2016 Barcelona MotoGP Post-Race Test Round Up - New Tires, New Chassis, Some Equivocation

On the day after the Barcelona MotoGP race, the entire grid bar the Aspar Ducatis were back at the track for a full day of testing. Conditions were ideal; so ideal that they perhaps a little confusing. Though it was hot and dry, the fact that only MotoGP bikes are circulating and laying down Michelin rubber meant the track felt different to race day, when the MotoGP bikes have to follow Moto2, and cope with the Dunlop rubber the fat rear tires smear on the track.

The grip was also helped by the fact that Michelin had three new rear tires to test. They were three slightly different versions of construction of the current rear tire, using one of the compounds available for the race weekend. The tires were well received, everyone praising the added traction the tire offered. The only criticism offered was that they had a very short life, dropping off after two or three laps.

Michelin were pleased with the results of testing. The main aim of the new tires had been to proved extra traction, and that is what they had delivered. Michelin chief Nicolas Goubert was very satisfied. "All three tires were better than the reference tires, so we just have to choose which one to make." The tires were very much test items, used to gather data, and were to be taken away and examined back at the factory. There, a decision would be taken on when and where the tires will be used. "Technically it's possible to produce them for the next races, but we will analyze whether they are needed for the tracks we will be going to before the summer."

Bigger updates

The Barcelona test is the first opportunity for most factories to try larger updates after the start of the season. Though some updates are available at Jerez, Barcelona is a better benchmark, as development is based on the European tracks the factories know well, rather than the anomalies of the flyaways, all held on circuits which don't see much use and which MotoGP hasn't been visiting for long.

Honda and Yamaha both brought new chassis, though it seems the update was more successful for Yamaha. What the chassis did better, both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi refused to say, apparently sworn to secrecy by Yamaha's engineers. The new chassis did not see too much action, as Yamaha decided to stay on for an extra day of testing on Tuesday. That was a private test, taking place behind closed doors. That allows Yamaha a little more freedom to work, without being concerned about people spying on what they were doing.

Newer is not necessarily better

The updates at Honda were much less of a success. A new exhaust and a new chassis offered little, the exhaust not finding any favor at all. Marc Márquez' verdict on the exhaust was damning: "Big difference, but not better." That is good news for photographers, as the new exhaust lacked the characteristic curl, the top exhaust running straight out of the tail, rather than looping back on itself in pursuit of pipe length.

The chassis was a little better received, having some strong points, but the negatives outweighing the positives. The good news as far as Márquez was concerned was that they would be able to apply the positive lessons from the new chassis to their existing chassis. That was the chassis which Márquez finished the day on. "Normally, you finish with the best bike," Márquez said. "I finished with the same bike as yesterday."

Real progress was made with electronics, HRC finding a big improvement to help on corner exit, the area where the Honda struggles most. Márquez admitted he had had a problem during the race, and had been confused by the behavior of the electronics. "Yesterday at the end of the race, I had a lot of problems with the system, I didn't understand what was going on," Márquez said. On Monday, they had identified the problem. "So about that point I was very happy, because yesterday I was a little bit worried, because I didn't understand. And now we know why."

Chassis confusion

There was a new chassis to test at Suzuki as well, or rather, a chassis which needed another test. The chassis, an evolution of the standard 2016 chassis which both Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro had rejected, had already been tested once at a private test in Valencia. Espargaro had liked it a lot at Valencia, and raced at Barcelona, and suffered as a consequence. When he tried it on Monday, he realized he did not like it all, and decided to stick with the 2015 chassis for the rest of the season.

His teammate was the complete opposite. Maverick Viñales had stuck with the standard chassis after the Valencia private test, and then used Monday to evaluate the 2016 evolution. He was very positive about the new chassis, as he said it helped him turn the bike better. He needed to use less throttle to help the bike to turn, and that was good for tire conservation. Using less throttle meant spinning the rear tire less, and so reducing the amount of stress and wear on the tire. That would allow him to go faster for longer.

Viñales was also pleased that he had set his fastest lap of the day when conditions were hottest. His problem this year has been that the Suzuki GSX-RR works really well when there is a lot of grip, which is usually in the cooler mornings and at the start of the race. But once the heat starts to rise, and the grip starts to drop, the Suzuki would start to struggle.

Satellite stars

The fastest man on the day was Cal Crutchlow, who had put in a late charge to top the timesheets. Crutchlow was happy with his time, and keen to point out that he had not cut any corners anywhere, contrary to what some publications had claimed.

The LCR Honda rider was less pleased about the amount of time he had spent testing. He didn't have very much to test at all, yet he had still spent the whole day at the track. A lot of that was down to the length of time it took to make electronics changes, a particular bugbear for many teams, but especially for the Honda teams. "We have eight hours of testing, but it takes 25 minutes every time we want to make a decent electronics changed," Crutchlow said.

The Englishman had also been roped into testing tires, after both Repsol Honda riders crashed. Crutchlow was positive about the rear tires he tested, pointing to the times as a sign of how good they were. The only problem was that the additional grip produced some vibration, but it was a trade off worth making. "It was hooking up good on the exit, I can tell you that!" he told us.

At Tech 3, the satellite Yamaha riders worked on suspension settings and clutch settings, apart from testing tires. The aim was to try to improve the rear feel during cornering, and use the tire better. Both Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith had suffered similar problems, with Smith getting the worst of it this weekend. Smith had focused particularly on the rear shock, and getting it to respond the way they wanted it to. The issues they were having with the rear wheel on corner entry and mid corner were generating problems at the front, and so fixing that was a priority. Smith had worked on getting the bike to keep the correct attitude throughout the corner, and for the rear wheel to react properly and handle cornering better.

The riders now all head off for a two-week break before the next round of MotoGP at Assen. The fact that the next few races are all three weeks apart is positive for riders and factories alike. The longer break gives the factories more time to analyze the data from racing and from the tests, while it also gives the riders a bit more time to train and improve their physical conditioning. The more hectic biweekly schedule leaves a lot less time for that.


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Total votes: 155
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Comments

Any insight into what Ducati tested?  Is it feasible that they would take this testing opportunity to flirt with set up options for a certain Spanish rider in the future, or would they continue to focus solely on getting the best bike under the current riders for success this season?

Total votes: 134

No report on Ducati? They need more developement and testing judging by their results this year then anyone.

Total votes: 131

they had a couple of bad weekends, but if a certain #29 had not taken both himself and/or his team-mate out on a couple of occasions, and there hadn'y been a couple of unfortunate technical failures, they'd be quite high up in the championship.

Total votes: 129

Ducati were there, and testing, but I didn't get a chance to talk to them, and as far as I can tell, they were mostly testing tires.

Total votes: 119

From the outside looking in, with nose pressed against the glass?

Try new chassis.

Link Iannone's comments with those of Dovizioso's who said: "We've got speed, but we need to be able to manage it.

Iannone's in the out-tray.

Total votes: 122

Some brutal honesty from Marquez there regarding their "upgrades"...He's made plain his frustration with Honda's development several times this season and last. David, do you sense that this is building into a level of discontent that would lead him to seriously consider moving elsewhere? I wonder what Marquez thinks of the fact that Honda couldn't maintain a relationship with the best test rider in the world (Casey Stoner)? This assumes of course that Marquez did not want Stoner gone, which is questionable given the events around Austin last year when Dani was injured...

I find it quite ironic (this is as close as I'll ever get to fanboyism) that Honda, the factory that more than others has regarded the bike as the superior component to the rider in the "success quotient" seem to be having so little success with development lately.

 

Total votes: 132

The best bike finished 1st and 2nd last year. The best bike won 2013-2014.
As Nakamoto pointed out once that Rossi perfectly proved Honda's point when he was struggling at Ducati.

Total votes: 129

Well done, you have stated that the best bike won the last 3 years. What about the other 50+ years of Moto GP/Grand Prix Racing? Sure the best bike is going to win more often, and often the best rider wins on the best bike, but that is not always the case.

I also disagree with your interpretation of 2013, one could argue that the Yamaha was a better bike that year. 2007? How do you explain that year?

 

Total votes: 120

Fingerbang: I think you have your expectations are quite high if you expect someone out of the team to have insight in whats on the mind of Marquez. Only think I could say: what other and better options are avaliable?

I don't think riders think of what factories have done in the past to the carriere of other riders, since ot be there you simply have to believe that you are the best (and these kind of things will not happen to the best)

I think that if we are looking for sensational articles based of fiction or emotion only we have a better change to push Mat Oxley into this kind of journalism then David.

 

Total votes: 127

Thank you for your reply. I have no expectation of anyone knowing what Marquez is thinking, I'm merely asking David's opinion, based on what he has observed of Marquez, whether he thinks Marquez might see the current circumstance as rationale to move teams. I'm not asking him to invent a story as you suggest and am sorry you are misinterpreting that way.

It's funny that you mention emotion in the same sentence as fiction as though they are one and the same; I understand your reference to fiction but do you think that emotion has no influence on the decisions riders make, or the articles journalist write, for that matter?

 

Total votes: 120

To answer your question, I think there is a growing sense of frustration at Repsol Honda. Both Marquez and Pedrosa have been extremely critical of HRC, and want to start seeing improvement. If Marquez doesn't win a title between now and 2018, and he believes the problem is down to Honda not fixing the bike, I think there is a very good chance he will consider going elsewhere at the end of the next contract. But to be fair to them, Honda are making progress, especially with the electronics. I think the championship will look a little different by the time we get to the end of this year.

Total votes: 136

I just don't understand HRC sometimes (and i say that as someone with a CBR600RR and CBR1000RR in the garage). They knew the spec electronics package was coming.  Yamaha tested the proposed spec ECU with satellite teams through 2015.  Honda did not, and i believe they are now paying the price.

 

Total votes: 133

fingerbang722: Ok, no worries. I did not intend misinterpreting your question. I agree fiction and emotion are two differents words, but sometimes they can succesfully end up in one sentence. Per example in the case of speculation. The point I am trying to make is that if Marquez is making other plans for the future right now I think it would be unlikely that he would inform anybody (including his crew). 

In my opinion it is also quite unlikely that Marquez will leave Honda since he seems pretty attached to Honda, as is his crew, and if manufactor's are well places in the position capable to fix things I think it Honda is one of them (budget, technology, team, a lot of input from diffent bikes on the grid). Moreover, the Honda may not be the best balanced bike of the grid this year (new electronics and tyres?  it does not seem a dog either. And why is switching the better solution than just fix problems? And I can't see that the Yamaha or the Ducati will suite Marquez ridingstyle pretty well: sliding the back into corners is not the style that Pol or Bradley delivered champagne while riding Yamaha.

The question I have is whether some team will continue riding the relative expensive non works Honda's the coming years since it tend to break careers instead of make riders move forward. 

Total votes: 111

Are we to assume that now Jorge's signed Casey will be inputting less? 

No mention of the test on his twitter, just a link to him riding a multistrada after mugello?!?

Total votes: 113

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the schedules of test riders. Michele Pirro, Ducati's official test rider and general work horse, also did not test. Stoner has not been hired to go out and do the donkey work of testing every minor upgrade the factory brings, but to help provide input on a development direction. When big things need testing, then Ducati will surely call upon Stoner. Stoner was at Bologna after Mugello to have talks about what he would be doing for the rest of the year.

It is also less likely that we will see Stoner at public tests. He is more likely to do private tests with Ducati, as it allows Ducati to experiment a little more freely, and it allows them to work better. Yamaha showed the benefits of private testing at Barcelona: they took the new chassis they had brought out for a few laps on Monday, during the official test, then stayed on for an extra day to conduct a private test, away from the prying eyes of the world's media. 

Total votes: 114

Stoner hasn't done much testing since Qatar. I think 1, maybe 2 test. But he is not a workhorse, that is what Pirro is there for. They want him to give a direction for testing, not check to see if a revised swingarm is a few hundredths faster. At Qatar, for example, he tested the aero package back to back with no aero package to see what difference it made.

Total votes: 122

I have read a lot about that a lot of how the moto2 tyres seem to affect the amount op traction available to MotoGP bikes either with bridgestones or Michelins. Even if ridinglines are quite different

I find this as interesting as mysterious.

- Is it teh truth or is it a just a feeling

- What could be the reason for this? Is it because of the amount of rubber layed down on the track or is it because the tyres contain different ingredients (more or less greasy)

I think if it is due to the amount of rubber laid down on the track, technician should easily see that this is the case since you expect then to see a lot more rubber debris sticking on the tyre (tyres tend to pick up rubber that is laying on the track)

 

 

Total votes: 125

The exact same thing used to happen with the Bridgestones. The track always felt different after a Moto2 race, with Dunlop rubber on the track. I asked a Michelin spokesperson who would be the best person to ask about this, and they told me that even Michelin's engineers were mystified by it. Though tire manufacturing is ever more scientific, there is still a fair bit of voodoo involved. There are a lot of complex chemical interactions which are hard to predict or understand.

Total votes: 136

Thank you David, also for the great write ups and insight stories. Much appreciated and I will soon become sitesupporter. Really fascinating, the noticed differences in tyre performance. Nice to see some mystical elements left in this technical world!

Total votes: 125

I think the mysteries of tyres are evident in the products which Michelin and Bridgeston make.  Everyone was reasonably happy with the Bridgestone tyres by the end of their run (despite the weekly complaints).  If Michelin actually knew how to make a Bridgestone tyre then they could have replicated them from the get go and made themselves look great - "We haven't made a motogp tyre in 6 years and ours are just as fast as the Bridgestones on the first test".

Total votes: 123

I feel quite mystified by the marketingstrategy of the tyre suppliers. I dont know how it is worldwide, but in the country I live in Bridgestone did not have a nice market share of selling tyres, despite their Motogp effort. Overall opionion (based on journalist comparisation) was that their sporttyre was just average compared to other brands.

Problem maybe is that in racing always more complaints are adressed then compliments. a part of this problem is  in the definition of news itself. A tyre working als expected is not quite newsworthy, while a tyre that is not working like expected is. Then there another layer that cause a difficulty: a mark of a big black marker is more impressive than that of a lightblue and pink fineliner. Since people tend to like a kind of drama, they will naturally neglect that Michelin is doing a very good job, but will always rembember the drama for a long period.

I think it is nice to notice that Michelin switched back to traditional rimsizes. These were considered supoptimal

 

 

 

Total votes: 115

There's a hint over at AUTOWEEK, that Ducati may be sold by VW. Cash needed for a little misunderstanding about VW emissions on some of their diesel cars. 

Total votes: 127