Not long to go until kick-off, so time to wonder aloud if the demise of the unlamented 800cc formula will make any difference to what happens on track.
When the change from 800 to 1000cc was announced a lot of people who should know better hailed a return to the days of the first, sliding, tyre-smoking days of the 990s. That won't happen. The sophistication of modern electronics needed to eeke out the 21 litres of fuel allowed will see to that. However, we may see some deviation from the one-line-only racing of the 800s thanks to the more flexible motors. It may be possible to square the corner off and fire out rather than rely totally on corner speed. However, these differences will be small. Top speeds will be faster, lap records will continue to be trashed and Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo will continue to be fastest.
There is, however, one unknown that may affect things; the new Bridgestone. The ones we've had since the advent of the control tyre has been perfect, supernatural even, in the way it lasts a race. However, they bit when cold or if you let it cool down, as just about every rider on the grid discovered. So, at those same riders' request, things have changed for this year. MotoGP will use a tyre that acts like tyres used to. Testing seems to suggest they're going to be perfect for a few laps then drop off considerably and stay at that level for most of the race (this may not apply to Lorenzo or Stoner). Those who have been particularly heavy-handed or didn't get set-up right may have even more trouble in the closing laps. Remember Jerez last year? Conditions conspired to reduce tyres to chewing gum and lots of riders crashed. Not one complained about the tyres. The party line was clear: we'd rather deal with worn tyres at the end of a race than crash on the first corner that uses the other side of the tyre from the first two.
So will racing become a little more unpredictable? Yes, but only a bit.
Next question: What's going to be the political hot potato off-track? It's not really CRT, although more of them later, it's been the 4kg increase in minimum weight that the GP Commission sprung on an unprepared world in December. No-one saw that one coming. Well, no-one in Japan. Honda and Yamaha have complained vociferously about having to find somewhere to bolt lumps of tungsten on their finished motorcycles. Ducati hadn't even decided what they were doing then, so guess who's getting the blame for that one, although defenders of Bologna say it's just another element of Carmelo Ezpeleta's continuing campaign against the MSMA. However, Ezpeleta's hardball game has had an effect; the factories now agree that costs have to be reduced and the days of unfettered technology are over.
However, they are not amenable to Ezpeleta's campaigning for a control ECU next year. Honda appear to have softened their view from outright hostility to a more mixed message: Nakamoto-san has been outspoken in his opposition to CRT, but Livio Suppo is now playing the good cop to his boss's bad cop: an interesting change in emphasis. Watch out for more maneuverings around the future of technical regulations all through this season.
Third question: is CRT the end of civilization as we know it? Answer: Of course not. The word prototype never appeared in Grand Prix regulations before the advent of MotoGP. In previous years it was quite usual for production-based bike to compete in GPs. TZ Yamahas anyone? Looked like RD crankcases on some of the early stuff in that series. The Kawasaki on which Ginger Molloy finished second in the 500cc class in 1970 was based on a production triple, early TR Suzukis shared parts with road bikes. Will CRT bikes be embarrassed on track? Well, the Aprilias won't but there are a couple of teams that frankly aren't up to GP standard. They'd be embarrassed if they had satellite bikes.
The interesting study will be the bike that actually adheres to the spirit of the CRT rules, Colin Edwards' BMW Suter. I will be keeping a close eye on the gap between the front guys and Colin as the season progresses. Remember it took the Moto2 bikes two seasons to equal and occasionally better the 250s' race and lap times. The rate at which Colin closes the gap will be instructive.
Finally, 12 months ago I broke the habit of years and indulged in a bit of flag waving on behalf of Scott Redding, who I said was sure to be a championship contender and definitely a race winner. Well, this year I really do think he's going to win races and be a championship contender. And if young Marquez puts the brakes on Scott's chances, I'd like to point out that Danny Kent in Moto3 is going to be a contender for race wins. I don't think I should say any more.