This year’s MotoGP season is one of the most highly anticipated ever. As testing continues at the Sepang racetrack in Malaysia, fans and commentators are already salivating over what promises to be a more exciting and varied championship battle than has been seen in recent years.
The past three seasons have all lacked that special tight championship fight which sparks a good season of racing into a truly memorable one.
Yet, if the testing form is a reliable sign of form, as it must be seen to be, this season is promising to deliver that special spark.
Valentino Rossi, the seven time premier class champion returns to Yamaha to partner reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo, while over at the other Japanese titan – Honda – promising rookie Marc Marquez debuts alongside three-time championship runner-up, Dani Pedrosa.
Testing form shows that while Lorenzo and Pedrosa have a slight edge over their team mates, all four are close enough in pace to create a four way title battle, something not seen for many a year.
Four contenders there may be, but it would be an unprecedented and extraordinary achievement if Marquez was still in with a shot come the Valencia finale. The 20 year old, Spaniard faces a team mate with seven seasons of experience in MotoGP, including 22 wins and 71 podium finishes.
These are the amazing career statistics of Pedrosa, yet he has never managed a championship victory, arguably due to a tendency to fall off his bike all too regularly.
However, the end of 2012 saw a new evolution of Pedrosa, a consistent one, a guy who had finally found the ability to race on his limit without straying beyond it. It was a limit that took him to six wins out of the last eight grands prix.
If Pedrosa continues this kind of form, then Lorenzo faces a monumental struggle if he is to become a triple champion. Testing shows he seems to have the match of Rossi, whose 34 year old frame looks to have had its finest edges worn since his 2009 championship winning year at Yamaha.
Yet this is Rossi, so who knows whether we will see any more of the magical moments which he managed to make a trademark of his own. Lorenzo himself was on the receiving end of some of these, the last corner overtake at Catalunya 2009 by Rossi surely lingers at the back of Lorenzo’s mind every time he looks at the “doctor” alongside him in the blue Yamaha garage.
Furthermore, a third strand to the championship battle could come from Ducati, who have worked all winter to reel in the Japanese teams and who are aiming for wins with their revitalised rider line-up of Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden.
According to the testing times from Sepang though, they have a bit more work to do if they are to catch the Japanese teams.
Britain hasn’t had a MotoGP champion since Barry Sheene in 1977, but for 2013 there are three Brits on the grid. Bradley Smith joins Cal Crutchlow at Yamaha’s second team, and Michael Laverty, moves up from British Superbikes to claim a CRT bike.
After a couple of years where MotoGP was looking tired, 2013, if it delivers, looks set to serve up the adrenaline that all motorbike racing fans have been waiting for.