The 2012 MotoGP™ World Championship got underway at Losail on Thursday with the first practice session of the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar, and immediately into the groove was reigning World Champion Casey Stoner. His best lap of the session – a 1’56.474 – headed the opening 45-minute run of the weekend as the new 1000cc machines made their first outing of the season.
The Australian did not have it all his own way however as the leading spot changed hands a few times in the closing minutes of the session, Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) being one rider who led before settling in second at just 0.174s off Stoner with a 1’56.648.
Making it three different bikes in the top three Nicky Hayden rode his factory Ducati to a best time of 1’56.924, whilst Ben Spies on the second Yamaha Factory Racing machine was fourth and the final rider under 1’57”.
After months of anticipation MotoGP™ riders, teams, fans and spectators around the world will finally have their appetites for action satisfied, when the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar gets the 2012 MotoGP™ World Championship off to a start on Thursday. The first practice sessions of the opening round of the new campaign will bring to an end a lengthy 152-day wait since the final race of the 2011 season in Valencia last November, after an intriguing pre-season which has added to the impatience for the racing to begin.
Two major developments in the premier class which have added to the excitement at the dawn of a new era in MotoGP™ are the introduction of a new 1000cc engine capacity limit, up from the previous 800cc cap, and the debut of the new Claiming Rule Teams, for whom nine of the 21 riders will compete.
The MotoGP class was blessed with close to ideal conditions at Jerez on Sunday, where the third and final day of the Official Test took place. With the first practice session of the season’s opening race – the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar – less than two weeks away, all 21 riders who will make up the elite category grid in 2012 were able to pack in a full day’s work at the southern Spanish circuit thanks to clear blue skies and favourable temperatures.
Laying down the gauntlet in the lead-up to the new campaign World Champion Casey Stoner, who on Saturday had ridden just three laps and was one of those most aggrieved by the loss of a day to the poor conditions, was able to make significant progress on Sunday and timed in at 1’38.780. The Australian built up to his fast lap steadily, taking top spot inside the final quarter-of-an-hour of the day and then improving on it with his 61st and final lap. Perhaps of most concern for Stoner’s rivals will have been the consistency of his pace – on his longest run, which was a 10-lap stint prior to his hot lap, his average time was registered at fractionally under 1’39.7.
Team San Carlo Honda Gresini today unveiled its new livery for the 2012 MotoGP, CRT and Moto3 campaigns in the fitting surroundings of the wind tunnel at Milan Polytechnic. It is an ambitious joint programme that the team have labelled “Technology and Passion,” as Alberto Vitaloni and Fausto Gresini continue their wonderful adventure together with their own brand of dynamism and enthusiasm, based around the fundamentals of the present and the future of motorcycle racing. Represented by Alvaro Bautista and the Honda RC213V in MotoGP, Michele Pirro and his Honda CBR1000 RR powered FTR in the new CRT class and young Niccolò Antonelli on the Honda NSF250R in Moto3, San Carlo and Gresini continue their mission to cultivate passion and talent for motorcycling within Italy. At the end of a long day, the students of the Milan Polytechnic were able to meet the team in the true spirit of their “Technology and Passion” motto.
At the end of the second IRTA preseason tests, the main character of the MotoGP class is again the Australian Repsol Honda rider.
Casey Stoner set the fastest lap of the three days of testing with a best time of 2’00.473.
Dani Pedrosa jumped into the second place in the last hour of testing and just 0.175 ahead his team mate.
Surprisingly Andrea Dovizioso finished the three days of testing with the third fastest time (+0.329) and with the honour to be the first Yamaha rider.
Jorge Lorenzo who had been the shadow of Stoner during the test, doesn’t went on track in the last hour of the test, so he couldn’t improve when lots of riders made their best.
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The third and final day of the Official MotoGP™ Test concluded on Thursday at Sepang, with Casey Stoner breaking under the 2 minute mark on just his second lap out to dominate the field by over half a second.
The first on-track MotoGP action of the year concluded on Thursday at the Sepang International Circuit, with the new 1000cc machines noticeably quicker than the 800s of last year as the top four paced under the circuit’s best lap set by Valentino Rossi in 2009.
Casey Stoner was half a second clear of the rest of the field on his Repsol Honda RC213V, with Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa his closest challengers the first part of the day, though an afternoon rain storm halted any attempts to catch up with the World Champion and all lap times from the morning remained unchanged.