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Randy Mamola reflects on the MotoGP Official Tests

Randy Mamola reflects on the MotoGP Official Tests

Randy Mamola reflects on the MotoGP Official Tests

Living in Spain, I have to say I was pretty embarrassed about the weather which affected the MotoGP Official Tests at both Catalunya and Jerez. I spend all year telling people how nice it is here and then when everybody comes we have this freak cold snap that has wrecked the 2004 season preparations - typical!

It is difficult to analyse the two tests because, with the conditions as they were, we are looking at a total of just a couple of hours' dry track time and that is no use for us - the fans - or the teams. So, we have to be careful not to look too deeply into the classification, but I think there are certain things we can definitely ascertain from the tests.

Firstly, the effort made by Yamaha and in particular Valentino Rossi to win the BMW Z4 on Sunday in the timed 40 minute session was fantastic, and it represents a great achievement on both parts. Going on the evidence of the past two seasons, the M1 has always been a difficult bike to find a set-up for quickly, and that seems to be the main factor that Valentino, Jerry Burgess and his crew have addressed this winter. At Catalunya Valentino was quick right out of the box, getting into the low 1'45s almost immediately, and that is extremely important going into the new season.

There was a lot of pressure during those 40 minutes, with the riders not having had much time, the cool track temperatures and then the multiple crash at the start of the session. Several riders found themselves out of contention for the car for various reasons and it was almost a pre-test to the couple of hours that remained after the television cameras were switched off. It is during that time that people really showed their cards and, in terms of breaking down what really went on at Catalunya, it is where we can find the key information.

Riding on race tyres and putting together strings of laps resembling half race-distance simulations, there were six guys who were consistently quick. Alex Barros, Sete Gibernau, Nicky Hayden, Colin Edwards, Valentino Rossi and, surprisingly, Ruben Xaus, all kept a strong rhythm in the low 1'45s, which suggests to me that they are the six riders who have really got something together for the first race at South Africa. The rest were obviously still trying to find a basic set-up and, with so little time available before the first race, that is not good news.

Having sad that it was good to see the Suzuki in the top ten again and, likewise, the Kawasaki. It seems that Bridgestone have developed a tyre that is good for a couple of laps - let's hope they have made similar progress with their race tyres.

The quickest man at the test was again Valentino Rossi and, at the end of the day, if you go quicker than the guys around you then you win races and titles regardless of conditions and lap times. You could say Rossi is now tied at 2-2 with Honda, who maintained their dominance at the private tests at Sepang and Phillip Island but were eclipsed by a blossoming relationship between Rossi and Yamaha at Catalunya and Jerez.

Again, though, it is important to keep things in perspective and as I said before it would be rash to look too deeply into the results. Rossi's lap time of 1'42.656 is just outside Alex Barros' best time riding the Yamaha at the official test at the same circuit in February 2003, which I think is quite interesting.

The team who has really suffered the most from the bad weather is the factory Ducati team, who desperately needed plenty of dry track time to set up their 2004 version of the Desmosedici. They have got so many new things still to test and both Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss are struggling through what has become a critical situation as the countdown to the new season begins. It could be that they are now playing catch-up over the first couple of races but, as we saw last season, Ducati know how to make a motorcycle and both Capirossi and Bayliss certainly know how to ride one.

One final thing I'd like to point out about these tests is that, as a rider, it is very difficult to be sat around on your backside all day waiting for the track to dry out and then, all of a sudden, have to go out there and do the business. Different riders will have reacted to that situation in different ways, so again I have to stress the importance of not looking too deeply into the lap times they were able to set during just a couple of hours testing. I'm sure there will be more than one guy looking to spring a surprise in South Africa and it promises to be a fantastic start to the new season when we head out there in just over a week's time.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2004

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