Monday, February 04, 2008

MotoGP Testing: Seagull Island Summary

Here's a roundup of last week's 3-day MotoGP test at the seagull-strewn Phillip Island circuit. Most of the players were there, except for FIAT Yamaha's Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, and crocked micro-superstar Dani Pedrosa.

Casey Stoner was terrifyingly fast. A second faster than everybody else. He probably has this year's championship sewn up already. God, I hope not.

Marco Melandri was pretty slow again, still failing to get to grips with the Ducati. This may be because he can't get used to the bike, or possibly because he wasn't injured enough. He finished 2nd in the championship when he was squished in the massive Barcelona crash. He scored a podium at Laguna Seca after having his ankle broken by Kurtis Roberts (the only rider to rival Britney Spears in the "danger to yourself and others" category.) Marco should probably have a big testing crash if he wants to start the season well.

Shock of the week was the brilliant performance of James Toseland, who finished 3rd when everybody bolted on qualifying tyres at the end of the test. It is disconcerting to see a British rider higher than 17th on the timesheets after James Ellison's many displays of mediocrity. I believe I know the reason for this. Ellison was a World Endurance Champion. Toseland, on the other hand, is an atrocious endurance rider. Riding for Honda at the Suzuka 8 hour, he crashed out after an incredible 5 minutes on track (allegedly signing for Yamaha while still in mid-air.) I didn't expect much of Toseland in his first year of MotoGP, but we might see some great performances at tracks he knows well, such as Phillip Island, Donington and Assen.

Colin Edwards was very quick at the start of the test, but was slower than Toseland by the end of it. Being in a satellite team may relieve some of the pressure on the laconic Texan, but finishing behind Toseland doesn't bode well.

Nicky Hayden took no notice of his bitchy dwarf team-mate Dani Pedrosa's claims that the Kentucky Kid is a bad development rider, putting in the 2nd best lap on qualifiers. (Only 17 minutes behind Stoner.) The new Honda still isn't all that convincing on race rubber.

It was a great test for the youngsters. Andrea Dovizioso was in the top 4 every day of the test. Dovi is my tip for top rookie this year. In 250GP last year he was always hounding his hilariously slappable rival Jorge Lorenzo, despite Dovi's Honda being way down on power compared to Lorenzo's Aprilia. The young Italian has taken to 800cc MotoGP like a duck to water.

Fellow 250cc graduate Alex de Angelis also put in some great times, although it remains to be seen whether he is ruthless enough to reach the top, having finished 2nd about a million times in 250.

It was a horrible test for Kawasaki Ninja Turtle John Hopkins. Although he started with some totally bodacious lap times in the wet, he pushed, like, too hard and totally highsided at the terrifying turn one (a corner that even Aussie V8 Supercar drivers have nightmares about, and they're sat in a 6-ton rollcage inside a 14-ton car that would demolish an office block without spilling the driver's Castlemaine XXXX.) Hopper suffered injuries to his crotch, partially ripping a muscle from the bone. Owww, Dude! He reckons on being fit enough for the big pre-season test, and you'd have to believe him because he's, like, one tough son of a beeyatch.

Team Dude's other rider Ant West struggled for pace. Surgery on a wrist injury has wrecked his training schedule, leaving him woefully short of the kind of fitness required to do a hundred laps a day for 3 days. He'll do well to get up to speed by the start of the season.

D'Antin Ducati riders Toni Elias and Sylvain Guintoli did alright, lapping faster than Melandri on the final day. Presumably D'Antin will receive rubbish race engines which, along with their inept mechanics, will ensure that Toni and Sylvain always finish behind Marco.

Suzuki have always been rubbish at The Island. Nothing's changed.

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