After leading the first day and ranking in the top three for the remaining two, Loris Capirossi was the surprise of the Sepang test.
Now that the MotoGP test at Sepang has been run we now have a very clear indication that both Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner will be the main contenders for the championship in 2009, but we already expected that. The big surprise is the rise of Suzuki.
After leading the first day and ranking in the top three for the remaining two, Loris Capirossi was the surprise of the test, riding his GSV-R without Rizla sponsorship and giving the front runners a real shake up.
Suzuki has worked hard in the off-season and have great experience with Bridgestone tyres, although it is common in years previous that Suzuki tends to suit selected circuits and not others – Phillip Island being their number one bogey track.
Both riders were competitive in Sepang, with Chris Vermeulen also up in the top five on most occasions throughout the test, so let’s hope that the team can really pull together and regain the competitiveness that they showed in the 500cc two-stroke era.
We kept a close eye on the front runners during the test, but looking at the hoard of satellite riders and teams, there’s every chance that those guys could surprise, too.
Honda has Toni Elias on the Gresini Honda, who is destined to give both Repsol Honda factory riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso a real challenge, especially since he’s on a factory-spec bike without the pressures of HRC in the main squad. His teammate Alex de Angelis will need to step it up in his second MotoGP season, while Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) and Yuki Takahashi (Team Scot) will really have to push hard if they are to make a serious dent in the results tally.
Ducati has both Mika Kallio and Sete Gibernau who showed promise in Sepang, Kallio a series rookie and Gibernau a veteran returning for war. Kallio will still be acclimatising to the brutal four-stroke power, while Sete said that he’s getting used to the ever developing electronics. Former Superstock champ Niccolo Canepa is going to have his work cut out for him as he goes from test rider to racer, although all will be aiming to bring down Nicky Hayden and his factory GP9.
That leaves the Tech 3 Yamaha duo of Colin Edwards and James Toseland, both who are former world champions in their own right, and both are wrapped with the new spec tyre rules – even if Toseland is still getting comfortable after his massive 200km/h fall. These guys are rumoured to be on the verge of finalising Monster Energy backing, which would be a real shot in the arm for the French outfit.
Elias was top satellite in Sepang, although Kallio’s top 10 performance is an eye opener too on the vicious Desmosedici.
In other news, there are rumours that Kawasaki’s bikes will run unbranded this year without Michael Bartholemy, under the guidance of Dorna. Check back tomorrow for more info.
The Moto2 class that is to be introduced as a replacement for the 250cc Grand Prix class is nicely developing as a true development category for MotoGP, with Tech 3 Yamaha now poised to join the series. Team boss Herve Poncharal told Crash.net Radio that his team will build a bike this year, and also urged other satellite MotoGP teams to do so as well. The controversial class could really take off in the future if it does attract the major GP teams.
An interesting topic in the lead up to this year’s Superbike World Championship is the speculation as to who will claim the title now that Troy Bayliss is gone. Well, the man himself has said that both Noriyuki Haga and Ben Spies are the favourites to take the title, also mentioning former teammate Michel Fabrizio back in December last year. Bayliss will remain a Ducati man, testing both the MotoGP and SBK machinery on occasion this year.