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Bigger engines, higher definition - same drama

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Matt Roberts | 16:39 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

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.

Casey Stoner of Australia (left) and team-mate Honda MotoGP rider Dani Pedrosa

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.


  • Comment number 1.

    As a die-hard Rossi fan it pains me to admit that it seems unlikely we'll ever see another world championship from him and possibly not even a win! By the time the switch to CRT is complete, Rossi will already have reached retirement in all likelihood and in the time that's left, there is simply no way Ducati can catch either Yamaha or Honda. I hope I'm wrong but I doubt it. With nowhere else to go, he either has to pray for a miracle at Ducati or retire earlier than planned.

  • Comment number 2.

    Very excited with the 2012 season about to kick off. I too am a Rossi fan, although I am a fan of anyone who rides the wheels off their bike! I would not be surprised to see Rossi on the podium in 'difficult' races but on the whole, Honda and Yamaha are on a different street. I'm not sure what power the new 1000cc bikes are generating. Anyone? Simoncelli will be sorely missed - I can still hardly believe he has gone.

  • Comment number 3.

    oops - I see it says 250bhp in the article

  • Comment number 4.

    The amazing races of the '90's and 00's may be a thing of the past, I fear. Rossi being on the un-competitive Ducati and the huge void left by the death of his mate and obvious heir to the throne, Marco Simoncelli, I just can't see where the excitement will come from. I predict another easy year for Stoner with a couple of Yamaha wins thrown in to break the monotony.
    I hope I am wrong !!!

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree that it could easily be Stoner again this year but I have mixed feelings about it. He's not the character Rossi is and I wholeheartedly agree that what I really wanted was Simoncelli to take the baton from Rossi and become the next big thing in MotoGP. However, there is no denying that Stoner is a great rider. He has a lovely style and can ride the wheels off anything, including the Ducati that Rossi was unable to master. I'd far rather have Stoner win that Lorenzo. He's the class of the field at the moment.

  • Comment number 6.

    Be fair, Stoner rode the wheels off a completely different Ducati.
    Also, he went missing for a large part of the season with a "mystery" illness. Don't forget the absolute howling mistake he made at Donnington in the wet ! People seem to think that he was untouchable then. Granted he is the class of the field currently but when Rossi and Stoner were on an equal footing, it was more often Rossi who schooled him..Remember Laguna Seca ?

  • Comment number 7.

    Great to pick up the few remaining delusional Rossi fans still knocking about. Face it guys, now he doesnt have the best bike, he looks liks an "all the gear, no idea" muppet in the slow group at a track day. The guy can't "school" Barbera as the latter rides a much inferior, satellite Ducati yet can regularly out qualify Rossi.
    Stoner and Lorenzo still comfortably the class of the field.

  • Comment number 8.

    Really excited for the new season. Growing up at the end of the Doohan era and at the start of the Rossi era, I have to say that it's looking like being a sad end to the great Italian's career. I refute the accusation from the commenter above who says he's "all the gear, no idea" - when he went to Yamaha, it was widely regarded as a mistake to leave a Honda outfit that seemed so dominant. Unfortunately I do have to agree that a win looks a distant possibility this season but he's not the first and he certainly won't be the last to struggle with a Ducati.

    What pains me most about this season is the missing bike and personality of Marco Simoncelli. I still feel the shock that I did when I woke up, switched on the TV and saw the news that the most exciting talent in recent years had left us. Marco would have been a World Champion without doubt but I'm sure he's somewhere now, looking down and is as excited for the new season as we are.

    The CRT story is an interesting one but like Matt said the works Hondas, Yamahas and Ducatis are all going to be in a class of their own for the next couple of seasons and of them it's Honda who again look imperious after testing. I can't see beyond another title for Casey Stoner but I'm hoping for a big, injury free, season from Dani Pedrosa to at least inject some life into the championship.

    Can't wait to see the action in HD either but the red button fiasco isn't the best way to introduce the season - especially after BBC's treatment of the F1 rights!

    P.S Just want to say how nice it is to actually have a discussion with intelligent and literate commenters who just have a deep appreciation for their sport. Hats off!

  • Comment number 9.

    "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."

    I'm sorry but I had to laugh at this bit, for a decade at least now the 125/250/Moto2/Moto3 classes have always provided the best races of the day.

    Half of the time I won't get 15 laps into the main race as it's bored me to death, invariably one rider miles ahead of the rest.

  • Comment number 10.

    I’m getting very excited! One thing though the sport does need though is a close season with a lot of action, too many times last season it was a precession, which isn’t much fun.

    One way to avoid this is to get Vale on a decent bike and in the thick of the action to spice it up. I do fear another season like last but lets hope they can sort out those front end issues – it is still a new bike and concept for Ducati and they’ve not had so much testing on it. So lets hope with some more races they understand it and find the right direction for development.

    CRT are probably the way to go, at times last season we had like 15 or 16 riders starting a race which is a silly number.

    Good news its in HD and having the Moto 2 & 3, although the beeb are still shooting themselves in the foot a little. With them losing the F1 coverage, they still have the coverage of one premier class of motor sport but apart from Matt, no one from the BBC shouts about the coverage!!

    On a final note, it is still sad that we are not talking about the number 58’s potential title fight this season. Undoubtedly the arms, legs and hair would have been in the mix, we still remember Marco.

  • Comment number 11.

    Why is it some of you reminisce with much fondness the days when Rossi dominated every race, yet now Stoner's doing it, the same "monotony" is looked at with scorn?

    Why is it okay for Rossi to dominate and not Stoner? Because Rossi's a "character"? If that's the case, then you've obviously succumbed to the Rossi personality cult. Doesn't matter if he bullies teammates and head-butts opponents, he'll always be the golden boy, just because he charms your pants off. Gullible you.

    Clyde – Laguna Seca was nothing more than Rossi barging Stoner aside by shortcutting the inside of the Corkscrew. Stoner had the legitimate line. The only thing Rossi schooled anyone in at that race was dangerous tactics. "If you can't get past them neatly and fairly, just barge them out of the way". Similar barging methods got Simoncelli (RIP, Marco) in trouble last year for hitting Lorenzo and Pedrosa.

    The likes the Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa are clean racers. They avoid putting themselves and other riders at unnecessary risk, and understandably get upset when such dangerous tactics are used. If responsible riding is boring to you, go watch another sport. I prey we never again lose another life in the sport. MotoGP should not be a blood sport.

    I completely agree Rossi was a boundless talent in his time – a formidable racer. However, it's time to face the fact that he's a spent force. He's in the twilight of his career. Even Nicky Hayden's out riding him at Ducati.

    As numerous pundits have said, Stoner is capable of beating Rossi's record.

    Characters or not, all these riders are incredibly talented all should be respected equally.

  • Comment number 12.

    "Delusional Rossi fans". Now that's priceless. Just because we know that Rossi gave us the best, most exciting motorcycle racing ever seen ? And that without Rossi on a competitive bike, the proceedings become a whole lot less exciting.
    Stoner's Ducati may have been tough to master, but the bike had a huge horsepower advantage at the time. All he had to master was keeping it upright. Now, there is no advantage. In fact, the bike is pretty much a laughing stock in its current state.

    Oh, and Barbera managed to finish above Rossi all of 3 times out of 18 races last year. Hardly schooled him, did he ?

  • Comment number 13.

    Good grief, there are a couple of turnips posting on here! So, I am a Rossi fan and I would like to see him end his MotoGP career by winning on a Ducati. Is that so bad? Do you think there is no room for opinions other than your own? What a boring place it must be inside your head. Bring on the racing!

  • Comment number 14.

    The thing about Rossi is you can never discount him, the alleged 'best' machinery is a joke statement no one else got close to winning on the Yamaha till he got hold of it. I hope that the Ducati is closer than it looks and we have a big tussle for the championship, of all the front runner I hope Pedrosa has an injury free year and proves that he can match the rest of them. But as ever there will be more action in one race than in an entire F1 season, ans that's not including Moto's 2 and 3, can't wait :)

  • Comment number 15.

    Rossi was going well when he skittled Stoner last year in Jerez in mixed conditions and that looks pretty much the only way he'll get anywhere near a podium this year. The Ducati looked dog slow last year, but for them to be as far off as they are again in testing after giving up on most of last year to develop the chassis for this year is a massive disappointment. Maybe Rossi has lost his edge but the fact that nobody other than Stoner has managed to make the Ducati look good for 5 years now suggests the Italian company is making a pretty ordinary racing machine. You wonder how long they'll stick at it as a factory entry if the CRT weren't on the way because pottering in the midfield cannot be helping sales.

    Stoner will walk it this year unless he throws it up the road a lot, Pedrosa was too small for the 800's I just don't see how the bigger lump will help him, he's too fragile physically and mentally to challenge over a full season. Lorenzo will pull out a couple of wins and keep Stoner honest but will fall short, Spies isn't good enough IMO.

    The best races I saw last year were all in the 125's and Moto 2 categories (shame the BBC don't give them more airtime, or indeed any), in Moto GP watching Stoner running away with it on a Honda wasn't half as exciting as watching him wrestle a Ducati round to try and keep up with the Honda's and Yamaha's.

  • Comment number 16.

    Um, whats going on with the Rossi bashing here?! I think it’s a case of someone being a bit jealous…

    If you cant see how superb he was 2000-2009 then clearly nothing anyone says will change your opinion.

    In many races he won when he shouldn’t of, when he left Honda to go to Yamaha people said he wouldn’t win. Some of the most exciting moments over the last ten years have come from Valentino Rossi. He remembered about the show and the fans. His post race celebrations were hilarious, whether it was going into a portaloo, having a live chicken in Malaysia after the title, having snow white and the seven dwarfs, or stopping and having a load of people dressed up as skittles and him bowling a ball at them – it was all pure entertainment, and that’s what we enjoy. And on the track he was so exciting to watch, whether it was getting into Biaggi or Gibernau’s head, or the battles with Stoner and Lorenzo of late, Laguna Seca 08, Jerez 04, the 2007 Dutch TT, the Catalan GP in 09, superb races to watch.

    Why I suspect that the public haven’t warmed to Stoner is that he just drives off and there is no entertainment, the only time I recall seeing an exciting Stoner victory is in Valencia 2012 when he made a mistake and Spies took the lead only for Stoner to out drag him to the line. I have no doubt that he’s a very pleasant bloke away from the track but he doesn’t make himself popular to the public, but then again why should he, he’s out there to win for himself first.

    Anyway, is good it gets people worked up and different opinions, things just need to be kept in perspective! I think we should all be privileged that we were able to witness the classic racing. As I said before, lets hope they can sort out the front end and then have some more classic Rossi races!

  • Comment number 17.

    Matt Roberts you are the pride of Stainland. Long may you reign...

    Oh and what TheLollipopMan said +1

  • Comment number 18.

    to all you people who trash Rossi you must have short memories or have only just took an interest in MOTO GP.Vale won races when they WERE RACES not presessions!yes Stonner is a nutter and a craftsman on a bike and great to watch but he made a fool of himself telling Rossi that his ambition outways his talent!!! all stonner does is whinge when things dont go his way.i remember Rossi praising Stonner saying he rides like the devil!

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm also a Rossi fan and really want to see him be able to turn things around this season but Rossi and Ducati just doesn't seem to be a match made in heaven - still, never say never.
    I am looking forward to the new season but also with a heavy heart - as some others on here - Marco Simoncelli was fast becoming "the new Rossi" a good old fashioned rider, prepared to get stuck in and with a great personality to match.
    With Rossi not doing the business - and likely to soon be retiring I'm at a bit of a loss as to who I want to "champion" in the main event without Marco.
    I hope this season isn't a precession but it is hard to see where the excitement will come from in 2012


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