MotoGP image of Casey StonerEnlarge Photo
The only major racing series not to have begun its 2012 campaign is the FIM's MotoGP, which conducted its final pre-season test at Jerez, Spain last weekend. There were three eight-hour daily sessions and, by the time the weather blew through and teams got down to chasing lap times on the final day, Honda's Casey Stoner emerged atop the timing sheets once again.
This year new 1000-cc engines and CRT (claiming rules teams) were intended to adjust competition so it wasn't the same ol' folks making quick laps. Still there was Stoner, the reigning champion from Repsol Honda using exquisite Sunday weather to pace the field with his lap of 1:38.780, set during the final 15 minutes of the eight-hour test day.
Stoner pushed back his closest rival, Jorge Lorenzo with Yamaha Factory Racing, who had been at or near the top of the timing sheets throughout Sunday's running. The only other rider beneath the one minute, 39-second barrier, Lorenzo's lap of 1:38.953 came in the morning session using a new set of slick Bridgestone tires.
Carrying out a race-distance run, Stoner's teammate Dani Pedrosa was third-quick at 1:39.157, just 0.377 seconds behind the Australian. Pedrosa's simulated race gave up consistent times over the 26 laps of around 1:40 per lap. Yamaha Factory Racing's number two rider, Ben Spies concentrated on improving his setup and got within 0.715 of Stoner.
While the Friday test day was clear and yielded good times, Saturday at Jerez had the type of poor conditions that keeps riders off the track and stops teams from achieving the goals of their final pre-season tests. Heavy rain in the afternoon followed a gray and overcast morning, cast with blustery winds and cool temperatures. Riders took to the track in the afternoon using full wet setups, yet the rain let up close to the end of action allowing Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team) to put in a fast - and best of the day - lap at the end.
MotoGP image of Cal CrutchlowEnlarge Photo
There are just less than eight days before the MotoGP teams, riders and fans encamp at Qatar for the first of 18 races, two of which are scheduled to be held in the United States, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.