The day after a race is simultaneously the best and the worst time to go testing. The best time, because the track is in great condition, having already seen three days of action. Riders are all fully up to speed, with both the track and with their riding. It is also the worst time, because riders and teams are exhausted after the intensity of a race weekend, having given their all to try to win at the track. Testing after a race weekend is probably the least worst solution.
The Monday test after Jerez saw this point very well illustrated. With temperatures very similar to race day, the MotoGP teams – all bar the factory Ducati men, who were headed to Mugello for a test there on the 11th and 12th May – found a track in almost identical condition to the race, in which they could test things they didn't have time to over the weekend, to try to find where they want wrong.
Jorge Lorenzo had already had a perfect weekend, dominating practice and qualifying and then taking a stunning victory. He therefore did not have much to test on Monday, a new fork and a new clutch being the biggest items. The fork was much the same, being the fork Valentino Rossi was using, but the new clutch was "pretty bad," according to Lorenzo, gains overall rather limited. It did not stop Lorenzo being fastest overall once again, however, though at less than four hundredths of a second, his advantage over his teammate was rather slim.
Valentino Rossi had made a big improvement, his Movistar Yamaha team having focused primarily on set up. He had tested a new seat unit, to allow him to change his position on the bike a little on the straight, but the biggest advance had been in the weight distribution. Rossi felt he had made a big step forward, and had found something which would have made him a lot more competitive had he found it a day earlier. It was a good day, Rossi said, and the improvement had left him hopeful.
Bradley Smith had a similar experience, having found improvements in electronics and in the front forks which would have made him a good deal more competitive had he had it in the race. It was almost frustrating, Smith told reporters, as the changed electronic set up they tried worked immediately, improving braking on his very first run out of the box. The change mainly involved changing engine braking, so that he could release the brake where he wanted and still get a little push through the corners to help load the front. At Jerez over the weekend, Smith had crashed a couple of times trying to master the brake point in fast corners, and this setting should solve that problem. Though it would be of limited use in Le Mans, it would benefit Smith at Mugello, Barcelona, Assen and Brno, giving a boost in the coming races.
At Honda, Marc Márquez was out testing a new swing arm, despite having said after the race that he wanted to give his injured finger a rest. Unfortunately, there was only him and Hiroshi Aoyama to do the testing, meaning that Márquez was forced to ride. It was physically very tough, he said, as his finger, the opposite arm which had suffered arm pump and a slight fever had left him out of shape. But testing the swing arm proved useful, the item improving edge grip and acceleration slightly, as well as helping with the floating feeling from the rear under heavy braking. That instability made the bike tough to ride and get into corners correctly, and though it looked spectacular, it is an area in which the Honda is still struggling.
That floating feeling is also something which Cal Crutchlow spent his time working on, testing the new Honda swing arm, as well as a new fork being used by the factory Honda riders. It was an improvement, but the new forks required a different set up to get them to work. Crutchlow also worked on some electronics to help stabilize the bike on corner entry, and that seemed to help a little as well.
Scott Redding spent his day working on himself rather than his bike, his main focus being getting himself comfortable. The only real adjustments were to his position on the bike, moving handlebars, footpegs and tank spacer. The aim was to improve confidence with the bike, and those changes and the program of work set out made a big difference. Redding is still working to understand the factory Honda RC213V, and once again expressed his surprise at just how hard you could push it. The limit of the bike was much further than it had been on the RCV1000R he had ridden last year, and he was learning to listen to his crew chief Chris Pike, and push the bike even harder. The Honda RC213V works best when it is pushed hardest, and this test allowed Redding to get to grips with that idea. Redding said he felt he had made real progress on Monday at Jerez.
While the factory Hondas had one or two upgrades to test, the Open Honda men are stuck with the bike as it is until the end of the year. Where they are working is mainly on electronics, to try to get the most out of the spec Magneti Marelli software. Eugene Laverty said he felt his Aspar team were starting to book progress, the software behaving more predictably and starting to produce some speed. Laverty had a pretty big crash at Turn 11, in which he damaged a finger and banged up his neck, but he was lucky to get away relatively unhurt.
The real testing work was being done at Aprilia and Suzuki. Aprilia brought a new seamless gearbox to test, which Alvaro Bautista spent the day working on. He was very impressed, the gearbox being much better than he expected. Shifting up the gearbox was almost as good as the Honda system he had used last year. Shifting down it was a little less good, but still better than he had dared to hope. Unfortunately, he won't be able to use it immediately, as Aprilia are still short of parts. Aprilia's suppliers are busy producing new gears for the seamless box, the current version having only a very limited set of ratios. By the time Mugello comes around, the box should be fitted as standard on the RS-GP.
At Suzuki, the focus was on creating traction and acceleration, through a combination of software and a new swing arm. That worked quite well, but more work needed to be done. Where Suzuki was suffering, Aleix Espargaro told me, is in the first touch of the throttle. Down on horsepower, the bike needed to compensate by offering great acceleration. That means getting throttle response right off the bottom of the revs.
Aleix Espargaro also tried the hard front tire, after struggling during the race with the medium front. It worked very well, frustratingly so, Espargaro said, because he was faster all day than he had been during the race. Overall, he was very happy with the test, however, and especially on the improvements they had made with used tires. On new tires, the Suzuki is a match for the Hondas and Yamahas, but was losing too much ground as the tires went off. They had found between two and three tenths per lap on used tires, making Espargaro very optimistic.