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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

New Blood In MotoGP for ’06

The “silly season” for MotoGP has reached it’s midway point, and it looks like the world’s top roadracing series will feature a few new faces. Three-time World Champion (2003 125cc, 2004 and 2005 250cc) Dani Pedrosa will be riding a Repsol Honda alongside Nicky Hayden, while 2005 World Superbike runner-up Chris Vermeulen will team with John Hopkins, aboard a factory Suzuki GSV-R.

Pedrosa is likely to be joined in the MotoGP class by rival Casey Stoner, another former 250cc racer. Stoner, who finished second behind Pedrosa in last year’s 250cc World Championship, tested a Honda Pons RC211V for team owner Sito Pons at the recent MotoGP test in Valencia, and is likely to join that team for 2006.

Despite finishing second in the championship, Stoner bested Pedrosa several times in last season’s 250cc racing, often in spectacular fashion – winning five 250cc races in total in 2005. He carried this impressive form into the Valencia test (his first ride on the RC211V), with his best time of 1’35.0 being the fourth fastest of the test – a full half second quicker than Pedrosa, who had already ridden the RC211V at a previous test. Outpacing Sete Gibernau and Carlos Checa in his first outing on a modern MotoGP bike is an impressive feat indeed, and if Stoner can bring this kind of speed during the race season he will surely be a strong contender for podium finishes.

The European media is already promoting Dani Pedrosa as Spain’s answer to Valentino Rossi, but one look at the diminutive 5’2″, 103lb Pedrosa leaves one wondering whether he has the strength necessary to throw around a big (at least compared to a 250), powerful MotoGP bike. Pedrosa earned the adulation of the Spanish public by winning the 250cc title in his first year in the class (2004), and successfully defending that title in 2005. Of the three rookies riding at the test, Pedrosa had the most experience aboard his mount, having already ridden the Repsol Honda RC211V at a previous test. Despite this, he posted the slowest time of the three. However, test times are not a season, and Pedrosa’s 250cc titles show that he has the consistency and heart to keep pushing all season long.

Finally we come to Chris Vermeulen. Vermeulen isn’t entirely new to MotoGP – he contested two GPs last year, in Australia and Turkey, aboard a Camel Honda RC211V (filling in for an injured Troy Bayliss). In 2006 he will be racing a factory Suzuki, as teammate to John Hopkins.

Vermeulen has accomplished some impressive feats in his career so far – 2nd place in the 2005 WSB Championship being among the most notable. In his first two MotoGP races, Vermeulen garnered a pair of 11th place finishes, beating a number of MotoGP regulars in the process. It’s easy to tell that Vermeulen posseses the raw talent necessary to be a MotoGP success – the bigger question is whether the 2006 Suzuki will give him a competitive weapon. Though showing flashes of brilliance this year, overall the Suzuki has been adrift of the pack just as in 2004. If Vermeulen is provided with a competitive bike, well, who knows what he could do?

In any event, the 2006 MotoGP season will be more exciting than ever, and the inclusion of these three talented rookies will only serve to enhance the championship.

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