Thoughts from the opening day of MotoGP 2011


Casey Stoner looks ready to dominate once again Honda rider Casey Stoner looks primed and ready to dominate proceedings this weekend with the Honda rider clearly the class of the field after the opening practice session.

Stoner, a three time premier class winner in Qatar, has the benefit of the fastest bike in the class but he is riding better than ever and looks exceptionally confident this weekend. Stoner is riding the bike as aggressively as ever but has no fears of suffering the front end issues that led to his high profile crashes in 2010.

The Australian is in the sort of form that saw him dominate MotoGP in 2007 en route to his only world title.

Lorenzo struggles continue Reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo lamented after testing that his “grandmother could have set a faster time” and his woes continued today with the Spaniard ending the day seventh, and slower than teammate Ben Spies.

It is likely that Lorenzo will find a solution to his struggles and race well, probably to a podium finish, but it is clear that the Yamaha M1 is off the pace in Qatar and Lorenzo is not a match for Marco Simoncelli in terms of sheer speed. The Spaniard’s legendary race craft will be needed on Sunday if he is to have any chance of competing with the Repsol riders.

It is more likely therefore that Lorenzo will race conservatively and bring home a solid points haul with a third or fourth place finish before heading to Jerez and a circuit that should suit the M1 much better.

Rossi has a solid opening day Valentino Rossi’s first day aboard the Ducati saw the Italian enjoy a solid performance in finishing the session fifth fastest. While there is always an expectation that Rossi will head the timesheets and win races it is clear that the Ducati is not a match for the Honda at this point and as a result a more realistic expectation is need for Rossi for this weekend.

Until his shoulder heals fully, and Rossi is at 100%, it will be impossible to gauge exactly how he will fare over the course of the year. At present it is crucial that Valentino can stay in title contention with top five finishes in the opening races. This weekend will be a struggle for the nine times world champion who is clearly off the pace of the likes of Simoncelli and he will suffer at the hands of Lorenzo and Spies during the race who should have stronger race pace.

With restricted testing it is clear that Rossi and Jeremy Burgees will need time to develop the Ducati into the bike that it needs to become. There was an expectation that the move to Ducati would be as instantly successful as Valentino’s 2004 move to Yamaha but with such competition at the front of the MotoGP field there was little chance of that occurring. Incremental progress is what Ducati need to make so that by the time Rossi is fully fit the bike will have reached a developmental stage that will allow Rossi to maximise its performance.

Marquez’ rapid adaptation to Moto2 Last season the struggle of adapting from a two-stroke machine to the four-stroke Moto2 bike was perfectly illustrated by the likes of Mike di Meglio. The Frenchman, a former 125cc champion and 250cc front runner could not understand the changed characteristics of the 600cc machines. He was far from alone with a group of riders unable to make the adjustment.

Reigning 125cc champion Marc Marquez though showed no signs of struggling to make the transition to the intermediate class with the Spaniard looking in superb form in both practice sessions. Marquez is an exceptionally talented rider but it was still surprising to see him set fastest sector times and challenge more experienced racers at the front of the field.

Last season in 125’s Marquez was clearly the class of the field and only reliability issues and an unfortunate crash in Aragon meant that it was only at the final race of the season that he lifted the crown. The speed, maturity and intelligence that he showcased in the smallest class will serve him even better in Moto2 where the ability to think on your feet is crucial in the “helter skelter” action of races.

Terol’s dominance in 125s While Marquez, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith all left the 125 class for Moto2, Nico Terol stayed in the smallest class in an effort to win his first world title. The Spaniard looked utterly dominant today and is ready to get his title assault off to a fast start.

Terol, a former Spanish national champion, looks primed and ready for an exceptionally dominant season and while challengers always come to the fore in this class there is little reason to suggest that Terol can be challenged on a regular basis. Last season he was exceptionally consistent, just one finish outside of the top four, and as a result any potential challenger will face an uphill task to take the fight to Terol.

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