For the 2012 season, MotoGP will be reverting back to its 1,000cc format (actually, it used to be 990cc, but what’s ten cubic centimeters among friends?). While many MotoGP fans have been awaiting the day that the “big bikes” would return to premier racing with their powersliding, rider chewing, wheelie popping ways, it’s hard to get excited when the first two races of the last 800cc season have been so eventful. Nevertheless the die has been cast, and this week should be begin our first glimpse into these two-wheeled monsters.
Motorland Aragon will host a private test for the factory Kawasaki and BMW Motorrad Italia World Superbike teams Thursday and Friday this week. Though Kawasaki had a good bit of winter testing both at the official WSBK test in Portugal and private testing in Sepang, the Italian BMW team suffered the effects of inclement weather and lost testing time. This private test comes just one week before the World Superbike season resumes at Donington Park in England, whose improvements have recently been approved by the FIM.
Importantly for Kawasaki, Chris Vermeulen is expected to test in Spain. After injuries and surgery kept him out of much of the 2010 season, the Australian hoped to return at his home round but was unable to pass the physical. He sat out testing and racing in Australia, remaining at home and working on his physical therapy.
Continuing our thought on who really was fastest at the Qatar test, the idea of comparing best lap times again seems more than moderately preposterous, considering last night’s sessions were for testing purposes. That’s not to say however that some basic understanding of how teams are shaping up before the season cannot be divined, and by looking at the individual lap times we can get at least an impression of whom is finding some consistency on the desert track.
MotoGP’s last pre-season test concluded today in Qatar, as riders finished their second day of lapping around the Losail International Circuit. Conditions were colder than yesterday, and the wind made its presence known earlier in the day than before. At the start of the session, riders seemed reluctant to take to the track, but it wasn’t long before testing was underway in earnest.
Once again the Hondas proved to be very fast, accounting for three out of the Top 5 fastest riders for the day. Unlike Sunday, the Yamaha camp was divided in progress, as Ben Spies was very comfortable with the day’s results, while Jorge Lorenzo, in the best of light, was frustrated with being unable to keep pace with Stoner and Pedrosa (and his teammate). The Ducatis continued to struggle in the windy conditions, again showing issues with turn-in. Sixth quickest, Randy de Puniet topped the time sheet for the Italian manufacturer, followed by Nicky Hayden (9th), Hector Barbera (11th), and then Valentino Rossi (13th). MotoGP’s testing at Qatar saw just about every Ducati end up in the gravel trap, with the majority doing so at Turn 2, a problem spot on the track in the past.
MotoGP riders will get Tuesday off from riding, and then go into a four-day program for this race weekend, taking to the track once again Thursday night. Stay tuned to Asphalt & Rubber, as we’ll will be here in Qatar for the rest of the week covering the first race of the 2011 MotoGP season.
As you may have realized already this week, Asphalt & Rubber is coming to you live from Qatar, as MotoGP finishes up its last testing weekend of the pre-season, and gets ready for its first race of the year. Qatar is a strange country, mostly in that it’s not that different from the United States (at least not nearly as different as I was expecting, as this is my first trip to the Middle East). Perhaps even stranger is the laid back atmosphere of the MotoGP paddock during the testing session (maybe 1/4 as many people as a normal GP weekend, sans MotoGP fans). While we sit through Day Two of testing, which is currently underway, here’s something to chew on from Day One.
Now the purpose of MotoGP testing is of course actually testing the motorcycles, new parts, setups, etc., and not the attainment of absolute lap times. Therefore it strikes me funny on how much concern is given over to whom was fastest on a given day of testing, as there’s an obvious disconnect between what the teams are trying to achieve, and what the fans would like to see (with the journalists unsurprisingly pandering to this latter group).
That all being said, some sort of analysis has to come out of the event, and the path of least resistance is in the time sheet stamped out by Dorna, and handed to the assembled press. However if you drill down into the times lap by lap, not only do you get a better idea of the consistency that the MotoGP riders are attaining, but also it provides for another way to sift and sort the riders into some sort of categorical heirarchy, since that seems to be the name of the game at these tests.
While here in The United States of America the buzz is all about the new Motus MST sport-tourer and the Erik Buell Racing 1190RS sportbike, in Germany the talk of the town is the new Horex VR6 street bike, which began its road testing today. Horex released a photo of the supercharged 200+hp 1,200cc machine testing on a closed circuit, with Hennes Fischer, the man in charge of the VR6′s development, stating that “in this phase of the test series we mainly wanted to determine whether the current suspension configuration, basic geometry and engine tuning are correctly matched. It’s a big step from computer calculations and engine tuning on the dynamometer to a perfectly functioning bike.”
After unveiling the MV Agusta F3, the Italian company’s new three-cylinder supersport model, at the 2010 EICMA show with virtually no concrete specifications, MV Agusta has been quiet about its new motorcycle ever since. Expected to arrive as a 2012 model, the wait from unveiling to production has been excruciatingly long for those who fell in love with the F3′s take on Massimo Tamburini’s classic design.
Since its launch, the only progress we’ve seen is Castiglioni’s quoted target price steadily rising, so MV Agusta wants to make sure would-be buyers (and the press) remain intrigued by the model the newly liberated company is counting on for its future profitability. As such, MV Agusta has sent out a press release giving a status update on the 2012 MV Agusta F3, and the news bodes well for Italian motorcycle fans, as it suggests things are ahead of schedule in Varese.
Is this the KTM 200 Duke? The folks at OverDrive.in were fortunate enough to encounter in Pune what looks like a pre-production KTM Duke destined for the Indian market. Taking the photo above, OverDrive wasn’t certain if this was the KTM 125 Duke that the Austrian company launched at Intermot this year, or if it was a larger displacement version that’s been rumored to be coming from the minds of Bajaj & KTM.
Luckily the guys at IndianCarsBikes.in were able to get Rajiv Bajaj on the line and ask him about the photo, and the son of the Bajaj empire confirmed that what we see here is the 200cc KTM 200 Duke that will be an India-only model. Reportedly a deal hatched between KTM and Bajaj, the Indian market will get a slightly larger version of the new Duke, which will be liquid-cooled, have DOHC, and be positioned on the premium side of the market equation.
Troy Corser was forced to sit out the second day of testing for BMW Motorrad at Phillip Island after a crash Wednesday left him heavily bruised. The team was testing at Phillip Island after skipping the official World Superbike test at Portimao in favor of warmer climes, first at Eastern Creek and now at Phillip Island in Australia. Though the team said the test was satisfactory, any crash major enough to force a rider to sit out a day of testing can be worrisome. He is apparently fine, but had “painful bruises” that kept him from riding effectively.
That crash left Leon Haslam to do the bulk of testing for his new team. “We were still focusing on electronics and worked on a setup for this race track,” Haslam explained. “This was important as in three weeks time we are going to have our first races of the season here. We have already found a good base to work on. I am happy; we made some good progress. My lap times were quite good for these hot conditions. Of course we still have some work to do before the season starts but I am happy with the progress we made so far. The bike improved a lot in the last month.”