The Moto2 and Moto3 teams were back to work over the past two days, a large contingent gathered to prepare for the 2017 season. Fine weather greeted the riders on the first day of the test, but the second day, Thursday, started with the track covered with sand after strong winds blew sand across from North Africa, then rain hit the track and washed out the rest of the test. A few riders went out on Thursday, but they were nearly 20 seconds off the pace.
This season Marc Marquez will use a new engine configuration, inspired by Honda’s first big-bang GP bike of the early 1990s
Many moons ago I used to buy a plane ticket to Tokyo every November and then a bullet-train ticket to Suzuka, where HRC would let a few of us ride its GP bikes around Soichiro Honda’s magnificent figure-of-eight circuit.
On the very first lap of my first visit in 1989, Eddie Lawson’s title-winning Rothmans Honda NSR500 flew into a blood-curdling tank-slapper down the back straight, flat-out in sixth gear. I pulled into the pits, where an HRC mechanic fussed around the front of the bike, then grinned widely as he turned the steering damper up to maximum and sent me on my way. No more tank-slappers but now the NSR turned like an oil-tanker. And Lawson won the world title on this bike. Some achievement.
Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez are to head to Jerez for a private, two-day test on 24th and 25th of February, or Friday and Saturday of this week. The Repsol Honda team announced the test on Twitter, confirming earlier news stories which had broken after the official MotoGP test at Phillip Island last week.
This two-day test is a sign that Márquez and Pedrosa are getting close to making a decision on which version of the engine they will be racing in 2017. They need one final test comparing the various possibilities before heading to Qatar.
The fact that they are now heading to Jerez is emblematic of just how important this choice is. This Jerez test replaces HRC's original plan, which was to retest the big bang engine rolled out at Valencia, verifying results from its original roll out at Valencia, then refine it for Sepang. But Repsol Honda called off that test at the request of the riders, giving the engine to Jack Miller to test in November of last year.
That change of plans was an indication that all was not well with the new engine. Both Márquez and Pedrosa were downbeat about the new engine at Valencia, Márquez emphasizing just how much work Honda still had to do with the new motor. "We must work much more," he said. "Honda needs to work much more this winter to give me something more in Malaysia."
Team launches are always a little combative. They are, after all, the places where factory bosses, team managers, and riders stake out their intentions for the coming season. They loudly proclaim that they are in it to win it, that their goal is to be champions sooner rather than later, and that they are plainly superior to their competition, both in talent and in engineering prowess and ingenuity. Team launches are a place for hyperbole.
Even by normal standards, though, the words spoken at KTM's team launch were more than ordinarily abrasive. In an interview with Austrian broadcaster Servus TV, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer took plenty of potshots at his rivals. He boasted of KTM passing BMW in terms of sales, adding that beating them in racing would be hard, "because they don't race any more". He spoke of competing against the Japanese manufacturers. "We love racing, and we love beating the Japanese manufacturers."
But Pierer reserved his sharpest ire for Honda. Speaking of the surprise decision to compete in Moto2, he joked that the spec Moto2 engine was supplied by "our most hated rival Honda". He also noted that KTM's entry into MotoGP brought balance to the MSMA, the manufacturers' group which has a vote in the Grand Prix Commission, MotoGP's rule making body. With three European manufacturers against three Japanese manufacturers, they were in a position to prevent Honda from bulldozing through proposals.
Press releases from KTM's team launch, for the MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing starts new era in MotoGP 2017
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing on Monday began a new era with the presentation of the Austrian brand’s 2017 MotoGP team at the new KTM Motorsports building in Munderfing (Austria). The entry into the premier class of MotoGP racing makes KTM the first manufacturer to have a factory team contesting all three categories of the world championship.
Press releases from the World Superbike and World Supersport teams after the last preseason test before the season opener at Phillip Island:
Rea ends on top as Official Phillip Island test concludes
Final session for WorldSBK before season gets underway
Basking in the summer sun at the stunning Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit, MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship riders were able to take advantage of the four hours they have out on track, following a disrupted day on Monday before the opening round of the season commences in three days time.
Jonathan Rea has topped the final World Superbike test of the 2017 preseason, a few days before the season kicks off in earnest at Phillip Island. The reigning champion was fastest in the morning session, though he had to cede top spot to Marco Melandri in the afternoon. But the Kawasaki man had gone fast enough in the morning to just edge the Ducati of Melandri, and end the test as fastest overall.
Kenan Sofuoglu's World Supersport title defense is off to a rough start. The Kawasaki rider has been forced to withdraw from the first two rounds of the 2017 season to have surgery to fix a hand injury he suffered in a training crash.