So, testing is over and the winter test ban can start. Riders who intend to race in 2016 are banned from testing between 1st December 2015 and 31st January 2016. Engineers now have a long winter ahead of them to try to make sense of the data gathered at the test at Valencia and Jerez, or else send their test riders out in the chill of winter, as Aprilia intend to do at Jerez in a few weeks. Those engineers have an awful lot of work ahead of them.
The men and women at Ducati will be getting the most time off over the holiday period. It is clear from the first two tests that the Italian factory has hit the ground running with the new unified software, and have the systems working relatively well. One Ducati engineer reckoned that they were already at about 50% of the potential of the software, far more than the 10% MotoGP's Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli had estimated at Valencia. The fact that Scott Redding topped the final day of testing at Jerez on the Pramac Ducati GP15, a couple of tenths faster than Marc Márquez and the only rider to crack into the 1'38s, is proof enough that Ducati have the situation under control. (For a full list of unofficial times, see below).
Redding has been impressive throughout the test, and was a very happy rider after Friday. "The good thing for me is that I feel comfortable on the bike," Redding said. "I know what's going to happen. Today I nearly crashed at the last corner because I tried to force the front a bit but it didn’t want to. The bike was talking to me. When you have a good feeling like this you also have a bit of confidence. You know what’s going to happen." Last year on the Honda, the RC213V did anything but talk to him. Whenever he tried to go faster, he would go slower. Now, on the GP15, he was fast, knew he could go faster if he pushed harder.
Press releases from the MotoGP and World Superbike teams after the final day of testing at Jerez:
Testing has finished at last at Jerez, with the onset of the winter test ban for both MotoGP and World Superbike teams. The final day of testing for the World Superbike squads ended as it had been all week, with the Kawasaki pair on top of the timesheets, and both men breathtakingly fast once the teams broke out the qualifying tires. It was Tom Sykes who walked away as fastest, the Yorkshireman obliterating the official Superpole record by just shy of a whole second. Sykes' fast lap left Jonathan Rea in second, though he was also no slouch. Rea ended eight tenths faster than the Superpole record. There is a chance he could have gone faster, but a crash in the afternoon put an end to his day's testing.
Xavi Fores made an impressive debut as a full time WSBK rider, ending the test as third fastest on the Barni Ducati, eight tenths behind Sykes but still well under the existing Superpole record, as was Nicky Hayden. The Ten Kate Honda rider made a strong impression on his second test on the Honda CBR1000RR, adapting well to the Pirellis and riding a production bike again. Hayden ended well ahead of Chaz Davies, the first of the factory Aruba.it Ducati riders, while Davide Giugliano made good progress on his return from a long layoff from injury. Leon Camier was the last of the WSBK riders, working on major electronics updates for the MV Agusta F4.
Have HRC made the same mistake again? In 2015, the Honda RC213V was a nasty beast to tame, suffering with an excessively aggressive engine. The engine was probably the single most important reason Marc Márquez could not mount a realistic defense of his second title, forcing him to try to make up in braking what he was losing in acceleration, and crashing out as a result. At the Valencia test, all eyes were on Honda's new engine, to see if they had finally fixed the problem.
Valencia turned out to be a little too complex to make a real judgment. The switch to spec electronics and Michelin tires introduced way too many variables to be able to filter out a single factor, Honda engineers taking a long time to extract some kind of consistency from the new unified software all MotoGP bikes must now use. The 2016 RC213V engine seemed a little less aggressive, but the new software made it hard to tell. The current test at Jerez was supposed to give a clearer indication, with HRC's engineers having a better handle on the unified software.
Though the verdict is not yet in, it is not looking good for the 2016 engine Honda brought for the tests in Spain. Both Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez have reported the engine as still being too aggressive, and difficult to manage, though the engine character has changed. "Last year's engine was aggressive in the top," Márquez told reporters after the second day of testing at Jerez. "Now we have more power in the bottom, but still we don't understand the way to deliver this torque. It looks like aggressive in the bottom, but then smoother in the top compared with last year." The key will be finding the right balance between the top and bottom end.
Press releases from the Repsol Honda, Gresini Aprilia and Aspar Ducati teams after testing on Thursday at Jerez:
Testing continues in Jerez for Marquez and Pedrosa
The Repsol Honda Team have completed a productive second day of testing in Jerez.
Cold temperatures of 5ºC welcomed the team at the track but by late morning it had soon warmed up to 18ºC and once again remained dry and sunny for the duration of the test.
Marc spent this second day concentrating on the 2016 specification engine and electronics, with long waits in the box between exits as his team adjusted the Magneti Marelli software. He completed a total of 58 laps with his best time of 1’39.57.
Dani did 53 laps today and a fastest time of 1’40.10. He continued to carry out a comparison between the 2015 and 2016 specification engines and software.
The three day test will conclude tomorrow.
1’39.57 58 laps
Testing continued for the fourth day at Jerez, the track getting busier than ever as more and more riders joined the fray. Once again, only the World Superbike riders had transponders, the MotoGP teams electing to keep their times private.
The Kawasaki pairing of Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea returned to action after a day off on Wednesday, and were once again the fastest of the WSBK riders. Sykes took top honors on Thursday, finishing just ahead of his teammate Rea, the difference just one hundredth of a second. Chaz Davies made a big step forward on the Aruba.it Ducati, improving his time by nearly three quarters of a second, and ending half a second off the pace of Sykes. Nicky Hayden was the sole Honda representative, teammate Michael van der Mark having gone home with problems in his arm, and Hayden too improved, half a second quicker than Wednesday and within seven tenths of Sykes' time. He finished ahead of the other two Ducatis of Xavi Fores and Davide Giugliano, as well as in front of the MV Agusta of Leon Camier.
There were a couple of crashes on Thursday as well, with Ducati test rider Michele Pirro falling heavily but walking away relatively unhurt. Less luck for Eugene Laverty, though, the Aspar Ducati rider crashing and fracturing his arm in the fall.
Testing concludes on Friday.
Times from Thursday at Jerez:
The final test of 2016 for the World Superbike class has already lost two of its participants. Both Ten Kate Honda's Michael van der Mark and Pata Yamaha's Alex Lowes have been forced to withdraw from the test due to injury.
Lowes suffered a dislocated shoulder when he fell heavily at Turn 3 on Wednesday, crashing in the late afternoon. Though he walked away from that crash, and quickly had his dislocated shoulder put into place, a painful shoulder and restricted movement meant there was little sense in continuing. Lowes has returned to the UK for medical treatment, with the objective of being completely fit when testing resumes next year.
What happened to Michael van der Mark is a little more mysterious. The Honda Pro Racing organization posted a brief update on its Facebook page, adding little detail to Van der Mark's withdrawal. Van der Mark was suffering with pain in his right arm on Wednesday, which given his times on the day (Van der Mark was over a second slower than his new teammate Nicky Hayden) appear to have severely affected his speed. Van der Mark has now flown north seeking treatment, and will see a specialist in Antwerp, Belgium for further examinations.
The Repsol Honda team issued the following press release after the first day of testing at Jerez, complete with photos:
Repsol Honda Team commence final test of year
With the testing ban coming into effect of 1st December, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa took to the track today in Jerez for the first day of the three-day test.
A cold fresh morning greeted them but they were blessed with good weather all day remaining dry and sunny until the end of testing. Both Marc and Dani spent this first day comparing different engines and working on the electronics set up.
Marc finished the day with a best time of 1’39.92, completing 65 laps in total. Dani, who missed the race here this year due to injury, managed 56 laps and his fastest time was 1’40.12. He had a small crash on the last exit in the final corner, but escaped unhurt.
The third day of the combined World Superbike and MotoGP test at Jerez saw a lot more action on track at the Spanish circuit, as some teams left and several more arrived to start testing. The BMW Althea and Kawasaki teams were the absentees, while the Ten Kate Honda teams, Barni Ducati and Aruba.it Ducati teams, Leon Camier at MV Agusta, and the Crescent Yamaha World squad all joined the World Superbike fray. The Repsol Honda and Gresini Aprilia teams were both out with their official MotoGP riders, while Michele Pirro was on testing duties for Ducati. The Aspar Ducati team were also circulating, with Eugene Laverty and Yonny Hernandez out working on the GP14.2.
Despite the (relatively) heavy traffic on track, the timing sheets remained relatively empty. Only the Ten Kate Hondas, the Ducati Panigales and Leon Camier's MV Agusta F4 were fitted with transponders relaying official timing back to the circuit systems. The Yamahas of Alex Lowes and Sylvain Guintoli, as well as all of the MotoGP bikes, were out without any official timing, and so no lap times were reported.
MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Duke, Sheene and Dunlop: three great British bikers
Sheene, Dunlop, Duke… it would be difficult to find three more different motorcycle racers, let alone three more different human beings.
We all know the iconic images of these three late, great Britons: Duke waving a jolly hello, his hair painstakingly groomed and Brylcreemed; Sheene topless and in cut-off jeans, sucking on a filter-less Gitanes, one arm around Stephanie MacLean; Joey nursing a pint and puffing on a fag from under that lank thatch of hair.
Duke came from a different age, not only of motorcycles but also of society and culture. He surely would’ve been mortified if he had stumbled into one of Joey’s ale-fuelled lock-ins at The Saddle pub in Douglas, even more so if he had mistakenly walked into Sheene’s hotel bedroom.
The Althea BMW World Superbike team issued the following press release after their two-day test at Jerez:
The Althea BMW Team makes its track debut.
Jerez de la Frontera (Spain) 24 November 2015
The Althea BMW Team concludes two days of testing at the Spanish circuit of Jerez de la Frontera.
With cool temperatures but sunny conditions, the Team was able to work on different set-up solutions for the new BMW S1000 RR bikes. Riders Jordi Torres and Markus Reiterberger each used various configurations as they worked to find a level of performance that can serve as a base for the future development of the Bavarian company’s machines.
Both of the Althea BMW Team riders were able to achieve solid results and, though lap times were not crucial this week, both Torres and Reiterberger were nevertheless able to lap consistently fast, with times that were very close to both the track record and those set by their strongest rivals present on track. Final lap times – a 1'40.531 for Reiterberger and 1'41.002 for Torres – serve as an immediate injection of faith that will boost the whole Team, with all parties working closely together to find the right direction in which to continue. The Italian and German engineers were coordinated by new Technical Director Jan Witteveen with a very positive outcome.
Reigning World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea has once again topped the timesheets on the second day of the combined WSBK/World Supersport test at Jerez, the Kawasaki man putting in a scorching lap at the end of the day to assert his authority, demoting his teammate Tom Sykes into second spot, over a third of a second behind him. Sykes was hampered by a small crash in the Michelin corner, and was unable to improve his time at the end. German IDM Superbike champion Markus Reiterberger set a very impressive pace, ending his second day with the Althea BMW team just two hundredths of a second slower than the 2013 WSBK champ Sykes, and nearly half a second faster than his teammate Jordi Torres. Reiterberger still has a lot to learn in World Superbikes, the IDM technical rules a lot more restrictive than those in WSBK.
James Ellison improved his time from Monday by over half a second, the BSB rider joined by his GBMoto teammate Peter Hickman. Hickman's times were nowhere near that of Ellison's, but given that Hickman is fresh off the plane from Macau, where he won his first Macau GP, that is hardly surprising.
The Suzuki MotoGP squad held a two-day private test at Sepang on Monday and Tuesday. At the test, Maverick Viñales tested a seamless gearbox and the 2016 electronics, as well as continuing to work with the Michelin tires. Aleix Espargaro was absent from the test, having suffered a back injury in a training accident a few days ago.
Suzuki issued the following press release after the test:
POSITIVE OUTCOME FOR SUZUKI ECSTAR AT SEPANG TEST
Team Suzuki Press Office – November 24.
Team SUZUKI ECSTAR has completed a successful private test session at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia today, where Maverick Viñales and the test team debuted Suzuki’s new seamless gearbox on the GSX-RR.
Viñales was supported in the two-day test by Takuya Tsuda and Nobuatsu Aoki, who ran many laps to supply Suzuki’s R&D department in Japan with useful information and data before the winter break.
Unfortunately, Aleix Espargaró couldn’t join in because of the injury he suffered recently while training that caused him a flexion fracture to a vertebrae and required a two-to-three-week lay-off.
Monday saw the first day of a week of action for various classes at Jerez, with testing scheduled for the Kawasaki, Yamaha and Ducati World Superbike teams, as well as Ducati, Aprilia and Honda's MotoGP teams later in the week.
For the first day of action, the Kawasaki World Superbike and World Supersport teams were joined by the Althea BMW squad, MV Agusta's WSS effort, and James Ellison of the BSB GBMoto squad. Jonathan Rea ended the day as the fastest man, a little way off the Superpole time from the race in September, just beating out his teammate Tom Sykes at the end of the session. The two Kawasakis swapped fastest times at the end, Rea prevailing at the flag. Althea made their debut on BMW S1000RRs, German IDM champion Markus Reiterberger making an impressive test debut, finishing ahead of his new teammate Jordi Torres. BSB rider James Ellison was the slowest of the Kawasakis, his lower spec BSB ZX-10R 1.6 seconds off the pace of Rea's WSBK machine.
Kenan Sofuoglu was the fastest World Supersport rider, his countryman and Superstock 600 champion Toprak Razgatlioglu a second behind him. Razgatlioglu is making the switch to the Superstock 1000 class for 2016. Randy Krummenacher made his World Supersport debut at Jerez, ending the first day 1.6 seconds behind Sofuoglu.
Casey Stoner is to leave Honda and work with Ducati as a test rider and brand ambassador from 2016. Two press releases, one from Honda and one from Ducati, today confirmed the rumor which had emerged at Valencia during the race weekend, and especially after the test. Honda thanked Stoner for five years of collaboration, including two years of racing, during which he won fifteen races and a MotoGP championship. After his retirement, at the end of 2012, Stoner continued as a test rider for HRC, but rode only sporadically, no more than a couple of days a year.