Stoner and MotoGP eye Qatar

MotoGP champ Casey Stoner leans in at Jerez

With the first practice session of the season’s opening MotoGPrace – the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar – coming up this weekend, all 21 riders who will make up the elite category grid in 2012 were able to test at Jerez. Laying down the gauntlet was World Champion Casey Stoner, who was able to make significant progress and timed in at 1’38.780. The Australian built up to his fast lap steadily, and perhaps of most concern for Stoner’s rivals will have been the consistency of his pace – on his longest run, which was a 10-lap stint prior to his hot lap, his average time was registered at fractionally under 1’39.7.

2009 champ and Indy winner Jorge Lorenzo

Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) had occupied top spot for the majority of the last day before Stoner leapt ahead of him. Lorenzo was the only other rider to get under 1’39” across all three days when he set a scorching fast lap of 1’38.953 in the morning, on a new set of slick tyres., With that the Spaniard remained the quickest rider until shortly before the conclusion of the day, and was able to focus on electronics work, a race simulation and pace consistency in the afternoon as he put in a total of 84 laps.

Dani Pedrosa

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) was the next closest challenger to Stoner in terms of lap times, getting to within 0.377s of his team-mate thanks to a best time of 1’39.157. Pedrosa also carried out a race-distance run, and the pace of both Pedrosa and Lorenzo during their 26-lap long runs was highly impressive as each lapped regularly in the low- to mid-1’40” region.

Ben Spies

Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies, in a similar vein to his team-mate Lorenzo, did not have anything new to try out but rather concentrated on improving his YZR-M1’s set-up and the American was able to get to within 0.715s of Stoner. The highest-placing non-factory prototype of the day was Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), who on Saturday had said that he believed there could be time to be gained from a new front tyre compound which was made available on Sunday by Bridgestone. The Brit made up over half-a-second on his time from the first day, posting a 1’39.585 to end the Test fifth fastest following an impressive display.

After what had been a hugely disappointing second day for Valentino Rossi and with a corner entry issue having been a major problem for the Italian on day one, he found a personal improvement of almost 1.2s on Sunday afternoon to get into the 1’39”s for the first time during the Test. The Ducati Team rider’s best effort of the day of 1’39.733 made him the last rider to get within a second of Stoner, which represented something of a considerable step forward compared to Friday’s results as Rossi worked on trying to carry more speed into corners.

Having suffered with illness on Friday, Andrea Dovizioso was able to take advantage of a full day’s riding to put in 72 laps as he carried on where he had left off on day one – namely finding an electronics setting which better aided stability in corner exit. The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider was just ahead of Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team), who in his search for better traction in the faster corners timed in as the last rider under 1’40” with a 1’39.919.

The top 10 was completed by Álvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini), who escaped an afternoon crash at the Dry Sack corner unharmed, and rookie Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) who at 1.318s off the fastest time of the Test rounded off a solid pre-season. Héctor Barberá was the busiest rider of the day, putting in 91 laps on his Pramac Racing Ducati machine, and he timed in just under three-tenths ahead of fellow GP12 rider Karel Abraham of the Cardion ab Motoracing team.

Randy de Puniet

Frenchman Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar) ended the Test as the fastest CRT rider on his Aprilia machine, and in 13th position overall was 1.821s off Stoner at the top. De Puniet ended the Test 1.044s ahead of team-mate Aleix Espargaró who was the next fastest CRT machine.

The Spanish rider led a group of seven CRT riders all within a second of one another by the end of the day, as Danilo Petrucci (Came Iodaracing Project)(picture), Colin Edwards (NGM Mobile Forward Racing), Mattia Pasini (Speed Master), Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini), James Ellison (Paul Bird Motorsport) and Iván Silva (Avintia Racing) bunched closely on the timesheet. Pasini was another rider who walked away uninjured from a crash, which came late in the day. Yonny Hernández closed Sunday 0.460s off his Avintia Racing team-mate Silva.

Rain dominates Day 2 of Jerez test

Saturday proved to be a largely frustrating affair for those present at the MotoGP™ Test at Jerez, as wind and rain contributed to a difficult second day. A spell of heavy rain in the afternoon did however permit some progress to be made in terms of trying out full wet set-ups, and also saw the roll-out of the new rear tail-lights that will be mandatory in such conditions throughout the 2012 season.

Iván Silva

The morning started out grey and overcast with a low track temperature, and blustery wind and light spots of rain meant that only a handful of riders had ventured out by around 1.30pm local time. By that stage Ducati Test rider Franco Battaini and CRT team Avintia Racing’s Iván Silva were the only two to have put in more than an out lap.

However, with the arrival of a more substantial amount of rain shortly after the vast majority of riders saw the benefit in accumulating laps, and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa was the first to emerge in full wet set-up, putting in a long run of 20 laps which he said at the end of the day had been a worthwhile confidence builder on the RC213V, on which he rode a total of 25 laps.

As the rain came down heavier every rider except Avintia Racing’s Yonny Hernández went out for more than a single lap, putting in varying amounts of work. In total 12 of the 21 MotoGP™ riders racked up more than 20 laps, with lap times spread widely due to the conditions.

Nicky Hayden

Shortly before the end of the day’s action, which came at 6pm local time, the track was almost completely dried out, allowing Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) to register a time of 1’40.755. Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing) also put in a fast lap at the end, but the likes of Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing), Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team), Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda), and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 pair Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso did not ride in the drier conditions late on. World Champion Stoner only went out for a total of three laps, seeing no value to be gained from the state of the track.

Karel Abraham

With such a varied day the workloads of the teams and riders were somewhat limited, aside from the wet set-up work undertaken, and the majority will now focus on Sunday, the third and final day of the Test.

Stoner fastest on Day 1 at Jerez test

The final official MotoGP™ Test of the pre-season at Jerez got underway on Friday with Casey Stoner laying down the fastest time, as the reigning World Champion shot to the top of the timesheet with his 54th and final lap of the opening day. Breaking the 1’40” barrier with five of his laps, it was the Repsol Honda rider’s final turn of the session which left him 0.273s quicker than Jorge Lorenzo.

Stoner’s blistering lap of 1’39.146 came after the Australian spent most of the latter part of the day heading out for runs of between three and four laps, as many riders found increasingly windier conditions harder to deal with.

Yamaha Factory Racing rider Lorenzo had occupied top slot for the majority of the day, as he focused on the electronics settings on his YZR-M1 to aid an improvement in acceleration. His best time of 1’39.419 was set on the 46th of a tiring 76 laps, and at one point the Spaniard set five sub-1’40” laps on the trot as he rode with a similar set-up to the one used at the last Test at Sepang.

Dani Pedrosa got under 1’40” once and it was that lap of 1’39.579 which left the Repsol Honda rider third on the timesheet at the conclusion of the day. The Spaniard highlighted an improvement in braking as the main outstanding issue to be tackled on the RC213V. In fourth position Ben Spies, who at one stage had led the timings with his best lap of 1’39.984, ended 0.838s off Stoner with that effort.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow was the fastest non-factory rider in 1’40.130, with Nicky Hayden the quickest Ducati in sixth. The American of the factory team’s best effort was a 1’40.512, which left him 1.366s off Stoner’s pace. Álvaro Bautista (San Carlos Honda Gresini) was unharmed following a crash early in the day as he continued his adaptation to the RC213V with the seventh-best time, and Andrea Dovizioso (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) tried to concentrate on the base setting of his M1. The Italian’s day was hampered however as he complained of not feeling well.

In ninth spot Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) struggled to a best time of 1’40.920, almost 1.8s off Stoner. The nine-times World Champion explained at the end of the day that he was losing time on corner entry, as he encountered problems loading the front of the Desmosedici GP12 and carrying speed into each turn. Rookie Stefan Bradl’s (LCR Honda) inauguration into the premier class continued as the 2011 Moto2 World Champion completed the top 10 with a time of 1’40.983.

In 11th position Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar) was the fastest of the CRT bikes, as the nine riders who will compete on the new regulation machinery pitted themselves against one another on the same track for the first time this pre-season. The Frenchman was largely concerned with the seat height and subsequently the riding position of his Aprilia machine, and escaped unhurt from a fall around midday and went on to register a 1’41.015.

De Puniet’s team-mate Aleix Espargaró timed in just ahead of Colin Edwards, as the American continues to fine-tune the Suter-BMW CRT machine of the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team. Italians Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini), Danilo Petrucci (Came Iodaracing Project) and Mattia Pasini (Speed Master) were separated by less than three-tenths behind the American as half a second stretched across all four riders.

Avintia Racing riders Yonny Hernández and Iván Silva on the BQR-FTR machines sandwiched Paul Bird Motorsport rider James Ellison on an Aprilia.

courtesy of MotoGP

2012 Sepang test