With just two days of testing during the MotoGP season, track time outside of race weekends is like gold dust. Just over halfway through the season, teams and riders find themselves with a lot of questions needing urgent answers. Factory engineers have their own agendas, with prototypes and new ideas to collect data on in preparation for the first post-season test at Valencia, to give themselves enough time to get bikes and engines ready for 2024.
Michelin, too, have things they want testing. New compounds for 2024, and very early work on the 2025 front tire which is meant to solve the current woes with tire pressure caused by ride-height devices and aero. That tire is reserved for test riders, however. The MotoGP regulars won't get their hands on it until Valencia or Sepang at the earliest.
So there was an awful lot to test on Monday at Misano. A new engine, chassis and aero for Yamaha, a new bike (sans engine) for Honda, carbon-fiber frames for KTM and Aprilia, and experiments with suspension and setup and bike geometry to work through.
Ideally, you want to test in race conditions, but the Monday after a test is anything but that. With MotoGP being the last race of the day, there is already a solid layer of Michelin rubber laid on the track. Then having 20 riders spend the whole day riding leaves more and more rubber, creating more and more grip. And at Misano, a track which is already very high grip, grip levels go through the roof.
All that makes it incredibly difficult to interpret the data from the Misano test on Monday. "It's so hard to honestly understand at these tests, because by the end of the day, the track is like you're on rails, literally," Brad Binder told us on Monday evening. "There's so much grip and you can't put a foot wrong. As the day gets on it's almost like, whatever you test, you've got to think about twice."
If you try a new swingarm or suspension link and it feels like you have more rear grip, you have to figure out whether the grip is coming from the new parts or just from the thick layer of Michelin rubber on the track. It is easy to be led astray by the data.
"I think last year we also got it wrong in this," Fabio Quartararo admitted. "Every time you go out, many bikes are laying down Michelin rubber, Michelin rubber, and it's a track where you spin a lot. So you leave a lot of the tire. If you go to turn 3 right now it's black. So then you open the throttle and on the race weekend you have to control it because it's sliding. Now you can stay wide open and it's fake."
In the early days of KTM's MotoGP project, they found they had this problem at the Jerez test. To solve it, they simply waited two days, and tested after an official Moto2 and Moto3 test. The Moto2 bikes would hoover up all the Michelin rubber, and remove all the grip from the track. KTM then had conditions that were much closer to those they would find on a race weekend.
That leaves the factories with a lot of work to do interpreting the data from the test. Here's a rundown of what they've been testing, and what the riders found.
Honda – baby steps where giant leaps are needed