Bigger engines, higher definition - same drama
After five months of hibernation in the wintry West Yorkshire wilderness it is finally time for me to emerge blinking into 5.4 million watts of light in Qatar, as the Losail International Circuit prepares to bring the MotoGP World Championship firmly back into the spotlight next weekend.
Like most fans of the sport I am a little disappointed that the curtain-raiser to the new season will be limited to Red Button coverage due to scheduling clashes in the packed Sunday evening time slot but that is made up for by my excitement that the following seventeen races will be shown live on the BBCHD channel, as well as on BBC2 (the Qatar race will be repeated in full on both channels later on Sunday evening).
High Definition television is made for the colour and movement of a spectacle such as MotoGP and there will be plenty of extra detail to pick out this season, especially with the switch from 800cc to 1,000cc machinery.
You don't need to be a mechanical engineer to work out that bigger bikes create more power and when it comes to racing this invariably means more excitement.
Honda MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner of Australia (left) and team-mate Dani Pedrosa prepare for the season opener in Qatar. Photo: Getty
With more torque being channeled through the rear wheel, the riders have to control their machines like bucking broncos, which is always spectacular to watch.
However, the more exciting prospect for the viewer is that the new rules should lead to more overtaking.
Having more power allows riders to rectify any mistakes they make on their way into a turn by 'squaring off' the corner, picking the bike up and driving out.
With less to worry about on the brakes, riders can be more daring and inventive in their attempts to pass - an improvement from the 'Scalextric' style precision of the 800cc era.
Of course, this extreme power (reportedly in excess of 250hp in the case of Honda) is mostly kept under control by sophisticated electronic systems, which are in the process of being regulated in line with the gradual transition to CRT racing.
As I explained in my last blog, CRT bikes are essentially a prototype chassis powered by a production engine (CRT literally means Claiming Rule Team - they can claim ownership of the engine as opposed to merely leasing from the factories as current satellite teams do) and they represent the long-term future of MotoGP.
In time the idea will be to have custom-made engines built to parameters that make them affordable to purchase, attracting new teams and sponsors to the sport, but a period of transition over the next two seasons will see an exaggerated gap between the CRT guys and the 12 riders still on factory-built Honda, Yamaha or Ducati bikes.
However, no fewer than nine CRT bikes - powered by Honda, Aprilia, BMW and Kawasaki engines - will be lining up in Qatar, boosting the grid to 21 riders and therefore already vindicating governing body Dorna's decision to make the change, especially with a couple of riders looking capable of springing a surprise already.
In the last test at Jerez Randy de Puniet finished just 1.8 seconds off the fastest time, set by defending champion Casey Stoner on the Honda, and less than a second shy of leading factory Ducati rider Valentino Rossi.
The plight of Italian factory Ducati, incidentally, and their superstar rider remains worrying for his legion of fans around the world.
Sixth at Jerez, 0.9 seconds slower than Stoner, was an improvement on a disastrous winter programme at Sepang but it is hardly a ringing endorsement of his radical new Desmosedici GP12 machine.
With just days remaining until the start of the new season and with Stoner, Dani Pedrosa (Honda) and Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) in a class of their own in testing, Rossi and his loyal fans are faced with the very real prospect of another barren year for the Italian legend, whose 16th season of Grand Prix competition in 2011 proved to be his first without a victory.
Out of contract at the end of this year, Rossi's chances of ever winning a race again currently look equally bleak, having burnt his bridges at Honda whilst the ones at Yamaha caught fire behind him.
The CRT revolution could perhaps not come quickly enough for a man who has MotoGP victories to his name on four different kinds of machinery.
The last but one of those wins came two years ago almost to the day, when Rossi opened the 2010 season in style at Losail, breaking a three-year unbeaten run for Stoner in Qatar that stretched back to the Australian's first ever MotoGP win on his Ducati debut in 2007.
Last year Stoner took a clean sweep of pole position, race fastest lap and victory in his first race on the 800cc Honda. It would take a brave man to bet against him doing that on his 1,000cc debut next Sunday.
Thankfully, there are a few out there.