Itemized Deductions from Jerez
Monday, March 26, 2012
The final MotoGP preseason test, March 23-25, is over at Jerez, and a quick glance at the final time sheets indicates little has changed in the premier class from 2011.
Casey Stoner is fastest on a Honda RC213V, with Jorge Lorenzo nipping at his rear tire on a Yamaha M1. Dani Pedrosa and Ben Spies are competitive but clear No. 2's on the factory teams at Honda and Yamaha, respectively. Ducati is lagging behind the big two Japanese factory efforts.
But there still were some interesting trends and nuggets to be pulled from between the lines:
Stoner is No. 1. That's no big surprise. But the rest of the field should be somewhat afraid because he was quickest on both days of full running at one of his least-favorite tracks, Jerez. He never has won at the Spanish track during his 10-year Grand Prix career, finishing on the podium only once. Stoner laid down the top lap of the day in the final hour of both full days of testing, Friday and Sunday. Stoner told media he pulled out a scorching lap of 1:38.780 - the top lap overall of the test - in the last 60 minutes Sunday because he wanted to be "cheeky." But the rest of the field should see nothing but Stoner's ass cheeks in two weeks at Qatar - a track where he has won four times in the last five years - because of the fantastic long run he pulled off Sunday. Stoner recorded a 10-lap run with an average lap time of 1:39.7. Only four other riders managed a single lap that quick the entire test.
The Honda RC213V might be the fastest bike on the grid in the hands of Stoner, but one could argue that the Yamaha YZR-M1 is the most well-balanced bike at the moment. Stoner still complained of a bit of front-end chatter on his machine, and Pedrosa said his Honda needs small improvements on braking and corner entry after completing a 27-lap race simulation. Lorenzo and Spies were ebullient about their Yamaha, Lorenzo adding this was his best preseason of his premier-class career. While Stoner ripped through his 10-lap simulation at a 1:39.7 average clip, Lorenzo countered with 26-lap race sim during which nearly every lap was turned in the 1:40.3-1:40.5 range - with a used front tire. Lorenzo said he could have trimmed his metronomic consistency by one-half second with new rubber. The M1 was a steady, consistent, trouble-free performer at Sepang and Jerez, two very different circuits. Good sign for the Crossed Tuning Forks.
Paper bags must be in short order today in Bologna after a rush of hyperventilating at Ducati headquarters due to exhaling over Valentino Rossi's performance on the third day of the test. Rossi was despondent after the first and second days of the test due to a variety of problems with his GP12. We're talking post-Sepang II test lost - envision the haunted look shown on Rossi's face in the garage nearly every time he climbed from the evil GP11 last season. But Rossi made a big improvement Sunday to end up sixth overall at 1:39.733. Teammate Nick Hayden wasn't far behind, eighth overall at 1:39.919. Rossi said a bad setup from the second, downbeat test at Sepang was used as a base for his setup Friday, where he was 1.774 seconds behind Stoner. But the team made major changes Sunday, and The Doctor was just .953 behind reigning World Champion Stoner. Rossi said he had much better front-end feel on his GP12, which let him lean into corners and carry speed better than Friday. But the bike still has too much understeer on worn tires, Rossi said. Hayden still has the opposite problem as Rossi, struggling for rear traction.
Don't sleep on Cal Crutchlow this season. The Brit produced another strong preseason testing performance, ending up fifth overall at 1:39.585 on the Tech 3 Yamaha as the quickest satellite rider in the test. Crutchlow looks poised for a breakthrough season and is a threat for podium finishes if any of "The Aliens" find trouble.
Tech 3 has re-emerged as the top satellite team--for now. Cal Crutchlow ended up fifth and illness-weakened teammate Andrea Dovizioso seventh overall on Herve Poncharal's satellite Yamahas, split by the factory Ducati of Valentino Rossi. Last year, Gresini Honda overtook Tech 3 Yamaha as the leading satellite team, due to Honda's balls-out emphasis on its prototype and satellite bikes in the last year of the 800cc formula and the brilliant natural speed of the late Marco Simoncelli. Super Sic's replacement on Gresini's satellite Honda, former Suzuki factory rider Alvaro Bautista, is struggling. He fell twice during a race simulation Sunday when the front end gave out. Bautista ended up ninth overall, four-tenths of a second behind top satellite rider Crutchlow.
If you don't have an Aprilia, you're going nowhere in CRT. The Aprilia Claiming Rule Teams effort has a huge advantage over other CRT teams. This is drawing a few raised eyebrows and mumbles from factory teams, leading some - notably Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis and reigning World Champion Casey Stoner - to suggest the ART effort bends the CRT rules and is a fourth factory team that entered the premier class through the back door. Randy de Puniet pushed his Pramac ART machines to a top time of 1:40.601, good for 13th overall. RDP was just 1.821 seconds behind Stoner and just .022 of a second behind the slowest satellite bike, the Ducati of Karel Abraham. Aprilia engines powered the top three CRTs at Jerez, the Pramac ART's of de Puniet and teammate Aleix Espargaro and the Ioda Racing chassis of Italian rookie Danilo Petrucci. American Colin Edwards II was the quickest non-Aprilia on his Suter-BMW, 1.472 seconds behind de Puniet and .147 of a second behind Petrucci. Here's the most damning statistic about CRT: Claudio Corti led Moto2 testing last week at Jerez with a top lap of 1:41.983. That performance by a 600cc machine was quicker than every 1000cc CRT bike at Jerez except the Aprilias rode by de Puniet, Espargaro and Petrucci.
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