2012 Moto GP Season Kickoff
Date: April 05, 2012 01:29
TOV Motorsports News Desk
The Stoner Steamrolling Act Begins Anew
In the first race of the 2007 season and the 800 cc era, Casey Stoner streaked away from Valentino Rossi to take his first career win. The sight of Stoner blasting by Valentino Rossi on the front straight like Rossi's Yamaha had dropped a cylinder was one of those rare moments that is seared into memory. On the eve of the second coming of the 1000 cc era, another dominant Stoner victory is certainly in the cards, as he has won the last 4 races at Qatar. This time he will be riding a Honda instead of a Ducati, and instead of using the superior straightline speed of his GP7, he will have a much better balanced all-around machine in the RC213V.
If there was ever a preseason that presaged a dominant campaign by one rider, 2012 was it. Casey Stoner posted the fastest time on the 5 of the 9 days that the Repsol Honda team ran full test schedules and on days he wasn't fastest, he wasn't far behind. Dani Pedrosa was usually only a touch behind Stoner and is truly the only man other than Jorge Lorenzo that will challenge for the title.
Even though Honda owned preseason testing, one cause for concern is that the Yamahas steadily closed the gap as the preseason progressed. HRC will need to keep their development pace high in order to prevent Yamaha from leapfrogging them during the season.
The new RC213V looks to be an evolution of the previous year's bike, just with 200 extra cc's. Honda's innovative new semi-seamless shift gearbox makes a return, and the basic chassis architecture and pneumatic-valved V4 appear much the same. Perhaps HRC opted for the evolutionary approach this time around, after having been burnt badly at the beginning of the 800 cc era in 2007. From appearances Yamaha has taken the same approach, leaving Ducati as the only factory that has brought a significantly redesigned bike to the 2012 grid. Unfortunately for Ducati that redesign has not gotten them close enough to Yamaha and Honda for them to be considered a serious contender for the title at this time.
With the return of the 1000 cc displacement comes another big rule change, the concept of the Claiming Rules Team. The basic idea is that a CRT can build a bike with a prototype chassis and slap a hopped-up production-derived engine in it and go racing. These bikes will be allowed 24 liters of fuel as opposed to the 21 liters that are allowed for the full-on prototype bikes. The 'Claiming Rule' comes in if one of the factory teams has reason to believe a CRT bike has an engine that is too close to prototype. They can then claim the engine for $20,000.
So far there are 9 CRT bikes joining the grid, with power plants from BMW, Honda, Kawasaki, and Aprilia in attendance. The story to watch will be the Aprilia-powered CRT bikes, which are running in a chassis that is not too dissimilar from Aprilia's RSV4 production bike. The Aprilia 'ART' has been fast enough to run with the tail end of the prototype bikes in testing and may well embarrass some prototypes before the season is done. However, because many feel the Aprilia CRT's are an end-run around the rules, there may be some political controversy before the end of the season as well.
The Rider Lineup
The Repsol Honda rider lineup is now back down to the traditional 2-rider setup, with Andrea Dovizioso departing to join Tech3 Yamaha. Every other Honda team is all-new for 2012.
Following the tragic loss of Marco Simoncelli last season, Team Gresini is now led by Alvaro Bautista. Alvaro was a major of rival of Simoncelli in the lower classes and spent two seasons at the now defunct Suzuki team. Bautista hasn't quite lived up to his potential on the RC213V in preseason testing so it remains to be seen what sort of race pace he will show. The pressure is definitely on for him, because if he doesn't perform there is one Marc Marquez who may be coming up from Moto2 next year that could take his place.
The other rider on the Gresini Honda team is Michele Pirro. Pirro competed in World Supersport for several years and completed a full campaign in 2011 in Moto2, notching 1 win. Pirro actually will not be riding a satellite RC213V like Bautista is, but rather a CRT bike powered by a CBR1000RR engine. The frame was designed by chassis specialists FTR (who also built Ducati's aluminum frame) and the engine is a tuned unit from none other than Ten Kate Honda. The bike only participated in one official test this preseason but it seems to be on par with the other CRT's, save for the Aprilias.
The last rider on a Honda in 2012 is Moto2 reigning champion Stefan Bradl, who will be riding the LCR Honda. Bradl is the son of multiple GP-winning 250GP racer Helmut Bradl. Bradl thus far has shown decent pace on the LCR Honda as a class rookie. Bradl is the only Moto GP rookie on a prototype bike this year, so he should be able to take rookie of the year honors with ease. However, he is another rider who will need to perform well to ensure that he doesn't lose his seat to Marc Marquez. Marquez had chased him down and passed him in the 2011 Moto2 championship, but was injured in the penultimate round, thereby ceding the title to Bradl.
2011 Championship Position: 1st
2011 Wins: 10
2011 Podiums: 16
Strengths: Fast everywhere, able to ride around bike problems, very good with a sliding bike
Weaknesses: Quick to anger
Best Case Scenario: The lights go out in Qatar and Casey Stoner streaks off to victory, just like he has in the last 4 season. He repeats the same act at every round and adds 10+ wins to his resume on the way to his 3rd Moto GP title. Has at least one fist-shaking incident with slow CRT riders but is consoled by the opportunity to laugh at Valentino Rossi's misfortune.
Worse Case Scenario: In a stroke of bad luck, he gets taken out in a friendly fire incident by another Honda rider. Finishes 2nd to Jorge Lorenzo. Has a collision with a lapped CRT rider, CRT rider forced to leave championship to escape angry Aussie.
2011 Championship Position: 4th
2011 Wins: 3
2011 Podiums: 9
Strengths: Fast in all scenarios, now has strong racecraft to match blistering pace
Weaknesses: Injuries are the only thing that has stopped him from getting a title. Also, yacht tests.
Best Case Scenario: Finally has a season where injury is not a factor. Wins enough races to beat Stoner, Stoner in turn wins enough to force Jorge Lorenzo down to 3rd.
Worst Case Scenario: Gets left in the dust as Lorenzo and Stoner fight it out for the title. Carmelo Ezpeleta changes the rules to allow 2013 rookie Marc Marquez to steal his Repsol Honda factory ride.
2011 Championship Position: 13th
2011 Best Finish: 5th
Strengths: Good racecraft, goes faster in the race than in qualifying
Weaknesses: Hasn't shown same sort of speed that he had in 250GP
Best Case Scenario: Figures out RC213V, regularly beats the factory Ducatis and satellite Yamahas. Runs right around where Ben Spies is.
Worst Case Scenario: Ends up duking it out with CRT bikes, gets demoted to a CRT or Moto2 for 2013. Replaced by Marc Marquez
2011 Championship Position (Moto2): 9th
2011 Wins: 1
2011 Podiums: 2
Best Case Scenario: Gresini develops their CRT bike over the course of the season to the point that it can beat the Aprilia CRT's and occassionally mix it up with satellite bikes.
Worst Case Scenario: Gresini runs out of money or Pirro gets embarassed by CRT's built on an even lower budget than Gresini's
2011 Championship Position (Moto2): 1st
2011 Wins: 4
2011 Podiums: 11
Best Case Scenario: Bradl proves to be quick study, dices with the satellite Yamahas and beats them on occassion.
Worst Case Scenario: Has to fight the pesky Aprilia CRT's, and loses. Replaced by the man who almost took the Moto2 title from him last season...
Last edited by JMU R1 on
April 09, 2012 10:19