The first Moto GP tests of the year are over, the main teams and a couple of the new CRT entries going to Sepang in Malaysia and a few other CRT teams at Valencia in Spain.
Most of the teams weren’t ready, however, and more can be expected at the next test at the end of February.
To nobody’s great shock, Casey Stoner on the new 1,000 cc Honda was fastest and by a good margin, clocking the fastest lap ever around Sepang. His competitors will be gloomily noting that he was a more than half a second faster than anyone else with a bad back that caused him to miss the first day completely.
Behind Stoner, the factory Yamahas of Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies, the second Repsol Honda of Dani Pedrosa, and the Ducatis of Valentino Rossi and Hector Barbera were all in the same second.
Timed results from initial tests can be deceiving since so much is new and still under development. Still, things seem more or less as usual up front.
Farther back, the first runs of the CRT (Claiming Rule Teams) bikes were disappointing, both at Sepang and Valencia. The best Moto GP veteran Colin Edwards could manage at Sepang was five seconds slower than Stoner’s time, while at Valencia the bikes were running the same pace as Moto 2 machines – not an encouraging start to this new class within a class.
The big problem? Electronics. The small teams simply haven’t got the resources of a Honda or Yamaha to develop the magic traction controls necessary to ride the current crop of bikes.
One encouraging thing from Sepang was that Nobuatsu Aoki, Suzuki’s chief test rider, showed up to watch and said that back home he’d been working on a 1,000 cc Moto GP bike. Suzuki quit the sport at the end of last season, hoping for a 2014 return – Aoki hinted it might even be sooner than that.