The pre-season is now officially over. We're in MotoGP limbo for two weeks while we await the Qatar Grand Prix, at our leisure to pore over the Jerez timesheets and try to predict how things will pan out at the season opener on April 8th.
Casey Stoner is still undoubtedly the fastest man in MotoGP —in particular over a short stint. Only a couple of things stand out about the reigning world champion's winter besides his consistent quickness.
Firstly, he never ran a race simulation. His reasons for not doing so have been explained before and the engineers were obviously happy to indulge the wishes of the rider who could never be described as 'orthodox' in his approach to wringing the most out of a bike, but we are going into a new season with new bikes and a whole lot of theory that could perhaps do with some practical testing.
Fuel consumption isn't going to be a matter of complete guesswork - there is rarely such a thing in MotoGP - but when cylinder capacity is changed, sometimes the factories get caught out. Bikes stopping on the cool down lap is an efficiency ideal, but we saw top riders cut things very fine when the series moved to 800cc in 2007. There were plenty of times when we saw riders parking up the bike right after crossing the line that season and there is little margin for error. For the sake of putting in an extra twenty-something laps, a race simulation would have helped at least confirm the demands of the 1000cc —as ridden by Stoner- in practice.
Dani Pedrosa did, eventually, get 27 straight laps under his belt, with a focus on fitness rather than checking out bike performance. The extra 4kg packed onto the Honda RC213V is affecting the Spaniard far more than his teammate, who has a vastly different riding style despite the similar weights of both riders.
Jorge Lorenzo has really got his chops down as well, hitting lap after lap at the Circuito de Jerez with awe-inspiring consistency. Track temperatures were slightly colder than those for his 2010 dry race win at the track, but all indications point to the 2012 GP being run in the low 1:40s at the very slowest up front.
The difference to those 1:43s at the bottom of the timesheet - on their fastest laps and not even a race simulation - means that we are going to see riders being lapped at the Spanish Grand Prix. It's going to happen towards the end of the race too, at a track where the gap between the leading pair has regularly been fewer than three seconds in the dry on the final laps. CRT riders were never going to be causing problems for the factory riders at the head of a race through speed, but their lack of pace is going to bring them right into the mix and create some nervy moments in close contests and slightly slow down runaway riders cruising to victory, however careful they are when the blue flags come out.
That's the slowest of the CRT competitors; the Yonny Hernandez and Ivan Silvas of the 2012 grid. Further up, those times from Randy De Puniet on the ART are pretty impressive, all things considered. 0.22 behind Karel Abraham's satellite Ducati indicates the crossover point between old and new.
Off topic, I still miss the BMW M Award timed shootout: GP Zero. The prize was largely irrelevant — Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards sold their coupés within a few weeks of winning them - but it was always fun to see the riders serving an aperitif for the season ahead. The teams largely saw the original competition as an unwelcome distraction, even in those days of unlimited testing, from the task at hand. A superpole style head-to head, for a final hour of testing, would at least reward those fans who come along to Jerez to watch what can be a fairly dry experience.