After an exciting season in the sport, with rumoured and actual retirements of some of its luminaries, it looks like this year’s title will come down to a fierce battle between Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo – unless the currently injured defending champion Casey Stoner achieves a miraculous comeback in his last season.
Stoner looked on course for a fairytale end to his career with a third Moto GP title when he broke an ankle at practice in Indianapolis, effectively ruling him out until the last few races. He looks on course to make the starting grid for Sepang, though, which will give fans one last chance to see a true great of the sport before he bows out.
The 2012 season saw the introduction of larger engines, 1000cc up from 800cc, which has made the bikes faster and more aggressive, so expect plenty of exciting overtaking at Sepang on the long straights and quick corners. Also changed this year are the tyres, after Bridgestone rubbers were found to be very slow to warm up. This caused consternation among the riders and indeed injury – for example Valentino Rossi’s broken leg at Mugello in 2010.
Ex-rider Loris Capirossi was appointed Moto GP safety advisor and had a lot of input between the riders and the Japanese tyre manufacturer. Unfortunately, this season, the problem has reversed, with the rubbers warming very quickly and also seemingly blistering badly at higher temperatures, with the worst case being at Assen, where both Rossi and Yamaha (now future Ducati) rider Ben Spies reported huge chunks of rubber falling off their rear tyres.
This could be down to the increased torque from the new engines on the rear wheels, but either way, in the tropical heat of Sepang, the teams may well be praying for rain! In the autumn of his career, Rossi or “The Doctor” is no longer the tour-de-force that once dominated the sport, and claimed six titles before jumping to Ducati in 2011.
Being hampered by old injuries and a bike that has struggled to compete with its Japanese rivals hasn’t helped his cause; however, his switch back to Yamaha next season might spark a resurgence for the Italian maestro.
The 2012 season looks to be coming down to a two-horse race with Lorenzo in the driving seat after Pedrosa’s calamitous weekend at Mugello left him a long way off his fellow Spaniard. It will be an uphill struggle for Pedrosa to claim his maiden title, but after a dominant performance at Aragon, a sliver of hope still remains.
So the stage is set for a fantastic and nailbiting race at Sepang, and maybe even a title decider. See you there!