If ever there was a time to be disabused of any notions of the glamorous life a professional motorcycle racer leads, the weeks immediately following the end of the racing season, after testing has been completed, is surely it. Riders around the world head into operating theaters and physical rehabilitation facilities to have more permanent fixes applied to the temporary patch up jobs done to allow them to keep racing during the season.
Rain has been a factor at both the Moto2 test at Valencia and the World Superbike test in Jerez on Tuesday. In Jerez, the track dried up as the day went on, while at Valencia, the weather got worse as the day went on. It started cold and wet, and that was enough to persuade most teams to pack up and go home.
A few riders did ride on Tuesday, however. The Moto2 rookies dominated the timesheets, as riders who had the most to learn in the wet. Pecco Bagnaia was the fastest Moto2 rider in the wet, ending just ahead of Miguel Oliveira on the KTM. Fabio Quartararo took third spot on the Pons Kalex, while Remy Gardner was fourth fastest on the Tech 3 bike.
The Moto2 test at Valencia has taken a heavy toll on some of its participants. The rookies Brad Binder and Jorge Navarro both picked up serious injuries at the test, putting an end to their preseason testing for the winter.
Binder was the most seriously injured. The reigning Moto3 champion highsided his KTM Moto2 bike at Turn 11, the bike apparently landing on his right arm and fracturing the radius, as well as damaging bones in his wrist. The South African was taken to the Dexeus Institut in Barcelona where he was examined and had a pin inserted in the broken bone.
With just ten days to go until the winter test ban comes in to force, on 1st December, teams in both world championships are busy doing their last tests and collecting as much data as possible to take into the winter break.
Testing is already happening on Monday, with some of the WorldSBK teams gathering in Jerez. Kawasaki, the SMR Aprilia squad, Althea BMW and Ten Kate (soon to be Red Bull) Honda are at the Jerez circuit, though the wet weather means there is little going on on track. Ten Kate are without Nicky Hayden, who has twisted his knee while practice dirt track. The WorldSBK teams are due to stay for a couple more days, and will hope that the better weather forecast for later in the week arrives sooner rather than later.
While the MotoGP riders have packed up and gone home (for some, in preparation for their private tests at Jerez or Sepang), the Moto2 and Moto3 riders have been down in Jerez getting their first taste of 2017. In good conditions, Taka Nakagami topped both days of testing, ending just ahead of Alex Marquez on Thursday. Marquez was a tenth quicker than Lorenzo Baldassarri, while Danny Kent was fourth quickest after his switch to Suter. Axel Pons ended the day in 5th, with new Moto2 arrivals RW Racing.
Valencia is supposed to be an emotionally charged race. The last round of the season, the grand finale. The last chance for riders to lay it all on the line, in pursuit of glory. The bowl in which the Ricardo Tormo circuit is set focuses and amplifies the cheers of the crowd, carrying the racing to new levels of intensity.
There was an extra layer of emotion at Valencia this year. The excitement is tinged with the bittersweet taste of parting. There is the largest group of riders moving from one garage to another that I can remember in a very long time. Riders and their crew become very close, a tight unit that works intensely together. They celebrate success together, and share their despair during the bad times. These men and women have been through a lot together, forging bonds that are not easily broken. Riders may only be moving a couple of garages away, the parting is no less painful for that.
Those departing felt compelled to put on a good show for the people they leave behind, and they did not disappoint. In Moto3 and Moto2, the departing champions put on brave fights to reprise their title-winning ways, with supporting stars offering fierce opposition to add some luster to their victories. In the MotoGP class, all the factory riders switching garages dug a little deeper inside themselves, and pulled some outstanding performances out of the bag. The extra emotion of the final weekend of the season produced three great races at Valencia, with three truly deserving winners.
Final standings of the 2016 Moto2 championship:
Results and summary of the Moto2 race in Valencia:
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class in Valencia: