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GP Week : Issue 146
BRIEFLY » Class favourite Maverick Vinales was fastest in the all-new 250 four-stroke Moto3 class at the Jerez group tests, his Honda FTR finally and narrowly ousting Briton Danny Kent’s KTM from the top of the listing. A sensational third place went to second Honda FTR rider Romano Fenati. The Italian teenager is in his first GP season. » The new Moto3 bikes may sound like “a lawnmower with a hole in the exhaust”, according to Mahindra rider Danny Webb, but the riders liked them. As the same rider said: “They’re not much heavier than a 125, and you can really chuck them around. I think the racing will be great.” » The Moto3 four-strokes are already up to the speed of the 125 two-strokes they have replaced, even at the beginning of their development. Vinales’s time of 1’46.838 was less than a hundredth of a second slower than Marquez’s best-ever time at Jerez. » Moto2 champion Stefan Bradl believes the step from Moto2 to MotoGP is bigger than that from 125 to Moto2 “Some guys think the gap should not be so big between the medium and top class, but I don’t agree. It should be completely different. I think it is now a little bit bigger step than from 125 to Moto2.” » Rain on the second of three days of MotoGP testing gave a first chance to test one of this year’s innovations ... red tail-lights to be used in wet conditions. Riders welcomed the change. “It’s a good idea ... because last year in Silverstone, it’s okay if you’re in the top three or four, but when you are in the pack going down the back straightaway and the spray starts coming up, quite honestly it’s a bit dangerous. If an accident was to happen you can’t see it,” said Ben Spies. » The other innovation for all classes is a guard to prevent the front brake being locked in the case of a rear-end collision – the cause of a number of accidents over the years. All designs must be approved by Race Direction, with a major consideration being to avoid any chance of a riders hand becoming trapped. The perceived superiority of the factory Repsol Hondas has taken a bit of a knock as testing wore on ... and it’s not just hopeful Yamaha riders saying so. According to Honda rider Dani Pedrosa, “I think the level is pretty similar now, from the riding and the cornering and everything.” Last year’s powerful seamless shift Honda had a definite edge over its main rival, and it was expected that they would carry it over to this year . .. a fact borne out by top rider Casey Stoner’s domination at the first two tests at Sepang. Stoner was fastest at Jerez as well – but only at the last gasp, and by less than two tenths. Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo said at the time he thought the new 1000cc M1 had closed up, but this was to be expected. Times at Jerez tests proved it was more than just the usual PR flim-flam. Asked again at Jerez whether he thought the new bike was closer, the 2010 champion said: “Yes. This is the general feeling and I think we feel the same. We are closer, but we must wait for a couple of races to be sure.” Team-mate Ben Spies was more expansive. “Compared to last year, it looks better on paper. I haven’t been with any of them on the track. Qatar is a different type of track, so to really understand the level of the bikes straight up against one another it’s going to be the second and third rounds. “That is when we can make a comparison and decide what we will need to work on. So far on two different types of tracks – it doesn’t look like we’re dominating but it doesn’t look like they are dominating either,” said the American. Only Casey Stoner would not be drawn. “I haven’t really seen the Yamahas. I make an effort to stay away from others – I don’t want to be followed and I don’t want to follow anyone,” he said. One aspect that possibly favours the Yamaha is the new-generation Bridgestone control tyres ... see separate news story. HONDA V YAMAHA: THE GAP CLOSES 10 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> NEWS