Scott Redding and Mika Kallio can both be 'main contenders' in the 2011 Moto2 World Championship – that is the conviction of Marc VDS Racing team manager Michael Bartholemy following the opening pre-season group test in Valencia last week.
Redding swiftly got back up-to-speed on the first day in Spain despite a two-month lay-off due to the winter testing ban, lapping just seven tenths shy of the benchmark before closing the gap on day two as the young British star resumed the evaluation of new components and settings on his Suter Moto2 machine and conducted a full race simulation. He then went on to post his fastest lap ever around Valencia on day three, as he tied with Marc Márquez at the top of the timesheets.
“It's definitely been a successful test for us,” affirmed the highly-rated 18-year-old, who was forced to sit out the final day of running at Jerez in November following a crash. “The new bike has been set up to suit me more, with a different footrest position and a longer seat unit, but these changes have also affected the balance of the bike.
“At the start, the new bike was riding too much on the rear, but working with my crew chief Pete Benson and our Öhlins suspension technician Mike Norton, we were able to improve things a lot in this area over the three days. Now we need to continue this progression at the next test in Estoril (beginning on Wednesday).”
Kallio, for his part, underwent major surgery on an injured collarbone just one month ago and only regained full movement in the affected arm the week before the Valencia test – leaving him riding in some pain, particularly under braking. The 28-year-old Finn nevertheless boldly gritted his teeth and worked his way down to a lap time just under a second-and-a-half shy of that of his team-mate – and ahead of many fellow Moto2 newcomers.
“This has been a very positive test,” he reported, “and I'm quite happy with how things have gone. If I'd gone another half a second faster then I'd have left completely happy. I didn't really know what to expect from my shoulder after the operation, but it's been more-or-less okay.
“We tried a lot of things on the bike during the test and, lap-by-lap, we saw improvements, but I still need more time to learn how to get the best from it. The more kilometres I do on the bike the more comfortable I feel, so I'm looking forward to continuing the process at Estoril.”
“This first test has been a very positive start to the new season for us,” summarised Bartholemy. “Scott was very quick getting back up-to-speed on the opening day, which allowed us to start evaluating new components and different set-ups almost from the start. We know in which direction we need to go with the bike, and Scott's lap times improved with each set-up change we made during the test.
“Mika underwent a fairly major operation on his shoulder just four weeks ago; it's obviously an issue on the bike at the moment, but he also made good progress in Valencia. He fits into the team extremely well, his feedback is excellent and he's enjoying a good feeling with the bike. I'm confident that if we can carry this momentum through into the first race, then we will be amongst the main contenders in Moto2 this season.”