It is a good job the post-race test at Valencia is three days long. The weather in Valencia in November is usually very good, but it can turn, and you can lose track time to rain. That was certainly the case on Tuesday, rain starting early in the morning, and coming in waves all day. It meant the track was wet throughout Tuesday, only the depth of water on the track varying. The heavy rain meant that most rider decided to sit out the day, only ten riders putting in any laps.
With the track the way it was, the finishing order was not really relevant. What was more important was gaining time on the track, and for several riders, getting to grips with Bridgestone's wet tires. Eugene Laverty, Loris Baz, and Marco Melandri, all of whom have moved over from World Superbikes, needed to adjust their minds to the Bridgestones. Even Melandri, who rode on Bridgestones the last time he was in MotoGP in 2010, said the feeling had changed a lot. The rear tire got up to temperature much faster than before, Melandri said.
For Loris Baz, the surprise was the stiffness of the front tire, even in the wet. Used to the softer Pirellis, the support the Bridgestone front provided was remarkable. Laverty, too, praised the wet Bridgestones, pointing in particular to corner entry as the tire's strong point. If there was a weakness, Laverty said, it was that the Bridgestone wets needed to be scrubbed in for a couple of laps. It took them time to get up to temperature and start working.
This behavior may possibly be more related to the Honda than to the Bridgestone tires. Cal Crutchlow also got caught out by the tire on his first lap out of the pits. "When I spoke to Marc he said, the first two laps on the Honda on the tires, you have to really take the shine off them, where what I've been used to in the past, you're able to push immediately, you can use the tire the first lap." The crash – a low speed lowside in Turn 4, the first right hander – left Crutchlow almost embarrassed. "As you probably saw, a rabbit ran out on track and I didn't know what to do, so I jumped off the bike," he joked. He felt so bad for crashing on his out lap that he hardly dared go back to the pits. His new crew chief at LCR, Christophe 'Beefy' Bourgignon, was at pains to placate him and calm him down, which left Crutchlow almost surprised. His former crew chief Daniele Romagnoli would have called him an idiot, albeit with a smile, Crutchlow said.
Crutchlow was not the only crasher, Loris Baz also went down at the end of the session. The problem was probably due to a sudden drop in temperature, the track quickly getting colder as the rain grew heavier and the sun disappeared. Baz had found the Bridgestone wets worked very well with a lot of water, but felt less confident when the rain let up a little and there was less water on the track. He would look at his data and try to learn from what had happened. This was all part of the process of adapting to the bike, he said. That is why they go testing, though he felt bad for his mechanics.
Scott Redding crashed for much the same reason, a victim of the temperature drop. It was an important day for Redding, needing the time on the bike and the tires in the wet. The performance of the tires is exceptional, the rear tire lifting under braking into the first corner, despite the track being soaked. Redding finished on Tuesday feeling much better in the wet, and with a better understanding of the bike as well.
It had been a learning day not just for Redding, but also for his team. New crew chief Chris Pike was quickly learning to understand what the bike was capable of, and how to get the best out of it, but they still had a lot of work to do. The entire team was beginning to gel very nicely, the understanding between rider, crew chief and mechanics already very good. This was so important, Redding said, and provided a major motivation.
The biggest motivation, though, had been the fact that for the first time in his career, he had passed another rider along the straight. He had been riding behind Alvaro Bautista on the Aprilia, and got better drive to power past the Spaniard. That had been a very funny moment, he said, and left him laughing in his helmet. It also gave him hope that at last, he had the power to fight for the podium, which is the reason he goes racing in the first place.
Both Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez also posted a few laps, though Rossi did not have anything much to test. He went out at the end of the session to test the 2014 bike in the dry, but the worsening weather put an end to his day. Marc Marquez actually had something to test, trying out some new Brembo brakes. He had new discs and calipers, and wanted to get a feeling for the new brakes. They needed to test how the brakes felt in very cold conditions, and will check them again in the tropical heat of Sepang in February, when conditions are the opposite of today.
The weather is expected to improve tomorrow, though it may take some time for the track to dry out. Sunshine is predicted for the entire day, meaning that everyone at the test should spend a lot more time out on the track. There is still a lot more work to do to prepare for the 2015 MotoGP season.