Indeed, even with many teams using their 2006 Chassis, the bikes are still achieving higher corner speeds, later braking, and lap times on par with last years benchmarks.
A case in point, last year, Rossi took pole at Sepang with a 2’00.605, Hayden was second with a 2’01.043. This year in testing at Sepang on the new 800’s, Rossi topped the timesheets on the M1-800 with a time of 2’00.936 from John Hopkins on a Suzuki with a 2’01.026!
With testing at Phillip Island underway today, its clear that this years machines are not far off last years pace, and with the constant development of the high tech MotoGP prototypes, it wont be far into the year where the bikes are even faster than last year.
But what about the championship?
Rossi, hungry to avenge last years loss will be a threat, a revised and revitalized Suzuki look threatening early on, and many in the paddock are punting on the new lightweight breed epitomized by Pedrosa and Elias.
Nicky Hayden will suffer on the under powered 800 because of his roots in WSBK and will need to readjust and alter his riding style to prove that last years success was no fluke. Meanwhile, compatriot Kenny Roberts Junior will surprise on the KR212V, the Roberts team demonstrated their talent and resourcefulness last year with a string of successes.
Casey Stoner, dubbed by many ‘Crashy Stoner’ after a run of DNF’s last year will have to work hard on the Ducati to not be over shadowed by the seemingly rapid progression of Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen.
Shinya Nakano has yet to make the impact many expected after his defection from the under performing Kawasaki to the well resourced Honda. The Honda recruit is circulating slower then his former team mate Randy De Puniet, but it is still early in the season, he is likely to challenge for regular podiums.
Marco Melandri is running out of time to prove his mettle against the rest of the field. Bad luck and injury kept him away from the pointy end of the field last year, this year may be the last opportunity for this close friend of Rossi to establish himself as a regular title contender.
And then there was Loris, Capirossi suffered from the collision at Catalunya, and most likely will be anxious to prove that given a clean run, he is a title contender. Loris flew the flag high for Ducati for most of last year, and was third in testing at Sepang, demonstrating once again that the veteran is a genuine contender.
The change to 800cc’s has bought the teams and manufacturers closer together, and given an opportunity for the riders to shine. 2007 will be a close season, but I think ultimately the top ten positions in the rider’s championship will be filled by these people in or around this order:
8. Roberts Jnr
10. De Puniet
Times referenced from: www.motogp.com