Silly season 2012 will be as interesting as the racing itself in many respects.
But,sure,at the top of the pile in MGP I have 3 riders locked down for the title,and Dani ain't one of them,as brilliant as he is on his day.

Look pretty accurate to me - I don't see anyone catching Stoner, even with tyre wear and heavier riders etc etc

I expect him to be well ahead by half way through the season and probably lead from start to finish in the championship. Lorenzo will put in a good show and expect to see Pedrosa on the podium more often than not, with Spies not far back.

Other than that it will be the also rans. Expect Rossi and Hayden to bridge the gap to the satellites (and be beaten by them on occasion, especially by the Tech 3s).

I think that we are really going to miss Simoncelli this year and above all else, I hope we get some exciting races.

Even the best rider has to stay healthy all year. Stoner probably has the best overall record. It's all about points regardless of how fast you are. Spies didn't do himself any favors last year and Pedrosa always gets hurt. I think 3rd is between the healthiest of those two. Dovi better look for a factory ride in WSB because Spies isn't moving over.

MotoGP: Lorenzo, Stoner, Spies
I just have a sneaking suspicion that Lorenzo has something in store for Stoner this year.

Moto2: Marquez, Espargaro, Smith
Marquez will claim what lady luck stole from him last year and Pol will finally wrap his head around the Moto2 bike and the young future motogp stars will shine.

Moto3: Vinales, Cortese, Kent
Vinales will secure the title and make his move to moto2. Romano Fenati will be the newcomer to watch.

I have a feeling this year Nicky Hayden is going to have a more successful season, and end up ahead in the standings over Valentino Rossi. While neither of them have had a wonderful time with the Ducati's, I've gotten the feeling that Nicky's been more comfortable on the bike than Vale and it's only Rossi's talent that's kept him (one place) ahead of Nicky over the course of a season. I got a feeling that going to change this year.

Hayden and Rossi were almost equal on points last year and most agree that the bump in cc's has at least the potential to help Hayden while I haven't really heard the same said of Rossi, so I'm waiting to see Hayden pull in front of Rossi. I guess I'll admit to being a bit of a Hayden fan and also say that I felt "eah"'s critique of Hayden further above was a bit harsh - I think he's doing relatively well on the bike he's been given (notwithstanding what Stoner could do on it) and at the very least he's doing almost as well as the oft-said to be GOAT.

1) Spies
2) Stoner
3) Lorenzo

Few will agree with me for sure but like David, I'm a glutton for punishment.

I've got to disagree just slightly for the final outcome. Both Stoner and Lorenzo will win another title, just not this year. Stoner & Lorenzo will swap spots from your prediction.

1) Spies
2) Lorenzo
3) Stoner

I like my crow well done, with a side of HOT horseradish/wasabi.

"The loss of face implied - that a factory with a specialized racing department capable of building prototype engines suitable solely for racing could learn something by examining the internals of an engine that is basically a hopped-up version of a production bike - will prevent Honda, Yamaha and Ducati from taking that step."

VERY good point David. I would have to agree with pretty much all of the above, with the exception of Scott Redding, he flattered to deceive last year, after a good testing season. I'd love to see Bradley up there, because it'll give him a massive boost before the step up to the M1 next year...but I'm not sure it'll happen, but I hope it does. I think Crazy Joe might just calm down enough to make the top 3 come November..

I still think Cal will outshine Dovi this year, then get binned at the end of the season, which, is frankly a crying shame..

The Ducati saga.........VR will get more than a couple of podiums this year, I've no doubt, maaaaaaaaybe, just maaaaaybe a win, but it'll be a miracle..

Nicky will shine more, I have no doubt.

Thanks all for your comments and predictions. A couple of things I wanted to point out.

Firstly, in Moto3, Romano Fenati. I'm really impressed by the Italian, which is why I gave him a mention in my Italian Resurgence heading. But Fenati made a number of headlines during the recent test, while Antonelli went slightly under the radar. It will be interesting to see how the two compare.

Then Bradley Smith. I like Smith, and really like his intelligence. Pairing him with crew chief Tom Jojic was a very strong move by Tech 3, and the two have developed the bike a lot. But there are only two Tech 3 machines on the grid, making development more difficult with limited data. And though Smith has plenty of intelligence, he lacks a little bit of killer instinct, a lot like his teammate in Tech 3's MotoGP squad, Andrea Dovizioso.

I agree on the killer instinct... Smith and Dovi seem more like zombie killers than Juggernauts. They both can kill you, one just has more panache. I hope folks stay healthy and motivated. One big event/close call may be enough to distract Daddy Casey, but I hope he stays focused on racing a little longer.

Thanks for the great Site, my work productivity is likely to drop later this week...

My simple Predicition is Spies 3rd and new best of rest. These 1000s will prove very demanding physically and Spies will definitely be more suited to them than Pedrosa.

... even Lorenzo has mentioned on a couple of occasions that the 1000 is much more physically demanding, but Perdrosa managed it on the 990, so I don't see it being too much of a problem for him.

That being said, it certainly won't help either!

How many of the Honda and Ducati satellite riders will be out of contract at the end of the year? Personally I don't think Abraham is going to have a good season, I think the Tech3 guys will out perform the Hondas and Ducs.... So what will become of Crutchlow if Dovi has a better year?

Will some of the satellite riders end up on a CRT bike in 2013?

Herve Poncharal should be so lucky to have talent in the caliber of Cal and Andrea.

As long as Cal keeps some good positions, I seriously doubt he'd be replaced. He was going quite well last year, but got a little shaken by injury. No doubt Dovi is eyeballing Spie's ride, but he could do so much worse than Tech 3.

Hagetaka,I think you missed the point a little. I agree Herve is lucky to have his two riders. Or you could say he is a very good team manager to have acquired them, he is spoiled for choice really.

But, he has already made a commitment to Bradley Smith for 2013 so either Dovi or Crutchlow will have to find another ride. The prediction above seems pretty sensible, that there wont be a Factory Yam seat available in 2013, Lorenzo and Spies both staying where they are. My gut tells me that Dovi will get the Tech3 ride over Crutchlow, although I would prefer Cal to get it.

So my question still stands, what will happen to Cal?

as much as i would like cal to keep a good ride, for sure he will be the one to get the axe (unless he shows of some alien-like riding this year, which is still unlikely) ... since they will exchange brit for brit and keep the italian ... speaking from a sponsorhips-mrktng point of view

also critique of factory yamaha uberpower will not help here ... :)

See, I had forgotten about Bradley Smith.

I don't see Rossi making the podium this season. Dovi and Crutchlow will come good on the Yamaha 1000. Rossi will have a very though time beating his own teammate let alone getting close to Pedrosa. The Ducati will have to improve leaps and bounds in order to get close to Tech 3.

Good luck Yellow46

I think David is spot-on on his top three and in that order.

I think the predictions of Rossi making the podium regularly are optimistic, and Hayden is fully capable of beating his teammate on any given day. But predicting Ducati wins is wishful thinking.

Pedrosa was no slouch on the less-sophisticated, harder-to-ride 990s (two wins, eight podiums and four poles in 2006), and the 800s were a b**ch to ride, so I don't see any reason to expect him to slide down the order unless he gets hurt. Take Stoner out of the equation, and he has six wins last year.

Spies - we'll see. He's got a lot of pressure on him right from the start. He has to prove that he deserves that seat. Last year was underwhelming.

I think that suggesting that the new 1000cc bikes are going to produce radically different racing or somehow shake up the order ignores physics and roadracing motorcycle technology.

Injuries aside then David's predictions are perfect, but I'd like to hear his thoughts about fuel consumption impact as well please. Will it play apart toward the end of some races? ECUs cutting consumption on prototypes and a fast finishing RDP...

If the Ducati does not give Rossi some hope, then why would he stay? If they don't reduce the 90deg V to an angle which allows him some front-end bias and therefore traction, he will retire.

Expect GP12.1 to use the same alloy frame they have now, only to see a 45deg V4 mounted in it, and Rossi battling in the top 3 again by round 8 or 9. Much to the relief of his army of adoring fans.

Old Golden balls and Ducati may well be stuck in this loveless marriage. Short of a CRT just where could Rossi possible go? As for Hayden, hard to see him improving on his own middling station - 800 or 1000cc - it matters not a jot. Just how much value is his winning smile to the American market?

No doubt Ducati will be making a play for the likes of Spies and Pedrosa, if not a hare that jumps from the pack.

Then again if Stoner creams them again he may become a little bored and want the challenge of a truly difficult bike again. A return of the podigal son to the Ducati fold?

I don't think Stoner ever goes back to Ducati while the front office stays the same. He's not done saying, I told you so. Honda had to suffer 5 years with no titles. The previous one by their stepchild Hayden. Fixation may have a very dry summer ahead.

Rossi and Fiat may make a play for Ducati purchase rather than Ducati make a play for Spies and Dani. The marque is up for grabs right now. This is going to be interesting. Audi want the association,but apparently Fiat have entered the fray in order to keep it all Italian,but for a lot less.
If you can't find an alternative home in GP and you have the money and clout,hell, buy out an established one. Especially when the combine is a mutually beneficial option. Strictly business.
Not only a racer of record is Valentino. He's comming into his own with age as a very shrewd businessman.

I don't get why everyone thinks Dovi may take Spies' seat. He foiled Dovi in Valencia as a one-off in 2009 and has consistently beaten him on a customer / factory Yamaha that was probably inferior to Dovi's honda (even though it wasn't full HRC spec).

In my view, it is not so much that Spies is in danger of losing his seat to Dovizioso. It is much more that Andrea has made it (though only through implication), that he has his goal set on a Factory Yamaha.

I'm an American, and likewise, a Spies fan. However, it is not difficult to imagine that if Dovizioso does very well, and Spies very bad, that Andrea might have a pick at his seat. After all, Lin Jarvis made it pretty clear what he expects out of Ben:

"Except for his race win, Ben's cumulative race results were disappointing, and I'm sure he would be disappointed and I'm not satisfied. We expect more than one race win (in 2012) from Ben, without doubt. It's a competitive world, we are here to win, so we want to have the two very strong riders going into 2013."

Ben is a great rider, and has had some great races. But it is not a slap at his face to say that Ben will need to continue progress to keep his seat.

There were 4 HRC works spec. bikes on the grid at the beginning of the 2011 season... Stoner, Pedrosa, Dovizioso & Simoncelli.

If you think what separated them at the end of the season was a couple bits and pieces, that's fools play.

I think we are getting a little confused here. He meant what separated the Honda riders, they all had HRC support and hence all had the seamless transmission.

Which was, HRC felt, well worth the huge amount of money it had invested in it. Simply pointing out that a "few pieces" here and there can, indeed, make a massive difference in race placings and championship standings over the course of a year. At least, that would explain why factories spend so much $$$ on what appear to be inconsequential things. If they really were inconsequential, the factories wouldn't spend the money on them.

I thought you were saying the Yamaha was full works. I had not read the couple of posts ahead of yours.

You shouldn't need a link. When Repsol Honda went to three bikes, they modified the team scoring system so HRC wouldn't have an unfair advantage. The MSMA knew that HRC would be running 3 factory bikes, and HRC were open about it. If they had run anything less than factory, they would have sabotaged their own team.

The rule stipulated that the first and last Repsols would be scored, rather than the leading two bikes.

really guys, why? Dovi to take Ben's seat? Why, cuz he was just soooo great on the Factory Honda? And Nicky has been right on Rossi all winter while recovering from injury, what makes him so undeserving?

also, Stoner hasn't yet done close to race distance in testing yet, so he wouldn't know how much different it will be at the end of the race...meanwhile the guys who have done so, i.e. Ben and Jorge, say the last laps will be much different than with the old tires and 800s...guess we will see soon

I saw a comment from Stoner saying he doesn't do full race distance because there's no point, a few laps tells him what he needs to know then he comes back in and tries some more tweaks. He's covered more than race distance on a set of tyres and been happy with their performance, so doesn't feel the need to run a full race distance in one go.

Be interesting to see whether the heat cycles his tyres go through using this approach give a different result compared with a single run at race pace.

Stoner is clearly the fastest guy in the paddock just now and one of the most talented riders of his generation. But I think he has been caught out occasionally by his lack of long stints during testing and practice sessions.... only occasionally though. Not just long stints but on some race weekends he hardly puts in any laps compared to other riders. I would imagine this may be more of a factor this year with the new tyres.

- Stoner: Have to agree with Nozzle. He might be the fastest, but might also get distracted. IMHO Lorenzo has proven to be the better robot, especially in a fierce battle or when injured. Call me a fanboy, but 2011 was a friggin' brilliant exposition of Lorenzo's talent. Very intelligent, capable of taking a blow and very, VERY consistent. Casey cannot afford the drop the ball more than once , maybe twice. Lorenzo will be biding his time.

-I'm afraid RdP is going to hurt himself. He'll "override" the ART bike just like he did the Pramac / satellite honda / Kawa in the past. He deserves a proper machine to work with.

-Pedrosa: What is there to say, the guy just needs an injury free season and he'll be up there fighting for the title. He can manage the 1000's (he kicked some unsuspecting ass on the 990's) and he got really good in the wet (okay, he might fall off now and again, but he's lightning fast). He's my bet for the 2012 season. It's time.

- Rossi: No clue. I think they(Ducati) will either surprise us in the first 5 races, or he'll be gone before the 2nd half of the season. Maybe stress or "personal problems".

I think Bautista might surprise this year, especially once he gels with the team & the Honda. He managed to drag the Suzuki up to where we'd least expect it many times last year, so it wouldn't surprise me if he improved a lot from his testing times.

Well David your predicitions are very reasonable based on how the pre-season went. However remember Stoner had a "sick leave" in 2010 and everyone wrote him off then... Same could happen to Rossi. Most have written off the Duke/Doc for this year, however if they find the right direction during the early races the mid seasone break could give them the breathing space needed to get the right parts (and if the funding comes form Audi things might get sped up). This will get them back onto the winners circle regularly during second half, but not enough to win the war. Perhaps top three. I think the epic battles we'll see between Stoner/Lorenzo and Spies/Dovi will dilute their points potential...Next year however Hayned will come third and The Doc will win...and with public apology for taking an "entire year and a half" to sort a bike that no-one else but Stoner could ride...
Perdosa will outqualify everyeone but will fade in races due to the extra weight and power of the bike.

I think Spies will be much closer this year. He is a master of riding when the tyres go off. And this is a potential key to the season and a change from the last few years. These bikes should be sliding some towards the end of the races. We will have to see how well the programmers can code for this and how well each rider's throttle control manages the situation.

I am hopeful of a battle between Casey and Lorenzo all season long for the championship. The bikes are closer this year but I still think Honda has re-upped their game and will work on development all year long. Starting the season I think the new RC is the top of the pile but not by as much as last year.

I would not be so quick to write off Pedrosa. Last year Marco was really on about the fuel regs staying the same with the bigger bikes. Pedrosa's size could once again be an advantage if he stays healthy. I wonder if anyone will be running out of fuel at the end of the race or I guess I should say, seeing the bike going into limp mode due to the fuel. I still maintain the fuel regs should have been raised back up for the bigger bikes as it gives the lighter weight riders an advantage.

I would never count out Vale. If Ducati can get their problems solved this year, Vale will be there once again.

2013? 5 engines? Firing mechanics? The only rule they've made in 5 years that made sense was the spec tyres. Depuniet was quoted in GP week stating that they have to run a lower spec engine, complete with chains instead of gear driven cams, to make the 1000km limit the CRT machines are subjected to. Biaggi's superbike gets to run a higher spec because the engine only has to make it 500km. Such a shame. I'd love to see a cost analysis of them removing TC and the black boxes compared to all this fuel and engine limitations. And it's been 6 years now since a sat machine won a race, such a shame.
Seems like 20 years since I saw McCoy going beyond physics sliding the 2 stroke around all over the damn track. The machines have changed so much and so has the racing, and not for the better.

Whatever happens this year, it will be the year that Marco Simoncelli doesn't race any more. And that makes me sad. He was such a different rider and not one of the "hold my hand as you pass me" types, always ready for a straight up fight. He brought a fresh air and some needed aggression to the series. The fighters and brawlers of the sport are the toughest to lose.

Or a more accurate assessment, as his history through all classes showed, he was downright dirty and dangerous. Never forget the last part of this equation, it's ultimately what cost him his life.

Such rose tinted glasses for the man. Two years at the top table, the second of which was on a full fat factory RCV. What'd he have to show for it? Two podiums. And people say he would've taken it two Stoner and Lorenzo this year. Conjecture, conjecture.

How do you figure dangerous riding cost him his life? He slid out on cold tyres, like so many other riders have done, he fought to keep it upright, like so many riders do if they have the talent, and it happened to catch and spit him onto the racing line. Not dangerous riding, just a case of wrong place at the wrong time. That's probably a big part of the impact his death had on the field - it could have happened to any of them.

I don't follow the common practice of someone's dying leading to a sudden case of amnesia for their less admirable traits, but his death was not a case of dirty and/or dangerous riding.

He may have been over the line sometimes... but, that is NOT what cost him his life. The tires re-gripping in a weird and unpredictable way did that. He was not the first guy to try and save a slide on his knee and elbow.

He went out like a fighter! Respect for that.

I have to agree with Nostro. I don't think Marco was talented enough to regularly beat Stoner or Lorenzo one day. I will always miss the way he spiced up the paddock and admired his fighting spirit, but I am afraid this translated to riding way beyond his means, being a danger to himself and others.

Motor bike racing is dangerous by definition. These guys risk their lives every time they go out on track. To my mind Marco was an exciting and talented rider that brought a much needed spark to the grid. I don't agree that he was a dirty or dangerous rider, he was passionate and aggressive. you could say ruthless, all the great sports people are aggressive and ruthless that's how they achieve greatness.

His most controversial moment last year, the Pedrosa incident, was completely misjudged if you ask me. Yes he could have been more patient and waited for a more clear cut opportunity, in hindsight that was an error. But it was Pedrosa who sat up his bike and caused his own crash. He panicked and made the classic reaction, stand up to brake to try and slow down and avoid the incident. If he had kept lent over I am convinced they would not have touched.

As far as Marco's final crash goes, he was not the only rider to have problems with the Bridgestones last year. You have to have been living on another planet not to realise there was a problem with the tyres. That's why they are so different this year. Yes it was not the first time he lost it on cold tyres, his enthusiasm and desire to be at the front caused him to push a fraction too much on cold tyres. Again many riders made this mistake last year, no one is calling them dangerous....

People are always trying to find some sensational or controversial angle on these things... everyone just needs to get over it. It's motorbike racing, if they can't live with the danger they wouldn't be in the sport.

Nostro, you must have not watched this sport much in the 90's. There was highly "aggressive passing". Rainey, Schwantz, etc. Only during this 800cc era has this been frowned upon and complained about from the likes of Pedrosa, Lorenzo, and Stoner.

Aggressive moves used to be common. Perhaps you need some self evaluation and might discover that you have kangaroo tinted glasses.

As others have mentioned, it wasn't aggressive riding that killed Marco. It was a combination of cold tyres and TC kicking back in. Just my opinion, if there wasn't TC, he would have went down normally and lived.

Wild and unfounded prediction of the future -
Rossi, and perhaps also Burgess, will end their careers being paid a crapload to help develop the BMW MotoGp effort to come

I will go out on a limb and predict Casey will win more races this year than last.

1. He had his share of unlucky races last year - he could have won Jerez - knocked off, Mugello - wrong tyre pressure, Misano - not well, Motegi - tank slapper, Sepang - cancelled whilst leading. You might not agree but read on.
2. Last year was first year with Honda
3. He gets on the gas sooner which means he will use the rear tyre less (not doing all his acceleration aggressively)
4. If the tyre does get worse he is best suited to sliding around because of his dirt track backgrond.

Not many (if any) will agree but we can all look back at end of season to see how wrong I am (was if you are looking back...).

Entirely possible that Stoner will dominate. There is a lot of people hoping that you are wrong, so there is a lot of comments based on wishful thinking. This season could be the perfect scenario for Stoner. Remember 2007, and see the similarities. A new era, lots of unknowns as far as bike performance and set up is concerned. Stoner copes with an imperfect bike better than anyone. The big question marks seem to be the impact of fuel consumption and tire degradation over a race distance. However, I have not seen any evidence to suggest that those will be a problem for Stoner.

We should have a better idea of how things stand after Jerez. If Stoner is strong in the race at Jerez, possibly his weakest track (along with Estoril), then he could be unstoppable this season.

OK, most people have made safe predictions. Here is a prediction that will rock your world ! ( If you check, i have been right about many predictions)

Pedrosa (after another season of mediocrity) will be replaced by Rossi at HRC for 2013 !!!

OMG !!! What an awesome 2013 season!!

Get ready to send me praise for mega foresight !

Actually, I wouldn't be too surprised to see Rossi on a San Carlo Honda next year, with Vale and his sponsors kicking in enough extra funds to get a full works bike if necessary. It won't be the Repsol team though, Nakamoto won't want that level of friction in the garage

Interesting prediction and not completely impossible.... Would be a dream come true for Faustino wouldn't it. The Italian sponsors would love it. It would be the ultimate show down to end all arguments wouldn't it, Rossi vs Stoner on equal machinery.

Bradl will have to make way for Marquez at LCR then.....

If Rossi is to leave Ducati, he might as well retire. What does he have to prove at Honda?

To prove he could beat Stoner on the same bike.... thought that would be obvious.

A few factors to consider would be -

1) I don't think he would like to end his MotoGP career with 2 bad seasons at Ducati. (all depends how 2012 goes)
2) He would love to beat Stoner.
3) He may consider it too risky to take on Stoner on a Honda. (this all depends if he still has the self belief) 2 bad seasons on a Ducati would pale in significance compared to being beaten by Stoner on equal machinery.

So it is a hard one to call. And all the points David made in his piece are very valid ones. Maybe the best Rossi can hope for in the final years of his career in MotoGP is to get regular podiums and a few wins. Then he can say the Ducati project was successful.

I would love to see him take another title but the way things are just now I wouldn't bet on it.

Stoner has said, in several interviews after testng, that he has not been pushing as hard as he could. I believe it was after Sepang II that he was quoted as saying he could have gone 1-1.5 secs FASTER, but was working on set ups//chatter/etc! This was after shattering the track record! I'm hoping that Jorge can make it a great show, but quite frankly, I think that Casey has been sand bagging! Remember his quote after the last race of the year? He hadn't "taken a chance all season", so he decided he had nothing to lose and ended up nipping Spies at the line. He out qual'ed 2nd place by over a second at the last race. Looking at the lap times at Jerez .... no one was even close to his speed! I'm hoping I'm wrong, but he may win more then 11 races this year!