The throaty roar of an inline-four, the swish of a chequered flag, the camaraderie of riding together, and the legends and their greatest hits.

The First Day of History?

Valentino Rossi @ Silverstone, 2011. Pic courtesy Dave_Allen_2011
http://www.flickr.com/photos/daveallan/

Yeah, I am one of those ones.

You know the sort, like a child with a bucket full of candy, clapping her hands every time she hears the jet-fighter explosion of a superbike coming to life.

I am the one who loves motorcycles and the beauty in their lines that evolves with every season.

I am the kind who watches the races, and rides with the riders, leaning over just a little, to make that turn. There is poetry there, I believe. The last time, I saw that poetry – the intricate ballet racers dance – was in the F1 with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. I see that now, every time, in the MotoGP.

Yes, I am most definitely one of those ones: the starry-eyed fool.

So, it is perhaps then a cliché, when I say I am excited about MotoGP’s 2012 season that kicks off in Qatar this weekend. Excited is such a dull word, isn’t it? After all, the 2012 season holds so much promise. Even as teams attempt to understand these new, powerful, heavy bikes, the old faces struggle to climb up the ladder once again. MotoGP is at a turning point.

There is change in the air, folks. But then, isn’t change inevitable?

More Power to Us

Out with the 800cc and in with the 1000cc. So be prepared for some awesome action, as the riders struggle to control their machines, more powerful than ever before. There are interesting debates on this shift. But one thing is for sure; this change will allow riders to correct corner entry-exit mistakes. That, of course, also means more overtaking for us, the keen viewers. Here’s a great BBC article that explains this perfectly.

Dani Pedrosa (Honda Repsol), in an interview on the MotoGP website, said these bikes are definitely a “tougher ride… takes more out of you physically”. He also says, the rider also feels the 4-kg increase in weight, especially while braking and changing direction. You can read the complete interview here.

Gridlock?

Aspar Team's ApriliaART at the Qatar practice session (2012) Pic from: http://www.motogp.asparteam.com

A landmark moment is the introduction of the CRTs – Claiming Rule Teams – that will populate the grid and increase it to 21 riders. This is a move that has perhaps been resisted by many a MotoGP purist. However, the more forward-looking critics believe that the CRTs will bring in the much-needed excitement and keep MotoGP alive. Perhaps the most interesting entrant in the CRT list is the new Aprilia ART. The grid has already started talking about the manufacturer who entered WSBK and won the championship in its second season. It is now busy storming the CRTs at MotoGP. Power Electronics Aspar’s Randy de Puniet will be riding the ART, which uses an RSV4 engine and an all-aluminium chassis made by Aprilia. This brilliant article has lots more on the CRTs. You can read it here.

The Line-up

2011 was Casey Stoner through and through, leaving Valentino ‘The Doctor’ Rossi fans terribly disappointed. This was perhaps the first time in his career that he failed to win a race, and ended up at a lowly 7th in the Championship. Will things change? Will the Rossi magic shine on the new Desmos? These are questions that are still up in the air – despite the two testing sessions at Sepang and Jerez – and there is also much at stake. Rossi’s contract finishes this year. And there’s retirement talk as well (Rossi recently said he’s considering a 2014 retirement). Teammate Nicky Hayden managed to post the third fastest time at the first practice session in Qatar. Rossi meanwhile posted the 10th quickest, on the new Desmosedici GP12. Post-practice, he said in a statement, “It’s the first practice, and I used the hard tire the whole session, trying to do a lot of laps in order to understand it. The new tire is much better for warming up, so good for safety, but it started to slide a lot after some laps and made some of the under-steer worse. We have to work with the setting and also the electronics. The soft will be important for Saturday, but the hard will be the tire for the race. Tomorrow we’ll try to do better.”  It seems like there is work to be done on the bike. But the team better work fast. Defending champion and new dad Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) topped the practice session easily outpacing Jorge Lorenzo (Monster Yamaha), and over a second ahead of Rossi. Things aren’t any better with the end of the final practice session. Lorenzo set the pace, followed closely by Cal Crutchlow and Stoner. Hayden and Rossi ended up in the 7th and 8th position. But don’t forget the new CRT teams – most of them young, and raring to go. There are also the old hands who are bound to bring a twist to the competition. Like, double European Superstock champion and World Endurance champion James Ellison (#77) who returns to MotoGP with Paul Bird Motorsport. Colin Edwards with NGM Mobile Forward Racing and Puniet with Power Electronics Aspar.

While, for now, it seems like Stoner and Lorenzo are the men to track. However, it is perhaps, too early to place bets. The odds are way different from last year. It’s open season in 2012.

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