The season opener at Qatar saw few surprises, but there were some. For one, after a typically blistering start serial Fast-Man Casey Stoner fell back into the clutches of a hard charging Lorenzo who blew past him with seeming ease and never looked back. Pedrosa, after a seemingly dismal qualifying, tried to give chase but fell short of the mark. A number of theories were put forth concerning the reversal of fortune, but the word from the horse's mouth lay the blame on arm pump, a persistent issue that has haunted Casey for a good part of his GP career. The CRTs failed to finish ahead of a single "prototype" bike, however the pleasant surprise was that they fared far better than many believed.
Coming into Jerez, the CRTs will once again be the focus of attention as chassis changes abound across all classes. FTR takes some high profile losses across the board, however they are making inroads in Moto3. Meanwhile, sliding under the radar is the return of a carbon fiber chassis to GP racing. The idea, proposed by Czsyz, then realized and summarily abandoned by Ducati, will once again be campaigned - this time by Inmotec. This departure from the status quo in terms of building material in many ways represents the only "alternative" chassis circulating in a series designed around non-standard equipment.
On the rider side, it surprises no-one that the... events of 2011 are at the forefront of everyone's memory. Casey Stoner will be making a run for a premier Jerez victory. He had a strong start last year, but an ill fated pass by Rossi saw an end to his race, though not his season. Casey can take some comfort in the fact that the collision brought much needed design changes to the RC212V that may have been problematic as the season wore on. For his part Rossi is being much more laid back regarding this weekend after struggling massively for race pace at the last outing. His hopes are pinned on settings gained during previous testing. If the team can make progress from the base settings developed earlier this year, and (perhaps even more critically) if Ducati can bring some of the much needed new parts to bear, Rossi may stand a chance of challenging closer to the front. There is a possibility of rain this weekend, again. Rossi will be working hard not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Elsewhere in the field, the satellite teams are showing how much confidence can be gained from strong finishes early in the season. Tech 3's Cal Crutchlow has podium hopesgoing into round two after a rousing battle for the top five in the season opener. Likewise San Carlo Honda's Bautista, who finished just outside of the top 5, also has podium hopes. The likelihood that both riders will oust enough of the factory bikes of Spies, Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Stoner to place on the podium are slim, but it is the thrill of the unknown that makes the racing worth watching.