It’s back. The world is a better place now that young men are wasting fuel going round in circles at irresponsibly breakneck speeds on multi-million dollar motorcycles. (On a side note, someone pointed out today that a satellite 160kg Honda RC213V costs about half its weight in gold, at current prices, which suggests that a factory bike must be close to costing its own weight in gold).
The lights in the desert are once again spectacularly lit, and the sandy void which surrounds the Losail circuit again rings with the bellow of MotoGP bikes.
It’s here at last. After a painfully long preseason – Qatar’s position as the first race of the year, and their insistence on running at night, means that it is unsafe to run it much earlier, due to the danger of dew having disastrous effects on grip levels – the MotoGP paddock is assembled and ready to go racing. While there is always a sense of eagerness ahead of the first race at Qatar, it feels like the anticipation is even greater this year.
Whoever it is you happen to be talking to, the conversation always covers the same topics. Just how good will Marc Marquez be? Can Valentino Rossi really challenge for the championship again now he is back on the Yamaha? With Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa so evenly matched, who is favorite for the title? How quickly can Ducati return to form? And with six, maybe seven candidates for the podium at every race, how good is the racing going to be?
Three days of testing at Jerez is over, and the real star of the show is obvious for all to see: The Weather. Of the 18 hours of track time that the MotoGP riders had at their disposal, only about 4 were in consistent conditions, and that was in the pouring rain on Saturday.
An afternoon of dry track time – well, dryish, with groundwater seeping through the track from the hills at Jerez, which have been lashed by unusually heavy rain all winter long – on Sunday and a bright start to Monday morning left the riders hopeful, but it was not to be.
It took 15 minutes for the first rain to arrive. The track opened at 10am. At 10:15am, the rain started to fall, leaving most of the teams twiddling their thumbs in the garages and hoping for some dry track time.
The first episode of Following Fillmore is out, as the web series tracks KTM’s AMA Pro Superbike rider Chris Fillmore out to Pala Raceway for some motocross riding.
Joining Fillmore are a couple familiar faces, namely 2012 AMA Pro Superbike Champion Josh Hayes and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 MotoGP rider Cal Crutchlow…we see photographer Andrea Wilson was also there as well, trying to steal the show, as usual.
Three professional motorcycle racers on one race course, how could things not get competitive?
Jorge Lorenzo has topped the second day of testing at Sepang during the MotoGP class’ second visit to the circuit, the factory Yamaha man finding the three tenths of a second he was seeking on day 1 of the test. Lorenzo was quick right out of the gate, setting a blistering mid-2:00 lap on his first exit, a time nobody would better except himself before the afternoon break.
Even more impressive than his time is his consistency, however: Lorenzo is seemingly able to crank out mid-2:00 laps at will. The Spaniard’s performance so far has been eerily similar to the test last year, where he laid the foundation for his 2012 title by grinding out lap after lap at race pace.
With Lorenzo on top of the timesheets, Dani Pedrosa was forced to settle for second, over a third of a second behind his main rival for the title. Pedrosa had spent most of the day working on suspension settings for Honda RC213V, but had been hampered by a problem with one of his bikes. Tomorrow, he told reporters, his team would try to put the best of what they’d found at the test together.
An impressive Cal Crutchlow set the 3rd fastest time of the day, the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha man six tenths off the pace of Lorenzo on the factory bike. The lap by Crutchlow is close to his best time around the Malaysian circuit, and given the disparity between his satellite-spec M1 and the factory bike of Lorenzo, all the more admirable.
Joy, determination and despair. If you had to choose three words to describe the first test of the 2013 MotoGP season, these are the words you would choose. Joy: for Valentino Rossi and his crew at finally having a bike that Rossi can ride and his team understand how to work with; for HRC, at seeing both their hopes and their expectations of Marc Marquez’ ability confirmed; for Bradley Smith and Michael Laverty, at making such rapid progress on their early days in the class.
Determination: for Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, both working hard at preparing for their assault at a title, which either could win. For Marc Marquez, focused on learning everything he can to add the consistency he needs to his raw speed, if he is to match Pedrosa and Lorenzo.
Despair: for the factory Ducati riders. Sepang showed the bike is uncompetitive, and with few avenues left to explore with the machine in its present state, despair at knowing they have many months of hard, dispiriting work ahead of them before they can even start to turn the situation around.
Watch a modern MotoGP, Moto2 or World Superbike race with a casual fan and you can be certain there is one question they will ask you: “Why are they waving their legs about like that?” Many theories have been offered, often directly contradicting each other.
For example, several years ago, I suggested that the leg wave is entirely mental. Earlier this year, the Australian motorcycle coaching organization MotoDNA described the possible role which aerodynamics play, the exposed leg helping to create more drag. Much has been said, yet it seems impossible to settle the argument one way or another.
Asking the riders to explain does not help much. It is a question I and other journalists have asked of many different riders, including Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Cal Crutchlow, and Dani Pedrosa. Their answers always boil down to the same thing: “It just feels natural,” they say. An interesting response, perhaps providing an insight into how deeply racers have internalized so much of the physical part of their riding, but not doing much to help explain the phenomenon.
To attempt to get to the bottom of this mystery, I turned to some of the best minds in the MotoGP paddock. For an explanation of the physics behind the leg wave, I asked Monster Tech 3 Yamaha crew chief and technical guru Guy Coulon, while for further insight from the point of view of an observer and ex-rider, I spoke to Wilco Zeelenberg, team manager of Jorge Lorenzo – the one current MotoGP rider who does not dangle his leg while riding.
Another GP race weekend, and another weekend where the weather looms over the MotoGP paddock. Wasting Friday, and getting a reprieve on Saturday, the rain of Valencia was back for Sunday’s race, leaving a drying, but wet, course for the MotoGP riders to contend with on 200+ hp machines.
Casey Stoner’s last race, Dani Pedrosa’s last chance to have the most race wins, and Jorge Lorenzo’s final chapter to a flawless season, the script for the front-row starters was intriguing to say the least.
It all went out the window though, as we can confidently say that the following information contains no spoilers for those who have yet to see the race, since no human could possibly guess the outcome of the Valencian GP: a CRT bike lead the race for multiple laps, a Yamaha is on the podium, a world champion was lapped, and a satellite team finished both its bikes in the Top 5. Words can barely describe the race, but we will try after the jump.