stoner again making it look easy – official irta test

current world champ, casey stoner, started off this season like he ended the last one – on top of the podium and winning a bmw.
the motogp season officially kicked off this weekend with the jerez irta test that extends until monday. stuck in the middle is the bmw m award, a mini-competition to set the fastest lap during the sunday afternoon session. the winner gets the keys to a brand new z4 m roadster and bragging rights for the rest of season.
heading into the weekend, michelin looked extremely competitive locking in the top 5 spots in the saturday session. nicky hayden, randy de puniet, and james toseland impressed me the most setting a quick pace on less than ideal equipment. remember, all these riders are using last year’s spring-valve engines while the likes of rossi and stoner are riding the latest kit. rossi and stoner were down in 8th and 9th, respectively, which was perplexing.
conditions deteriorated over night and rains soaked the track for sundays’ test sessions. the wet track made for a rather boring m award competition. riders were tip-toeing the bikes around trying to avoid an off and injury. stoner set the fastest lap of the day with a 1’49.263 on his 5th lap (of only 9) with 26 mins left in the session. it was then a matter of the field playing catch up. rossi managed a 1’50.580 in the tricky conditions as a dry line was slowly developing. it boggles my mind (and probably the rest of the field’s) that stoner can run so few laps yet be so fast. as rossi and melandri said earlier this week, stoner is the master of traction control and it showed sunday afternoon.
even though there’s still a day left in the test, my faith in randy de puniet was restored saturday with a stupendously fast time on qualifiers that was almost 2 sec quicker than last year’s pole. furthermore, his pace on race tires wasn’t too shabby either. i’m calling it right now that the “crash king” will be the most improved rider for ’08 and will be at the sharp end of the grid. lucio cecchinello may have another ace in his hand like he did 2 two years ago.
[UPDATE] randy continued his quick pace on race and qualifying tires on mon. he had the fastest 5 lap stint and the 4th fastest single lap time.

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