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Shuhei Nakamoto

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The day did not start well. It was not just the high winds and the rain which created problems at the Circuit of the Americas.

An absence of track staff – apparently, a lack of medical marshals when the first session of the day was due to start – meant that FP1 for the Moto3 class was delayed by three quarters of an hour.

Conditions were pretty miserable once they got underway, but, it turned out, things could be worse. That became apparent when the MotoGP session was red flagged, after a stray dog ran onto the track – that’s on the track, not along the side, but actually on it.

It took a good fifteen minutes to chase the dog off the track and towards safety, making the old cliché about herding cats seem strangely inappropriate.

By the time practice resumed, the original schedule had gone to hell. The qualifying session for the MotoAmerica Superbike class was rapidly dropped, and the lunch break dispensed with, getting the event quickly back on track.

Casey Stoner is to remain as a Honda test rider for another year. Today, HRC officially announced that the former world champion will undertake two tests for the factory during 2015.

The first test will be at Sepang from 29th to 31st of January, four days before the official MotoGP test at the circuit.

No date has been set for the second test, HRC stating only that it will be towards the end of the year, when Stoner will presumably be providing feedback on the 2016 machine.

No doubt this agreement will once again revive speculation that Stoner could return to MotoGP, but there is zero chance of that actually happening.

The Australian has stated both in public and to HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto that he does not want to race again, and has turned down an offer from HRC before.

His speed and the quality of the feedback he provides means he remains an extremely valuable asset to Honda’s test program.

Honda have been officially confirmed as the single-engine supplier for the Moto2 class for another four years. In other words, Honda will make engines available to ExternPro, who manages the official Moto2 engines, until the end of the 2018 season.

The confirmation of Honda as official engine supplier means that Moto2 is to remain a single engine class until at least 2018. The chances of it changing after that are very slim, despite occasional expressions of interest from other manufacturers, such as KTM.

The first day of practice at Brno turned out to be a day of two halves. The morning was glorious, sunny and relatively warm. Clouds began gathering shortly after lunch, and the first spots of rain started to fall just as FP2 for the Moto3 class came to a close.

The rain grew steadily heavier for the first half of the MotoGP afternoon practice session, easing up and stopping with some ten minutes to go. By the time the Moto2 bikes took to the track, the circuit was already drying, though it only really dried out completely towards the end of Moto2.

The two halves of MotoGP practice showed the same picture, however. Marc Marquez is fast in the wet and fast in the dry, and clearly looking comfortable on the Repsol Honda.

Teammate Dani Pedrosa is also quick in both conditions, though a little closer to Marquez on a wet track than on a dry track. In the dry, Jorge Lorenzo is very close to Marc Marquez, but in the wet, both he and Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi are a second off the pace of the Repsols.

Riders and managers will be very busy this weekend at Brno, as negotiations continue for the open slots left on the 2015 MotoGP grid. The deals that saw Stefan Bradl leave LCR Honda for Forward Yamaha and Cal Crutchlow depart Ducati and head for LCR Honda have kicked negotiations for the remaining seats into overdrive.

Forward Yamaha still has one seat open, with Aleix Espargaro set to join Maverick Viñales at Suzuki, a deal due to be announced in September. There are two Open class Hondas available, at Gresini and Aspar, with Scott Redding moving up to take the factory RC213V, and Hiroshi Aoyama set to lose his seat.

Pramac Ducati has one seat available, now that Andrea Iannone has moved up to take Crutchlow’s place in the factory Ducati team. And Aprilia will have two seats to fill when they re-enter the class in 2015. All that means a packed paddock at Brno.

Honda Racing and Red Bull have announced an enhancement to their collaboration in MotoGP through the Repsol Honda team, which sees the energy drink company’s logo featured on Honda’s factory team starting in the 2015 season, as it becomes the official energy drink for the team as well.

The two parties have collaborated over the last nine years, but the Red Bull logo has never before been featured on the Repsol Honda machinery, despite Red Bull supporting both Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa with personal sponsorships.

Stefan Bradl’s LCR Honda is sporting a new livery at Assen, after the team secured a major new sponsorship deal. The tie up will see the bike in CWM’s colors for three races in 2014, and will continue as a major backer in 2015.

The new sponsorship deal is so significant that it offers LCR Honda new possibilities. Lucio Cecchinello has made no secret of his desire to expand from a single bike to a two-bike team, but so far, the financial backing necessary has been missing.

The deal with CWM World has the potential to be the key support which would allow Cecchinello to add a second, Open bike to his satellite Honda RC213V currently being ridden by Bradl.

With the contracts of the four riders in Honda’s and Yamaha’s factory teams expiring at the end of 2014, real fireworks were expected when contract negotiations began for the 2015 season and beyond.

But as the season progressed, those fireworks have turned into something of a damp squib, with it looking increasingly likely that the factory line ups will see little or no change for 2015.

The first contract has already been signed. Today, HRC announced that they have reached agreement with Marc Marquez for another two years, meaning that the 2013 world champion will stay with the Repsol Honda team for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

On Thursday, the riders opted almost unanimously to go out first thing in the morning. It was a wise choice, conditions proving ideal to see the fastest ever lap around the circuit set, beating Casey Stoner’s time from 2011.

The name of the rider that took Stoner’s record from him? Marc Marquez, the man brought in by Honda to replace the departing Australian.

Marquez’s time was impressive, but he was not the only man to get under the two minute mark. Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, and the continually surprising Aleix Espargaro also cracked the barrier, though none were quite capable of getting under Stoner’s old record.

The first 30 minutes of testing had produced a scintillating start to the day, whetting the appetite of all in the paddock for more.

While Marquez’s time is without doubt a fantastic lap, perhaps the most impressive time was set by Jorge Lorenzo. His fastest time, and the fastest time of the test up until that point, was set on his flying lap of the day.

It was, if you like, a simulation of the start of the race: firing off the line from pit lane exit, getting up to speed immediately, and then going on to set a lap record.

Normal fare for Lorenzo, whose flying starts have become something of a trademark. What made it truly incredible was the fact that this was done on new tires, on his very first laps of the day.

On race day, Lorenzo has the morning warm up to get up to speed, but not today. Fast straight out of the starting blocks, then following it up with another 1’59.9. If you ever needed proof of Lorenzo’s metronomic ability, this was surely it.

Motorcycle racing championships are like a pendulum, flowing back and forth between one rider and another, between one manufacturer and another. One year, Yamaha is on top, the next, it’s Honda. One year, Yamaha manages to exploit the rules best, the next year it’s Honda.

On the evidence of the first two days of testing – scant evidence indeed, but all we have to go on at the moment – conditions appear to favor Honda. With a liter less fuel to play with, and the new tires being introduced by Bridgestone, it looks like the tide is flowing Honda’s way, while Yamaha is set to suffer.

For the Factory Option entries at least; in the Open category, the tide is flowing very firmly in the other direction, with Aleix Espargaro and the NGM Forward Yamaha blowing Honda’s production racer out of the water.

That the fuel reduction would favor the Honda was expected, but the advantage might be bigger than Yamaha would like to admit. After a tough first day of testing, Jorge Lorenzo spent all of Wednesday trying to recover his confidence in the bike, as his crew searched for a setup that would smooth power delivery and give him the precise throttle control his high-lean-angle – and high risk – strategy demands. They were successful, at least in renewing Lorenzo’s confidence in the bike, he told the press.

A change to the electronics gave him the feeling he had with last year’s machine, and he was able to ride more freely. With that change made, he went in search of a fast lap, setting it at around 3:30pm, in the hottest part of the day.

It has been a fascinating first day of testing at Sepang. And like all fascinating days, it has been long, tiring, and utterly inspiring. There were surprises, disappointments, and rumors confirmed and denied. It was, in short, a good day at the office.

Marc Marquez was fastest – it barely goes without saying – the 2013 World Champion picking up where he left off. He was quick from the off, and put in a final burst of speed at the end of the day to open the gap on the rest, finishing with half a second advantage.

Braking stability was the watchword for the Repsol Honda team, especially rear grip on braking and corner entry, with both Marquez and Dani Pedrosa working on a slightly revised version of the 2014 RC213V which both men had tested at Valencia last year.

Their main focus – like those of everyone on their first day back on a MotoGP – was just to get used to the speed again. The switchover had been toughest for Cal Crutchlow, the Englishman claimed. He had ridden a motocross bike for exactly one day, he said, spending the rest of his winter training on his bicycle. The speed differential between a 20-speed racing bicycle and a 6-speed Ducati Desmosedici is nothing if not cavernous.

The happiest faces were at Yamaha, though in different garages and on unexpected faces. Valentino Rossi took the second fastest time, had led for a large part of the test, and looked a much happier rider all round. The rapport with new crew chief Silvano Galbusera was good, the atmosphere in the team was good, but above all, a few small changes which Yamaha had made to the YZR-M1 had proven to be significant.