February 4th, 2016
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the final day of testing at Sepang:
What did we learn from the first proper MotoGP test of the new era of Michelin tires and spec electronics? More than we hoped, yet less than we think. A quick run down on the state of play after Sepang, with more to come over the following days.
The riders approached the Sepang test with some trepidation, fearing that Michelin had not fixed its wayward front that caused so many crashes at Valencia and Jerez. Their fears were unfounded, the new front tires which Michelin brought – a total of five different types, of varying construction and compound – were all a massive step forward. They were not as stable as the Bridgestones they replaced, but they had gained a lot of predictability and feedback. There were very few crashes which the riders said they had not seen coming.
That does not mean that all of the problems have been solved. A couple of people went down at Turn five on Tuesday, in crashes they described as strange. Casey Stoner (more on him later) had a typically concise and thoughtful analysis. "There's a little point after probably 45°, that [the tire profile] goes down just a little bit more, that it doesn't seem to match with the rear with some of the profiles that we've tested," Stoner explained. "That gives everybody a little bit a nervous feeling, and essentially why people are struggling into Turn 5, a big fast open corner, going in, when the bike goes light, it doesn't like that feeling. It makes the bike a little nervous, and I think that's when the front wants to break away."
Honda today released the following press release, confirming PJ Jacobsen as their rider in the World Supersport championship:
The sun came out at around 4pm at Sepang, and quickly dried off the rain which had fallen throughout the early afternoon. The track dried, and most of the field took to the track again, everyone chasing a fast lap.
Jorge Lorenzo ended the day fastest, the only rider to get under the two minute mark, and ending the test nearly a second quicker than his teammate Valentino Rossi. The Hondas made an improvement, Marc Marquez leapfrogging over Cal Crutchlow to take third, the LCR Honda rider dropping to fourth ahead of Casey Stoner. Stoner was the fastest of the Ducatis, with Danilo Petrucci in seventh and Andrea Iannone in eighth.
Times at the end of the day at Sepang:
Light rain has started falling at Sepang, bringing proceedings to a halt. The insistent light rain with just a few hours of the test left makes it likely that the teams will soon pack up and leave, and start their preparations for the next test at Phillip Island in two weeks time.
The two Yamaha riders lead the rest by a big margin, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi swapping the top spot until Lorenzo stamped his authority on the timesheets. The Spaniard leads his Movistar Yamaha teammate by half a second, while Rossi is another half a second ahead of Marc Marquez. Fastest Ducati is Casey Stoner, over a tenth quicker than factory rider Andrea Iannone, while Cal Crutchlow was strong at the end once again, putting the LCR Honda into sixth, 1.3 seconds behind Lorenzo.
Times at 2:30pm:
Track action started late on the final day of testing at Sepang, after rain overnight and through the morning left the track wet. The track was empty until shortly after 11am, when Yamaha sent test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga out to test conditions. One by one more riders joined in, until the track was filled, the teams trying to get as much testing in as possible before the rain expected for this afternoon starts to fall.
Jorge Lorenzo was the fastest of the riders shortly after 1pm, the Movistar Yamaha rider leading Ducati test rider Casey Stoner by two tenths of a second. Marc Marquez is not far behind on the Repsol Honda, while Valentino Rossi shot up to fourth shortly after 1pm, demoting the two factory Suzukis of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales into fifth and sixth.
Times at 1:15pm:
If being the official supplier to a racing series is a double-edged sword, then being the sole supplier of equipment as essential as tires is doubly so. Leaving aside the complexities of exactly what a four-edged sword would actually look like, being official tire supplier to MotoGP is a role which offers massive opportunities for raising the role of a brand, and having it associated with the most famous names in motorcycle racing. It gets your brand name and logo in front of many tens of millions of race fans and motorcycle enthusiasts every weekend. It also sees your logo plastered all over just about every photo which appears in magazines and newspapers about MotoGP, as well as filling thousands of column inches on websites and in magazines. If you had to pay for the same exposure – a concept known as equivalent advertising value – it would cost you many, many times the €25 million Bridgestone were rumored to have paid for the contract.
There is a downside, of course. It is extremely uncommon to hear riders heap praise upon your tires spontaneously. Bridgestone had to announce they were pulling out of the role of official supplier to receive the praise they deserved, riders immediately paying tribute to just how good their racing tires actually are. By contrast, criticism from riders about the spec tire is both instantaneous and highly vocal. Allow a rider to speak about your tires, and they will expound in great detail on all of the failings, real and perceived of the product you have so lovingly produced. Should you suffer some form of catastrophic failure, or get something horribly wrong, then you face a barrage of coverage, all of it negative. As a tire manufacturer, you leave your PR people fighting fires for weeks, and sometimes months to come.
That is precisely the situation which Michelin finds themselves in this evening. At 10:40 on Tuesday morning, Loris Baz accelerated down the front straight at Sepang, and around two thirds of the way along, the rear tire of his Avintia Ducati GP14.2 exploded. As Dorna only has a couple of cameras at the Sepang Test, the video coverage is mainly from the HD CCTV cameras around the circuit, one of which is permanently trained down the main straight.
Press releases from the teams after the second day of testing at Sepang:
Danilo Petrucci kept his place at the top of the timesheets on Tuesday, the Pramac Ducati rider having set a fast time in the morning. Only a few riders improved in the afternoon, when the riders were forced to use the harder tire after Loris Baz' blowout on the main straight. Jorge Lorenzo was the fastest man on a hard tire, while Cal Crutchlow also made a big step forward with hard rubber.
Times at the end of Tuesday:
Race Direction is to be altered in the wake of the clash in Sepang between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. A proposal to split the responsibilities of Race Direction is to be adopted at the next meeting of the Grand Prix Commission to be held on Thursday.
The proposal will see the responsibility for disciplinary matters removed from the current four members of Race Direction, and placed in the hands of a separate panel of stewards. Race Direction will continue to be in charge of all aspects of running the race, including marshalling and safety, but incidents between riders will be investigated by the new panel. They will be charged with judging all incidents of unfair play, and especially of violations of rule 1.21.2, which mandates responsible behavior by the riders on track.
Exactly who will be in the panel is unclear at the moment, but the aim is not to have any Dorna staff in it. The fact that Javier Alonso, a senior executive of Dorna and one of the inner circle at the heart of the company, sits in Race Direction has occasionally been a concern from some of the manufacturers, with accusations of bias surfacing on occasion.
Ducatis are topping the timesheets halfway through the second day of the Sepang MotoGP test. Danilo Petrucci set a quick time early, taking over top spot from Jorge Lorenzo, who looked like dominating the second day as he had the first. In the late morning, Hector Barbera joined Petrucci at the front, putting the GP14.2 behind the Pramac GP15.
Jorge Lorenzo is third fastest, nearly three quarters of a second off the time of Petrucci, but the Yamaha man suffered a crash in the early afternoon, sliding off at Turn 5 and damaging his M1. Pol Espargaro also crashed at around the same time, track grip reducing in the afternoon. Marc Marquez set the fourth fastest time, dropping nearly a second and a half off his best time from yesterday, and ending ahead of another pair of Ducatis, this time those of Scott Redding and Andrea Iannone.
Though the crashes of Lorenzo and Espargaro were a minor worry for Michelin, what appeared to be a much bigger problem occurred in the first hour of the day. Loris Baz got halfway down the main straight before his Avintia Ducati GP14.2 disintegrated in an explosion of bike and tire parts. Confusion among the marshals meant it took nearly a minute for the red flag to be shown, several riders passing the straight still littered with parts.
What did we learn from the first day of testing at Sepang? Exactly what we expected to learn. Some riders have adapted quickly, others less quickly. The Michelins have made a big step forward, and the teams have started to understand the Michelin tires better. The spec electronics still need plenty of work, but are pretty usable in their current form (and well liked by the riders). Yamaha and Ducati have adapted well, Honda not very well at all, with the possible exception of Dani Pedrosa.
Above all, we learned that it is too early to be making any judgment calls, and that everyone still has a lot of work to do, and a lot of room for improvement. Today's outcome is interesting, but not definitive. In other words, if your favorite rider is near the top of the timesheets, you can feel optimistic that they will do well in 2016. If your favorite rider is nearer the bottom, you can console yourself with the fact that there is hope, and that testing will solve the worst of the issues.
Testing at Sepang started where the 2015 championship left off: with a Yamaha 1-2. Unlike 2015, however, the first day of testing at Sepang was not even close. Jorge Lorenzo set the fastest time, well over a second faster than his Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi. But it was not just the time which was impressive – just over 0.4 seconds off the fastest time set by Marc Márquez on the first day of the 2015 test – but the outright speed which backed it.
Press releases after the first day of testing at Sepang:
Final times at the end of testing on Monday:
Testing continues at Sepang, though the teams have now all stopped for lunch, and to sit out the intense heat of the middle of the day. There are a few changes at the top of the standings, the most significant being the influx of Ducatis into the top of the timesheets. Jorge Lorenzo leads, though, with an impressive time nearly a second faster than the rest of the field. In second place, Danilo Petrucci has put on an imposing showing on the Pramac Ducati, leading the factory bike of Andrea Iannone. The two Repsol Hondas follow, Dani Pedrosa quicker than Marc Marquez, while Scott Redding on the second Pramac bike leads Valentino Rossi on the second Yamaha. Aleix Espargaro is the first of the Suzukis, nearly 1.7 off the time of Lorenzo, but within seven tenths of the fastest Ducatis.
Times at 2:30pm: