With the traditional winter break coming to an end, MotoGP riders are about to tackle their testing schedule.
Pre-Season testing calendar:
– Sepang 1 MotoGP, 31/01-02/02
– Valencia Moto2/Moto3, 08/02-10/02
– Jerez 1 Moto2/Moto3, 16/02-18/02
– Sepang 2 MotoGP, 28/02-01/03
– Jerez 2 Moto2/Moto3, 19/03-21/03
– Sepang 2 MotoGP, 23/03-25/03
This year will see a brand new generation of MotoGP™ bikes on track with regulations changes increasing the maximum engine capacity to 1000cc. As manufacturers have been developing this new breed of bike since last year, the pre-season tests will be crucial for them to put the finishing touches to their 2012 contenders.
Teams and riders will have to make the most of the three, 3-day testing sessions, with a first test from 31/01 to 02/02 in Sepang, another at the Malaysian track from 28/02 to 01/03, before a final test in Jerez from 23/03 to 25/03, just two weeks before the start of the season in Qatar on the 8th of April.
The key factory teams will see their riders’ line-up unchanged, with Casey Stoner set to defend his World Title alongside Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa; the Yamaha Factory team will again be represented by Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies, while Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden will be hard at work with the Ducati team in order to push the Italian outfit at the front of the MotoGP pack.
The off-season saw some major migrations including that of Andrea Dovizioso, who will make his debut on a Yamaha with Tech3 alongside Cal Crutchlow, and Alvaro Bautista, who will spearhead the Honda Gresini team effort. Hector Barbera will now be the sole rider of the Pramac Racing Team while Karel Abraham will continue his career with Cardion AB Racing Team.
Colin Edwards and Randy de Puniet joined the ranks of Forward Racing and Aspar Team respectively, for which they will ride the new CRT-spec machines. With the new CRT entries, a total of 21 riders will form the MotoGP grid this year, giving newcomers such as Danilo Petrucci, Ivan Silva, Michele Pirro and Yonny Hernandez a chance to shine in the premier class, and also a path back into MotoGP for the likes of Anthony West, Aleix Espargaro and James Ellison.
Another noteworthy entry is 2011 Moto2 World Champion Stefan Bradl, who will join the LCR Honda team as he graduates into the MotoGP class.
The next two months will also have riders from the lower classes getting into gear as the Valencia and Jerez circuits will host testing sessions for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes.
The Moto2™ class promises to be as entertaining and unpredictable as ever, with favourites such as Marc Marquez, Andrea Iannone and Scott Redding facing 125 World Champion Nico Terol and his runner-up Johann Zarco, in addition to the inaugural Moto2 World Champion, Toni Elias, who is set to make his return to the category that saw him take the crown in 2010.
Pre-season testing will be particularly important for the Moto3™ class contestants as the new 4-stroke 250cc bikes replace the old 2-stroke 125cc motorcycles. It will be interesting to see how the likes of Maverick Viñales, Sandro Cortese and Hector Faubel will fare on the brand new machinery.