Wednesday, October 29, 2008

MotoGP: Valencia Testing Roundup

The two day post-race test at Valencia is now done and dusted. The riders lapped on the first incarnation of the Bridgestone control tyre. Day 1 was dry, while day 2 was wet and most riders didn't bother going out on track. Here are the main points of interest.

The usual suspects were fastest. Stoner, then Pedrosa, then Rossi. That's no surprise, you could be racing supermarket trolleys around a car park and these guys would still come out on top.

The control tyres were pretty good. There are only two compounds available, and the riders were happy with the pace and endurance. This confounds the purists, who claimed that the riders would be appalled when they found out what the single tyre rule really entailed. The Michelin runners were delighted with their switch to Bridgestones, especially the super-grippy front tyres they'd all been hearing about. I'm sure there will be whingeing later on in the testing season when they're casting about for excuses, but it was a good start on the tyre front.

Nicky Hayden seemed to get along well with the Ducati GP9. He was around 1.5 seconds off Stoner's blistering pace, but lapped faster than Marco Melandri did in the Valencia GP with a year's experience of the bike and 2 years on Bridgestones. Legend has it that when Melandri first rode the Ducati GP8, he came back to the pits ashen-faced, already knowing that he had made a huge mistake. Hayden is far more optimistic, and has started well. He was fastest in the wet on day 2, although most of the top guys didn't bother going out and getting wet so there isn't much to compare him against. It's looking cautiously optimistic for the Kentucky Kid.

Speaking of Marco Melandri, he showed signs of still having a pair during the race at Valencia, and those signs seem to be confirmed by his times on the Kawasaki. With just a few hours of experience on the Kwaka, he lapped just 0.02 seconds from John Hopkins' best time. It's not clear whether Melandri tested the Green Machine in secret earlier in the season or whether he just said that to shut up Loris Capirossi. Either way, Marco did extremely well, and may even be able to help Kawasaki turn their green pile of junk into a racing motorcycle. I think his reputation is going to be healed next year and we'll see the old Macho Melandri back again.

Sete Gibernau was slower than Hayden on the Onde 2000 Ducati, sponsored by a vicious dictator who pockets his nation's oil money while his people die in abject poverty.

New boy Mika Kallio is settling in well to the Pramac Ducati team, saying he was pleasantly surprised by the rideability of the Bologna Bullet, and its outstanding engine.

Andrea Dovizioso reports that he is already being blanked by his new Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa and his overbearing manager Alberto Puig. You're nobody in Honda until you're having a feud with Puig. Dovi was happy with the factory bike, though. The Italian was 7th fastest in the dry and 2nd fastest in the wet, just fractions behind Hayden.

Chris Vermeulen was faster than Loris Capirossi, with the pair lapping 4th and 5th fastest in the dry, but that doesn't mean much. Suzuki always flatter to deceive in test sessions.

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