2017 Barcelona MotoGP Test Notes: Yamaha Chassis, Honda Tires, And The First Signs of Silly Season

Why go testing on Monday after a race? Even though riders are pretty drained after a full race weekend, riding on Monday provides really useful feedback. First of all, the track is clean and already rubbered in. Weather conditions are usually close enough to race day to provide good comparison. But above all, the riders are already up to speed, so no time is wasted. Johann Zarco put it very nicely: "I enjoy it so much, because you don't lose half day to find the feeling, you already have the feeling," the Frenchman said. "You just wake up, warm the bike up and you are ready, and you can start to work. We did the same today. It's good anyway. Even if you are tired from Sunday, you go on the bike, going over 300 km/h and that's just a nice life!"

What did the factories have to test? Ducati had nothing at all, the factory, Aspar and Avintia teams all packing up and leaving without turning a wheel. Ducati tested here before Mugello, and had tested at Mugello before Le Mans, so they need more time before they have something worth testing again. The earliest the new aerodynamics package can be ready is at the Brno test in August, so that will be their next focus.

Of the teams which did test, all eyes were on Yamaha. The factory Movistar Yamaha team had two new chassis to test, though they only tried the one on Monday. The team is staying on for an extra day on Tuesday, after canceling and moving a previously planned test at Aragon.

Feedback on the chassis was varied. Maverick Viñales was noncommittal, saying the chassis helped, but not in the area they had expected. Valentino Rossi, on the other hand, was extremely enthusiastic, saying the new chassis helped to make the bike turn, something which had been missing with the 2017 chassis.

But Rossi also made the point that the 2017 chassis had been very much Maverick Viñales' choice. "At the end Maverick was fast, and Maverick continue to like it, and Maverick is the guy with more points," Rossi reflected. "So I have to speak more about me. I'm coming from another story. Maverick doesn’t have any history with the Yamaha, coming from Suzuki, and he rides this because he thinks it's the Yamaha. But for me, because I know more the evolution of the bike, I think that with the 2017 version, we lose something."

Two different riders, two contradicting experiences. A sign of the confusion in the Movistar Yamaha garage is that Jonas Folger, of the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, was also given a chassis to test. Though it was not clear exactly what chassis this was, his comments made it clear it was closely related to the 2017 chassis. The frame gave the bike more stability in braking, but at the expense of lost agility and turning. Those are comments almost identical to the description of the 2017 frame given by Valentino Rossi. When I asked Rossi if Folger had been given the 2017 chassis to test, Rossi said he had no idea who was testing what. Whether that is ignorance, real or feigned, is another question altogether.

Yamaha also tested a new aerodynamics package with a revised outlet system, a system of grills and holes relocated from the previous fairing. Though the effect and internal structure is very different, the external surface is almost identical. That is the loophole through which all of the manufacturers are driving a coach and horses, and the costs compared to winglets are almost certainly much higher. At least the fairing was worth it, Viñales being pleased with how it went on the ground.

At Honda, there was a good deal less to test. A few minor parts and upgrades, but nothing major to write home about. Cal Crutchlow was once again treated as a test mule, giving the aerodynamic fairing another run out. That proved to be much better at Barcelona than at previous tracks, but it could be just a factor of the nature of the circuit.

What Marc Márquez did test was a hard symmetric front tire from Michelin. The original plan was for a select group to try the tire on Tuesday, but several others also took the tire out for a spin on Monday. Márquez was delighted with it. "Honestly when I tried the symmetric tire the bike was much more stable," he said.

"It helped me quite a lot on the front confidence, over bumps," Márquez said. "If you see this weekend as soon as I pass a small bumps the bike was unstable and then I crash, I lose the front. During the test I was careful, all the way, but then when I put this tire I did one lap slow and then I started to push and I believe - yeah, unlucky that finish the practice - but I start to feel well and everything much more stable. Because sometimes the dual compound, when it's too hot, even if you have two hard rubbers, but it's one connection in the middle of the tire. So this I think makes the tire become unstable. With one compound the tire is much more stable."

The last fifteen minutes or so of the test devolved into a straight up shooting match between Viñales and Márquez. Viñales had been fastest for most of the day, but Márquez picked up the pace in the final minutes. The two riders went for an all out qualifying war at the end of the day, pushing hard to take top honors in the test. In the end, Márquez held Viñales at bay, but the pair had a massive advantage over the others.

Suzuki had a very full testing program, most of which fell on the shoulders of Sylvain Guintoli. Andrea Iannone put in 78 full laps of testing, but it was Guintoli who was doing a lot of the donkey work, it seemed. They had a lot of parts to test, including a new frame and various suspension parts, which helped with some of Iannone's problem with entering the corners.

Aprilia, too, was hard at work. The factory had identified the part which was causing reliability problems, a small component in the pneumatic valve train. They hoped to have a fix for that soon, but not quite yet. Aprilia were also working on electronics, and especially on RTD, or rider torque delivery. That is a fancy phrase to describe the connection between the rider's wrist and the opening of the butterfly throttles.

There was also some talk of the futures of factory riders at both Aprilia and Suzuki. Aprilia boss Romano Albesiano denied having already decided to sack Sam Lowes, though he did admit that he expected Lowes to quickly improve his performance. He made deliberately vague comments suggesting that Aprilia had to start making plans and looking at other riders if they did decided to drop Lowes at some point in the future. It hardly sounded like a ringing endorsement of Lowes' position at the factory.

Davide Brivio offered a more robust, but still not entirely convincing explanation for why Andrea Iannone is to stay with the team. The atmosphere in the team was fine, Brivio enthused, though he remained a fraction halfhearted about the entire situation. Informed rumor suggests that this will be Iannone's last season at Suzuki, before going off to join Aprilia. Iannone is struggling to get to grips with the way to brake on the Suzuki, and the Suzuki team are rumored not to be happy with Iannone, and the way he (and especially his entourage) comports himself inside the team.

You get the feeling that MotoGP Silly Season is about to get underway. It could well turn out to be a good deal more dramatic than expected. But it may take some time to get started properly.


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Total votes: 113
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Comments

Both new chassis were tested. Vr tested 1 and mv tested 1. Today mv get the chassis vr was happy with and vr wil test the chassis mv has tested.
I hope mv also likes the new chassis to have a clear goal to improve further for 2018.

Total votes: 54

conundrum for Movistar Yamaha. However it seems fairly straight forward to me, Vinales is a rookie on the M1-jumps on the 2017 verison and wipes the floor with the field in the tests and starts the season very well. However in Texas, Jerez and Catalunya he and the team have repeatedly stated that he has no idea what the problem is on circuits which the Satelite 2016 bikes are outperforming both factory bikes-with no less than two Motogp Rookies on board! 

Its easy to point the finger at Michelin, however we have Hondas, Ducati's and Satelite Yamaha's performing on par and better at the same circuits under the same/similar conditions to 2016.

Then we have Valentino Rossi, the rider who has spent 11 seasons on the Factory M1-thats roughly 190 races! Being uncompetative immeadiately on the 2017 bike, giving clear indications of what the problems are, and yet performing very well in the opening rounds but still not happy with the bike or the tires. The problem here is Rossi's age, and I have no doubt that even though he was often times the fastest rider last season and finished second in the championship, the first response is still 'his age has now caught up'. Only now we've seen Vinales in no mans land on a few occasions with no explanation. The 2017 M1 has serious flaws, of this there is surely now no doubt.

Rossi comments were also very interesting, now he has come out and said that he knew the problems in Valencia, but Vinales was fast so Yamaha ignored his feedback, now going backwards is horrible.

What is certain though is this uncertaintainty each weekend has provided an excellent and entertaining start to the season!   

 

Total votes: 89

Maybe its just me, but it seems that the Suzuki factory team is somewhat disfunctional. Like they have a people problem or a leadership problem even more so than their technical challenges. In any event, nobody seems very happy there. Zarco lucked out by finding a home with Yamaha after being jilted by Suzuki. And Vinales must have some good people around him to dump that team like he did. 

Total votes: 66

I agree, Suzuki do seem dysfunctional as a team. The bike could and should be doing better than it is. Can't help but think it serves them right for treating Aleix Espargaro so badly after all the hard work he put in for them. 

Iannone was clearly always going to be sore after being dumped by Ducati so Suzuki were naive to hire such a diva. He used to be quite amusing, now just appears sulky and immature. 

As for Aprilia, what a shocking mess they've got themselves into after a seemingly good start to the season. Never seen Aleix Espargaro so frustrated, and their treatment of Sam Lowes in his rookie season is diabolical, not to mention short-sighted. Who wants to join a team, factory or not, that tries to blame its problems on the new guy?

Total votes: 92

but being 2 seconds slower than your teamate doesn't compare well with Zarco and Folger vs Rossi and Vinales. Don't know if his and Espargaro's bikes are the same spec though.

Total votes: 67

It's pretty straightforward: Rossi complained about the changes since the first winter test. He kept saying he was unhappy. What amazes me is that after the Jerez debacle it was clear that the pbm was not just that terrible combination of high temperatures lack of grip and Michelin....both tech 3 bikes were performing better, also in free practices. And yes, probably VR age and MV great opening victories mislead the assessments on the new M1. And it's a shame they've lost so much time.
What I find odd and somewhat quite surprising is Vinales reaction. So adamant at pointing the finger in one direction only, Michelin! When facts prove that the tech 3 bikes with the same tires worked better. I don't think it helps him to lose his cool. The way he stopped on the track post race to look at the tires under the lens of of every media worldwide was not a smart move IMO. It prevents him to keep an open mind and maybe consider the possibility that there is some truth in Rossi complaints: after all this would benefit both.
Strange indeed.

Total votes: 92

I'm quite ambivalent of Sam Lowes, he was one of those 'interesting' picks, where you didn't really know which way it would go.  But the way he's been treated sucks big time.  I watched when his team tried in vain to fire the bike up for him in Qualifying and it wouldn't go.  How can a rookie possibly be expected to perform when his bike is reliably unreliable, in addition to being (allegedly) a step or two behind his team mate's.

Very poor management in Aprilia it seems. To me this looks like white-anting Lowes position so as to create a position for Ianonne to slot into.  The grass is always greener, but seldom tastes any better.

Total votes: 70

I too am ambivilent about Lowes.  I will however laugh if they get rid of him, and get Iannone, only to find that he doesn't perform much better, but acts much worse.

Total votes: 58

So, the bigger with Yamaha is their chassis compared to the inconsistent Michelins. Because tire management also remains an issue for almost everybody on certain tracks. It would be good if Yamaha can decide at the soonest where they want to go if they want to remain largely competitive on all tracks going foward.

Total votes: 74

Andrea Iannone to Aprilia and Sam Lowes to Suzuki.  The Maniac will get along better with his countrymen and Lowes will get a chance to ride a bike more aligned with his experience of riding Japanese bikes.  

Total votes: 62

Thank you for the great report. As always.
Do you have any info about today's test? Thank you

Total votes: 58

The test took place behind closed doors, and as far as I know, there weren't any journalists there. I believe the media center wasn't open, so there wouldn't have been much to see or people to talk to. 

Total votes: 53

I don't remember Alex falling so often in past years and he was quite quick and a worthy logical hire. I wonder what the problem is, trying too hard, over riding to give good results, or a set up issue? It would be nice to see him on the podium this year, a vindication for the effort by the smallest manufacturer.

Total votes: 64

The answer to Movistar Yamaha's problem is so obvious, they cannot see it.  Simply build a 2016 frame for Rossi and let Vinales mess around with whatever he thinks works.  That way you keep Old Yeller happy (and scoring more championship points) while Vinales can believe he is at the cutting edge of Yamaha's campaign.  Will they do it?  Probably not.  Why not?  Japanese Corporate Culture (i.e. arrogance).  They refuse to believe this year's bike can be worse than last year's.  It was that arrogance that put Rainey into a wheelchair.   Honda is the same.  Only in the Doohan era, Mighty Mick had enough strength of character that he flately refused to race anything new unless he had bench-marked it against his existing machine.  That this was a novel concept for Honda speaks volumes about Japanese Corporate Culture.  

Total votes: 66

Crutchlow just signed a two yr deal with LCR...
And HRC who will pay his salary!

Interesting.

* David - can you please illuminate what is/isn't going on re satellite Suzuki and Aprilia teams? *

Much has been said re what "should" happen. What IS?

Here another satellite team that is signing on for more Hondas. I don't see Marc VDS becoming the Suzuki satellite team. I DID see Avintia or Aspar doing so, but the third and fourth Ducati squads have yet again stayed put. So has LCR with Honda of course. Despite 2 yrs ago DORNA (insisting?) that Suzuki provide two more bikes. Which they (shrugged off as not financially possible at the fixed price?).

What's the scoop?

Total votes: 63

I shall be posting a silly season update probably early next week, and tomorrow, the debrief Davide Brivio did at Barcelona. Those will both contain information about satellite teams.

Also, Cal Crutchlow hasn't signed a 2-year deal yet. The deal is still to be agreed, but it should happen soon. It is precisely the deal Crutchlow has been angling for.

Total votes: 55

I would caution against grabbing on to narratives making things personalized. The exception here being Iannone, which very much IS personal.

Re Iannone and Suzuki I would caution against being revisionistic. Amongst the options at the time Suzuki opted for Iannone and Rins. We did not expect what we have seen from Zarco - nary one of us. Iannone was very cheap relative to what he had shown he can do on a MotoGP bike. He had just experienced the most convincing "put in his place" possible, looked a sufficient dose and administered elsewhere.

Suzuki's team atmosphere has been described very positively. Regarding them and the project, I would caution against overgeneralization. I agree that they should be doing better now. SPOT ON that they should have kept A.Espargaro. But it is less personal perhaps - they went with a good deal on Iannone, then chose a young rider (this is a sensible basic model). The Suzuki MotoGP project, over the course of the last few years, has been doing VERY well in my opinion. Right now they are not, with a few glimmering exceptions. The electronics have needed improvement to drive out of corners. And Iannone needs improvement getting this bike turned in under braking.

The Aprilia with A.Espargaro is doing GREAT. The new much more powerful motor had a top end glitch, found after 2 events. Lowes is NOT doing great. At all. I like him a great deal, and his brother (which is handy since I never will tell them apart). I would not find it personal for Aprilia to go w another rider next year, and recommend they do.

Yamaha - again, I needn't make personal their chassis development change for 2017. Lorenzo is gone (his decision to leave WAS quite personal) and Vinales is on the bike. Development went a step away from Lorenzo's (lack of) braking and speedy big lean apexing. Rossi likes the 2016 better. Vinales is up to speed (understatement eh?) and can consider chassis options. So can Zarco, who happens to be the fastest rookie we have seen since...99/48. It is likely a surprise to many at Yamaha that the new chassis doesn't suit Rossi better. They are all working to move forward and will.

Total votes: 53

why can't they bring different chassis to different tracks?  The 2017 is clearly potent, as Vinalez mopped the floor with the field pre/early-season.  It just needs good grip to work properly.  The 2016 chassis has been on a front row, podiumed, and led two races with a rookie on board.  Clearly that chassis has its day.

I understand that sitting still is moving backward, so it's foolish to just quit developing the chassis, particularly after a season in which you didn't win the championship, but with such a narrow performance window from the tires, perhaps the smart bet is to not box one's self in.  The teams have a year and a half of experience on the Michelins, so they have to have an idea of at which tracks they will have a problem.  Rather than spending three days swapping springs and repositioning engines and clicking damper dials and fiddling with a laptop, how about spending a day swapping engines into a chassis that you know will provide a better baseline for the conditions?  There are clearly no rules about number of frames employed or these teams wouldn't keep bringing new ones to the track.

Total votes: 71

Motoshrink, a couple of points in your last post I would like to address. The first of which where you say "we did not expect what we have seen from Zarco - nary one of us"

I have to claim that on another Motorsport forum, a question was posed before season started as to what the quickest bike was and who to keep an eye out for a surprise, to which I replied Maverick on the Yamaha will be fastest, and Zarco could well be one to keep an eye on. I did also mention Iannone on the Suzuki, but he has been a bit of a surprise for the wrong reasons.

Again in your last paragraph you mention Zarco, being the fastest rookie we have seen since 99/48. Did you forget a certain Mr Marquez, who happened to win the championship in his rookie season?

Total votes: 60