The 2016 MotoGP season got underway this morning, as the sound of MotoGP bikes out on track echoed round the amphitheater of the Valencia circuit, chasing away much of the bitterness and recriminations left hanging there in the wake of the 2015 season showdown. With new bikes, new tires, new electronics, and new and old riders on new and old bikes, there was much to look forward to. It felt like MotoGP had a future again.
With new tires and new electronics, many teams had chosen to forego too many changes to their bikes, but there were still some novelties out on track. Honda had brought a 2016 bike, complete with a new engine. Factory Yamaha had an intermediate version of their 2016 bike, complete with fuel tank moved to the rear of the bike. Despite Gigi Dall'Igna's assurances yesterday that they would be testing nothing new to concentrate on the Michelins, Andrea Dovizioso confirmed that he had tried a new chassis.
At Suzuki, they spend the day working on adapting to the tires, and gathering more data for the 2016 bike. Engineers in Hamamatsu are getting that ready for the Sepang test – at least, that is what Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro are hoping – a bike that will produce more horsepower and have a fully seamless gearbox.
There was some shuffling of faces and equipment in the satellite teams, with bikes being wheeled from garage to garage, and a few riders moving along with them. The happiest moment of all for riders like Eugene Laverty and Jack Miller was to wave goodbye to the Honda RC213V-RS, a bike which one rider referred to as "a piece of ****". Miller jumped onto the standard RC213V, and was immediately delighted by Honda's electronics. Laverty, meanwhile traded his Honda Open bike for a Ducati GP14.2, and was immediately impressed by the red-shirted Ducati staff who had invaded the Aspar garage, a real contrast with the Honda. That had been a real customer bike: you paid your money, and you took your bike, and you were left to get on with it on your own.
Press releases from the teams after the first day of testing at Valencia:
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What really happened in MotoGP’s 2015 finale
I’ve never done this before, but I think now the time is right. It’s time to come out: as a Valentino Rossi fan. Social media has been so poisoned by Rossi fanatics in recent weeks that I’ve been judged guilty a thousand times for the crime of trying to be objective in the face of the facts. I’m not the only one. Many other MotoGP journalists, respected for years and years by their readers, have been subjected to the same abuse for the same crime of attempting to uncover the truth.
Final times at the end of a full day of testing:
Testing continues at Valencia, as do the front end crashes. Teams are working on bike set up and weight distribution, to adapt to the tires, but that is taking some time.
Times at 3pm:
Testing is underway for the 2016 of MotoGP, the bikes rolling out on Michelin tires with official timing for the first time. Lap times are quick, Marc Marquez already lapping around the race record, the performance of the Michelins up to par. But there are still issues: Marquez crashed at Turn 3, losing the front at a corner where crashes are extremely rare on just his fourth lap out of the pits. Cal Crutchlow has also crashed, going down at Turn 5, again losing the front.
The bikes out are a fair mixture, with Suzuki and Ducati sticking to their own electronics for the first day, while the other manufacturers have switched to the 2016 spec software. All of the riders have already gone out, Valentino Rossi being the late arrival, as is his custom at a test. Rossi is in his garage, and due to go out soon.
They say that truth is stranger than fiction. The more pressing question is how to distinguish between the two. Narratives are easily created – it is my stock in trade, and the trade which every sports writer plies – but where does stringing together a collection of related facts move from being a factual reconstruction into the realms of invented fantasy? When different individuals view the same facts and draw radically opposite conclusions, are we to believe that one is delusional and the other is sane and objective? Most of all, how much value should we attach to the opinions of each side? Do we change our opinion of the facts based on our sympathy or antipathy for the messenger?
That is the confusion which the final round of MotoGP has thrust the world of Grand Prix racing into. What should have been a celebration of the greatest season of racing in the premier class in recent years, and possibly ever, was rendered farcical, as two competing interpretations of a single set of facts clashed, exploded, then dragged the series down into the abyss. Bitterness, anger, suspicion, fear, all of these overshadowed some astonishing performances, by both winners and losers. Looked at impartially, the Valencia round of MotoGP was a great day of fantastic racing. But who now can look at it impartially?
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the final race of 2015 at Valencia:
Press releases from the teams in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes:
Cal Crutchlow's bike had issues on the grid and was walked to the pits and he would start from the last place, gifting Valentino Rossi one place at the back of the grid.
The Moto2 race was red-flagged after a mid-pack pileup on turn two of lap one and would be restarted as an eighteen lap race.
The title still to be decided, Miguel Oliveira needed to win and have Danny Kent finish fifteenth or lower to take the title.