Marc Marquez in action last yearTesting in the Moto2 class is picking up pace. The intermediate category has held a series of run-outs over the past few weeks, teams have worked on their new chassis and new arrivals have been getting acclimatised to packed grids and a step up (or down, in some cases) in engine capacity.
Yet we still don't have many more clues as to who will be fighting for race wins come the Qatar GP.
In theory, Moto2 provides a level playing field both on track and financially for all participating teams. That may be so when the season gets underway, but beforehand we have a free-for-all when it comes to the matter of what engine goes into each prototype chassis in testing.
The 2012 spec motor will not be given out until the final Jerez test, but in the meantime everyone has their own method for gathering data with some variant of a 600cc engine.
Keep in mind, of course, that these parts are not provided by the series organiser and are taken out of the teams' budget. It is the standard cost-benefit equation present in every form of motorsport and permanently under evaluation.
The closest that one can get to the 2012 spec engine is the 2011 Geo, and at least two of the big teams in the Moto2 paddock have stumped up the cash for testing realism with last year's motor. The other option is to take a Supersport engine, tune it to roughly replicate Moto2 characteristics and then set the riders loose.
"We bought the Geo motors because we wanted to test in as close to race trim as it was possible to get. Those testing with Supersport motors have around 15-20BHP more, which they'll obviously lose when they switch to the race motor for the last Jerez test," says Marc VDS Racing communications manager Ian Wheeler of the Belgian team's decision to purchase the engines for testing.
It is a strategy that certainly makes sense: a standard engine just doesn't cut it and a Supersport engine brings with it a pyrrhic victory when a team goes faster than their true potential and are subsequently left giving the perception of a fall from grace.
What the almost 'Goldilocks-spec' Geo has going against it is the price tag. It's all about how badly you want it, and how much money you bring to the table.
If the aim of getting the best engine available was to record the fastest lap-time of testing, then there was really no need for those with the Supersport spec. For, whilst we have a series of timesheets to pore over, none of the laps included on them were officially recorded by Dorna's timing department.
Back in the days of private 250cc testing in Barcelona, I was often given the long-winded task of collecting lap-times from the teams. It sounds simple enough: find mechanic leaning over the concrete wall, ask him for the speediest time that he has recorded that day, rinse and repeat, then put all the numbers together and arrange them in order.
It was never that easy. Ask Team X what their best lap was and they will turn the question around: "What did Team Y tell you theirs was?" and so on. Then both riders in a team end up with the same time. Funny, that.
In MotoGP, teams used to beat the transponders by setting their own start/finish marks on the track. Tech 3 took things the other way at GP weekends in late 2007, topping the Friday practice timesheets with Makoto Tamada and Sylvain Guintoli breaking out the qualifying tyres a day before the rest of the field. Now they play it reasonably straight — testing restrictions don't allow for sandbagging.
The moral of the tale is that the February lap-times don't always tell the whole story.
There is one other factor that distorts the perceived state of play in Moto2: Marc Marquez hasn't returned from injury and eye surgery just yet. Wait until the favourites are all on track and the transponders are attached to their bikes — then we will see who is really ready to challenge.