MotoGP Season PreviewA few weeks ago in Australia the World Superbike Championship series made its debut for 2011 with Spaniard Carlos Checa taking a double win aboard his Althea Ducati.
Last week welcomed the official start of the AMA Pro Road Racing series at the traditional opening round at Daytona. The results were amazing (albeit controversial). And now, as I write this, the 125cc and Moto2 riders have taken to the track in Qatar for the opening round of MotoGP. And in a few minutes the premiere class riders take to the asphalt to officially start the season.For a race junkie like myself nothing quite eases the mind like the racing season getting underway. As an armchair racer, following the winter months with only scattered reports, rumors, banter and bullx&%#, I can escape into the magical world of racing, rooting for my favorite riders while speculating about various teams, bikes, changes, rules, tracks, etc. etc. etc. It’s wonderful. It spirits me away from my daily concerns in life.While certainly the AMA superbike series and the WSBK series possess major excitement, nothing quite gets the blood going like MotoGP, the premiere motorcycle racing series in the world.This season, perhaps more so than any in recent memory, contains enough dramatic elements to stir things up like never before. Already in pre-season testing there has been some shuffling in the stakes and the betting wars. Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Doizioso have reflected Repsol Honda’s fierce determination to regain the kind of dominance they once had over the grid.Obviously the biggest questions have been generated by what is happening in the Ducati garage. After all the hype and drama last year following the much anticipated move by the 7-time World Champion, Valentino Rossi, to Team Ducati, have come the realities of struggles of adapting to the Italian machine-reflected in the time sheets.Normally one could draw relative conclusions from the test timings, however, we’re talking Vale here. In other words; this means nothing. The affable Italian hero has pulled more rabbits out his hat than any other rider in history. Although Valentino is hampered by a nagging shoulder injury while still coming to terms with the red bike, you simply can’t count him out-even in the first round.Sneaking up through the time sheets in pre-season, American Ben Spies has been consistently hovering around the front runners as he comes to grips with the new factory Yamaha ride. Personally, I believe-provide "Elbows" stays healthy-will challenge for the podium all season and, dare I go out on a limb here, earn his first race win within the first half of the season.
The other rider showing marked improvement is Italian Marco Simoncelli. Perhaps the best candidate as heir to Valentino’s charismatic persona in the pit, Simoncelli is showing comfort in the premiere class and has shaken off any hesitation of mixing it up with the gods of MotoGP.American Colin Edwards-in potentially his last year of racing MotoGP-is showing exceptional speed and comfort aboard the Tech3 Yamaha. The third American in the series, Nicky Hayden, though hampered by adjusting to changes in the Ducati, is showing a renewed confidence and desire, reflecting the thirst he had when he first made the trip across the pond.All said, this is racing we’re talking about. All bets are off. The reason we dig this stuff is specifically because of the unknown, the surprises in store. But the important thing is that MotoGP has begun for 2011. It’s anybody’s guess how the coming months are going to unfold. Now you’ll have to excuse me, live timing is coming in from Qatar.