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GP Week : Issue 37
>>MOTOINSIGHT example, adapting from Michelin to Bridgestone (including Dovizioso and Lorenzo) will be doubly hampered by the lack of testing and set-up time. Similarly, teams lagging behind technically will now have even less time in which to catch up. Kawasaki’s withdrawal came as a shock. The axe fell at the end of the year, the factory citing financial reasons. This triggered frantic lobbying both by Dorna, anxious not to lose a factory, and the former Kawasaki teamsters, anxious to keep their jobs. A rescue package saved new rider Marco Melandri but not last year’s often-injured incumbent John Hopkins, who was contracted for this year. Kawasaki will provide an upgraded motorcycle … but not any identity. The team will be called Hayate (Hurricane): this is the Kawasaki that dare not speak its name. Grid-fillers aside, there is plenty to look forward to. There is every promise of a battle royal for the title. Rossi turned 30 during the break. Nobody believes for a minute it will slow the Fiat Yamaha rider down. But this is the last year of his contract and, while publicly equivocal, he has privately aired the thought it may be his last. He surely has little left to prove … except that he can go out still at the top. Always and still the man to beat. And very ready to race. Stoner, at the other end of his career, may not be so. There are still questions about the Marlboro Ducati man’s left wrist. An old fracture spoiled his end of 2008, he underwent immediate surgery, but at February and March tests he felt it was far from fully recovered. There was even talk he might not make the season at all. Or is he just playing games. There’s no faking Pedrosa’s problems. Honda’s top man crashed at Qatar tests, and sustained fractures to his left wrist and leg. He will definitely miss final tests at Jerez in the last weekend in March, and possibly the first race or two. A big blow to his hopes. Especially with the added pressure of comingman Andrea Dovizioso in Hayden’s old place alongside him in the Repsol Honda pit. The “P”in Pedrosa stands for Pressure. Lorenzo has the Bridgestone hill to climb, but was making a fair fist of by the end of Qatar tests. He can expect no help from team-mate Rossi: the wall down the middle of the pit installed last year, when each used different tyre brands, will stay there this year. American eyes will be on Nicky Hayden as the 2006 World Champion strives to evade the hoodoo that has stricken previous number-two factory Ducati riders. In tests he was struggling to match up to rookie satellite Duke riders Mike Kallio and Niccolò Canepa. If hard work has anything to do with it, that situation won’t last too long. Suzuki returns with another round of upgrades and strong test times. But both Capirossi and Vermeulen were calling for more speed, and unless it comes they’ll be working very hard for slender rewards once again. Some satellite teams are at least as strong as the fourth factory. Tech 3’s Colin Edwards, another rider with the end in sight, was quicker to adapt to Bridgestones than team-mate James Toseland, and the Texan always bears watching. Gresini Honda has a full factory bike for Elias, who needs to add consistency to his spirited style. And plenty of people will be watching Sete Gibernau, making a comeback after two years away, on a satellite Ducati. Once, Sete raced with Rossi. Can he do so again? There remains one last round of official tests before the season begins in earnest … at Jerez in the last weekend in March. The results there could prove crucial, and it’s the last chance to get things right. Two weeks later, racing proper starts in Qatar and Japan, before commencing the European grind in earnest. 35