After Valencia: Who Is Testing What At The First MotoGP Test Of 2017?

On Tuesday, November 15th, the 2017 season starts in earnest. The biannual session of bike swapping commences two days after the final MotoGP round at Valencia, as riders, crew chiefs, mechanics, press officers and many others swap garages to join their 2017 teams. It is often something of a disappointment, with only a few riders moving from team to team, but the coming season sees some big names switching bikes, as well as an important new arrival in the shape of KTM. So to help you keep track, here is who will be testing what at Valencia on Tuesday.

Ducati

All eyes will of course be on the factory Ducati garage, where Jorge Lorenzo is due to get his first outing on the Desmosedici. The Bologna factory has been working flat out on getting their 2017 bike ready, Michele Pirro giving the GP17 its first test after Aragon. The test was so important that Pirro was unable to fly to Motegi to replace the still recovering Andrea Iannone.

How will Lorenzo fare? We will have some idea on Tuesday. That is, if it doesn't rain, which the (notoriously inaccurate) long-range forecasts show it might. More important, perhaps, than his first test on the bike may be the relationship he establishes with new crew chief Cristian Gabarrini. The Italian worked previously with Casey Stoner, and so is used to working with complex characters. Tuesday and Wednesday is the day Lorenzo and Gabarrini get their first chance to get a feel for one another.

Andrea Dovizioso might be a better gauge of how big a difference the GP17 itself makes. This will be the fifth iteration of the Desmosedici the Italian has ridden (a case could be made that it is actually the seventh different bike, the GP14 having undergone serious change throughout the 2014 season), so he has a good understanding of the Ducati, and its design philosophy. The GP17 will need to brake a little better and be a little smoother in the middle of the corner than the GP16.

The Ducati riders will have to be extra cautious on their first contact with the bike, however. They will only have one GP17 each at their disposal, along with a GP16 as a second bike.

Yamaha

If Jorge Lorenzo to Ducati is the biggest story of the 2017 season, Maverick Viñales to Yamaha runs it a close second. Viñales has made massive progress in 2016, his biggest step coming in winning a dry race at Silverstone. The Spaniard is expected to immediately be quick on the Yamaha M1, though he may find it a lot more difficult to turn than the agile and sweet-handling Suzuki GSX-RR. It will at least drive out of corners, however, which was his biggest complaint in 2016. Viñales takes over all of Lorenzo's crew, except for one mechanic who will be leaving with the five-time champion for Ducati.

Valentino Rossi remains in the Yamaha garage, of course, and one question will be how the relationship between the Italian veteran and Viñales develops. They are currently on extremely friendly terms, though that may not last once they are direct competitors in the same team. It is not yet certain whether Yamaha will run their 2017 bike at Valencia, though Valentino Rossi told reporters during the flyaways that he hoped that would be the case. If the bike isn't quite ready for Valencia, then the team will get their first taste of the bike at a private test at Sepang later in the month. There, Rossi and Viñales will also be joined by the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rookies Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger.

Suzuki

Suzuki is one of three factories which sees a complete change in its line up for 2017. Andrea Iannone joins the Japanese factory from Ducati, while Alex Rins moves up from Moto2 to replace the departing Maverick Viñales. Iannone is expected to be immediately quick, and the Suzuki GSX-RR is a good deal less physical to ride than the Ducati Desmosedici. The Italian should also be highly motivated, as he has been left embittered by Ducati's decision to drop him and keep Andrea Dovizioso, to make room for Jorge Lorenzo. Iannone brings his crew chief Marco Rigamonti with him from Ducati.

Alex Rins also makes his highly anticipated debut on a MotoGP bike. The Spaniard is highly regarded and highly rated, but he has had something of a disappointing Moto2 campaign. He has shown he is capable of winning races in Moto2, and did so very quickly, a key sign he is capable of adapting. But after a draining 2016 Moto2 season, he may not be immediately up to speed on a MotoGP machine.

Aprilia

Aprilia also has an all-new line up, and there is no better time to be joining the factory. Aleix Espargaro is moving over from Suzuki, after being let go in favor of Andrea Iannone. Espargaro has a lot of experience on a wide range of bikes, which should be an asset to the Noale factory.

Espargaro will be joined by Sam Lowes, who moves up after a difficult year in Moto2. The Englishman looked capable of fighting for the title in the intermediate class, but crashed out too often to be consistently competitive. He will need to approach MotoGP a little cautiously, especially as he also has Michelin tires to learn. This will not be as hard as it has been in the past, especially as Michelin are bringing their new and much improved 2017-spec front tire to Valencia. This tire provides much better feedback, and should prevent some of the many front end crashes which have marred 2016.

Lowes and Espargaro will be riding the 2016 Aprilia RS-GP, as the 2017 bike will not be ready until Sepang next year. But the current iteration of the bike is already vastly improved, and should provide a good basis for the new Aprilia pairing to get an idea of the machine.

KTM

If you had to rank the interest about the upcoming bike changes at the test among fans, Jorge Lorenzo's move to Ducati would almost certainly come out on top. If you were to poll a group of paddock insiders, the entry (or is it a return?) of KTM into MotoGP would probably push Lorenzo's switch into second place. Riders – even great riders of Jorge Lorenzo's stature – come and go, but new manufacturers enter only once in a blue moon.

We will get a first look at the 2017 version of KTM's RC16 MotoGP machine during practice and the race, of course, with Mika Kallio entered as a wildcard at the Valencia round. But Kallio has not raced in a World Championship series for a year, and though he has been very busy testing, there is some question as to how race ready he will be.

Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will have to wait until Tuesday to try the bike. Just what Smith will be capable of doing is open to question, the Englishman is still recovering from a very serious leg injury picked up during practice for a World Endurance race at Oschersleben. Pol Espargaro should provide a better benchmark of its progress.

Measuring progress against other bikes could still be an issue, however. The steel trellis frame used by KTM provides a very different feeling to the aluminum beam chassis both Smith and Espargaro have used throughout their careers. In Austria, at the official launch of the KTM MotoGP bike, when I asked Mika Kallio if the steel chassis took some time to adapt to, he agreed that it did.

"Also for the rider, it was not easy to jump to this bike," Kallio replied. "It gives you a different feeling, this frame, and I needed to learn first how I felt with this bike, and then I needed to make a lot of laps to see exactly how to give the right comments on which way we need to go on the development. It has also been a big challenge for me, to learn the bike and this feeling that this frame gives." We should expect a similar period of adaptation for new arrivals Smith and Espargaro.

Honda

There may be the fewest personnel changes in the Honda line up – zero, to be precise – but there is still plenty of interest in what HRC will be bringing to Valencia. Honda have a new engine, rumored to have a very different character to the current version of the RC213V. It is said to use a different firing order (or more properly, firing interval) for the cylinders, to make the bike a little easier to manage.

Will the new RC213V use a big bang firing sequence? We will only find out for sure at the test – or perhaps on Monday evening, when Repsol Honda mechanics fire up the bike in pit lane in preparation for Tuesday's test. There will be a host of journalists and rival engineers in pit lane when they do, with sound recording equipment at the ready, to analyze the sound of the new bike.

Though the Honda riders have been careful not to comment about the 2017 bike, paddock gossip suggests it is a significant improvement. The changes are said to be mainly in the engine, with only a few minor modifications to the chassis. What Honda are seeking is a big improvement in acceleration. Given that Honda have won nine of the seventeen races held so far this year with a bike that is still hard to control under acceleration, an improvement could lead to massive gains.

In past years, only the Repsol Honda team have had the latest version of the bike at the Valencia test. Given that Cal Crutchlow has played such an important part in HRC's testing program, though, the LCR Honda rider may also get a new engine to test.

Satellite teams

The Valencia test is always different for a satellite team. Where factory teams have new bikes to roll out and test, satellite teams are generally stuck with the bike they finished the season with. That seems likely to happen for the Marc VDS Racing team, for instance, though that does not mean there will be no changes. Jack Miller's current crew chief Cristian Gabarrini is moving to Ducati, and so he will have to get used to Ramon Aurin. Aurin is currently crew chief to Dani Pedrosa, but is due to be replaced by Giacomo Guidotti.

At the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, the mechanics will eagerly await both the 2016 factory Yamaha M1s, and the two rookies who are due to ride them. In terms of equipment, the story is always the same for the Tech 3 squad. The M1s used by the Movistar Yamaha riders for the last race at Valencia are rolled out of the factory garage and into Tech 3, where they stay virtually unaltered all season.

The bigger question mark for Tech 3 is with their riders. Double Moto2 champion Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger are both rookies, and will both have a lot to learn. Their times at the Valencia test will not tell us much. Their progress as the test goes on will be much more instructive.

Pramac, Avintia, and Aspar Ducati

If the situation at Honda and Yamaha is relatively straightforward, things are a little more complex for the Ducati satellite teams. That is in no small part due to the large number of satellite bikes Ducati puts on the grid, much to their credit. It is further complicated by the fact that each of the satellite teams will have two different bikes at their disposal for their two riders.

At the Valencia test, the Avintia and Aspar teams will have the bikes they will be using for the 2017 season. At Avintia, Hector Barbera will have a Ducati Desmosedici GP16, while Loris Baz will have a GP15. In the Aspar garage, new arrival Alvaro Bautista will have a GP16, while Karel Abraham will have a GP15.

Who gets what at Pramac is yet to be settled, although Danilo Petrucci currently leads Scott Redding by 16 points in their intra-team battle for the right to race a Ducati Desmosedici GP17 in 2017. The winner of that contest will be decided by the outcome of the Valencia race, though Redding will have to score a podium and have Petrucci not finish to take control. At the test, the losing rider will have a GP16, while the winning rider will have an evo version of the GP16, with some GP17 parts fitted.

Though we are all fascinated to see what will happen at the Valencia test, that is still over a week away. First, there is the small matter of the final MotoGP round of the season to get out of the way. The championship may be settled, but there is still plenty of pride to race for.


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Comments

The intra team competition only kicked in for the last few races of the season.
To base it off the whole season would penalise petrucci severely for the hand injury he suffered at the start of the year. Pramac didn't want to do that

This is absolutely correct. The competition between Redding and Petrucci takes the results starting at Brno, because Petrucci missed the start of the season because of his hand, and Redding had a couple of weird mechanical DNFs. Counting from Brno seemed fairer, and they are allowed to drop their worst result. Redding was awarded extra points because Petrucci took him out at Aragon.

If Honda get the new engine right for next year's RCV, Márquez will be hard to beat again. I don't foresee another ten in a row, but if he isn't fighting the bike for the first half of the year he could dominate overall. Again. 

Of course that also depends on how well all of the teams progress throughout the season, and maybe Honda will stand still while Yamaha make huge strides. I guess we'll know in about a year.

The  interesting dynamic there, may be Gabarrini adpating to Lorenzo, rather than the other way around.

In an interview with Gabarrini ( I can't find it to give you the link, dammit), Gabarrini mentioned that it took Stoner a maximum of three laps to evaluate any changes to settings.  He also mentioned that he had come - from experience - to totally trust what Stoner was reporting over and above the data, when Stoner pulled into the pits and said: 'there's something wrong with the engine' - Gabarrini looked at the data, said 'no' and sent him out again: the engine grenaded in a half-lap.  From then on, in Gabarrini's own words, he trusted Stoner's  feedback over the data.  Stoner could tell him what needed to be changed.

It worked for two WCs on two different bikes.

But: go back further, to another crew chief who worked with both Stoner and Loenzo: Ramon Forcada.  His evaluation of each was ( very loosely paraphrased), that Stoner could jump on the bike and within a few laps, tell him which things weren't working well, needed attention. Lorenzo would just come in saying ' it's not working for me', and Forcada had to trawl through the data to find the problem(s).

Of the 'aliens': give Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa the same bike that was set up for each of them perfectly, and Lorenzo would in all probability extract the quickest lap in ideal conditions: he is an absolute master of riding to 99.99% all the way around, for the whole race.  When his stars align, he is simply beautiful to watch.  Pedrosa can - when it happens for him - seem to ride at 99.99999% on his day.  

But Gabarrini, in that inrterview, said somethiong else about Stoner: that when they were having HUGE set-up problems with the recalcitrant Ducatis, at some point in the practice sessions. Stoner would say: (again, paraphrased): 'OK, let's stop chasing it, I'll do the rest that we need.'

It didn't always work, of course, but the message is clear.

 

Thank you! How long has it been since we saw so many relevant changes in each team? Allow me a what if: what if it rains? Are the manufacturers allowed to test again and make up for the 2 lost days? If not.... does this mean that JL will not be able to test the Ducati until next year?if memory serves me right Yamaha and tech3 are headed to Sepang end of this month (while the others will test in Jerez) won't the asphalt condition there affect the test? (given they all complained about wet patches not drying up....) is it true that yamaha cannot test in Jerez because Ducati does not let them ? Is this just to piss them off or is there a more strategic reason?
On a side note I think Iannone might do well on the Suzuki and agree with other posts about Honda: if they've made those needed changes they'll be very scary next season.
A last note even more on the side: I'm truly fed up of reading everywhere silly speculations on how VR will be a nasty diva and will "hate" Vinales as soon as the kid shows some speed.... it's boring and stupid on so many levels.... particularly because the kid has been fast throughout the season and only a creature from an outer planet doesn't know it.

Totally agree on this one with you, it is indeed boring and stupid. I do not think VR will get pissed off from MV if he beats him fair and square though it will definitely lead VR to show his fierce competitive side which will be reflected on the track - as is with everyone and he wont differentiate teammate from a rider from other team. I also think he is at a different point in his career now and realizes that a WIN is not given, he has to fight really really hard for it which is totally unlike the time JL came in, when VR was supposed to be the "given" winner. JL's character pissed him off more I guess. Whether or not VR will be a nasty teammate will largely depend on MV's conduct as well, hope he is not like JL when it comes to giving statements and that they work well together as a team and one of them wins the title.

"is it true that yamaha cannot test in Jerez because Ducati does not let them ? Is this just to piss them off or is there a more strategic reason?"

the other way around, Yamaha is not allowing Jorge to test with the Duc in 2016 besides the post-season Valencia test

how this answers my question. I wanted to know if Ducati banned Yamaha from the test in Jerez. And why. Any strategic reason other than A) pissing off Yamaha B) retaliation....
Once the above questions are answered we can open the debate on who started what and Lorenzo's "licence to test".... wouldn't you agree?

I haven't read anywhere that Ducati banned Yamaha from testing in Jerez in David's article, so if you could point me in the direction, that would be very friendly of you.
I don't see how any manufacturer can "ban" any other one... when they have a private test and rent the track they have every right to do so (if they don't want to share the time/cost). But Yamaha can do so of their own if they would want to test there.

No reason for you to be pissed off...

I'm not pissed off....you are right David does not mention it hence my question. I'm afraid I cannot quote the source... I read it maybe on La Gazzetta sometime ago and found it slightly odd and petty. From my understanding Ducati reserved Jerez and invited almost anyone on two wheels but Yamaha....as a form of retaliation Yamaha decided that Lorenzo will not test there. To be perfectly clear with you I don't know which side of the story is true: maybe it's the other way round: Yamaha did not free Lorenzo and Ducati disinvited them..... that's why I was asking and wondering about possibile strategies and implications: is it good or bad that Lorenzo is denied those 2 extra days? Is it good or bad that yamaha is flying half the world over for 2 days test? Is it strategic that the 2 manufacturers are not testing on the same track? Maybe I'm the only one interested in this matter.... apologies to all if it's the case

    Well, comments about VR46 are not without some merit. He was okay with Stoner until being beaten by him regularly (and also Stoner's comments about Rossi's riding, which would upset anyone). Same when Lorenzo came to Yamaha. Started friendly-ish to an extent, then eventually came "the wall". Part of this I'm sure is attributible to Lorenzo's attitude, but Rossi got jealous of the attention given to him and left for Ducati. And finally, Marquez. Remember them hugging and laughing on the podium at Qatar 2013? And how has that relationship turned out?

    None of these sourings can be solely attributed to Rossi, no doubt. Every relationship has two sides. But to say it's stupid that Rossi will become more cold to Vinales is just wrong.

"And finally, Marquez. Remember them hugging and laughing on the podium at Qatar 2013? And how has that relationship turned out?"
This is precisely the kind of thinking that annoys me : people have created a narrative where VR becomes nasty with anyone who beats him and use as the latest example MM. How friendly they were and how it turned out. What everybody seems to strategically omit in this perfect scenario is that things went sour the moment VR started beating MM. On regular basis I might add. Given those facts the reasoning should be : VR hates the people he beats... How twisted and stupid is that ? Why is it so difficult to fathom that VR like any other champion hates to lose but loves competition and can accept a defeat? He's been around for 20 - twenty !- years. Forget the antics and think about sheer competition: he got beaten time and again and most of the time he accepted it with a certain form of grace.
And for the record, Vinales has already beaten Rossi. So he knows what he is up against. As we do.

With you on this one. Mm won and what did vr do laughing with him on the podium but things got ugly when vr beats mm in Argentinië. The corner befor mm fell he driften his bike full into vr then came Assen and mm try to outbrake vr at a point on track it was impossible to do and ram vr again and thats was the point where mm got crazy. Vr vs cs he lost the title but won the year later and cs couldnt handle LS and when vr moved to ducati and made a mistake and took stoner out,vr wanted to apologise and walked towards stoner and what did cs do..... ambition out weight your talent......... so.....

Rossi walked all the way and went into the garage with his helmet on...and kept it on. Some years later Pedrosa has showed us how a real man presents himself to say sorry for taking someone out. And Pedrosa just lost the the front end of a hard tontide bike. Rossi tried coming from halfway into last week behind stoner, in pouring rain, on a mission that was never going to work. His race pace showed he was going to eat stoner up at any point he wanted in the next lap. The move was stupid and totally unneeded. All in all I thought stoner was quite civil. If that had been me then my reply to Rossi would have been far more pointed n brutal. Rossi got off lightly.

Why is there so little information on the new M1? Certainly HRC isn't the only factory looking for major improvements. Also what about the new Suzuki? By now they should be tired of their racebikes being labeled 'sweet handling'... 

I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, that you take your time to do such an incredible job informing both fans and media about the depth and details of this sport.

Best regards
Member of the media
Aslak Vind

 

David - request idea for test day...A.Espargaro to speak about comparing the current Aprilia, Suzuki, and his old Aprilia. Insight as to what is going on with the Suzuki and traction/electronics. Of course Maverick and Jorge on their new rides but that goes without saying, and we are less likely to get good stuff there (good luck squeezing in journo time there). Everything KTM. Lap times. Rider style change analysis (the insight gleaned with Laverty's brother is FANTASTIC).

Please and thank you Mate!
:)

Pondering each satellite Duc garage working with two different bikes - does that sound little a bit if a pain in the butt to any one else?

Tech3 getting stale equipment that stays static...STARTS the season well for the rookies, as the bikes are so well sorted and there is so much data there re setup. Really, that is a boon. Especially for a couple of kids fresh out of Moto2 that know little of the tires, brakes, electronics, power etc. This year more than others it is a good thing Herve's little Yamaha academy has well sorted bikes. But after a few races...Yamaha, you might incentivize the satellite team and riders with a performance based factory bike. Great riders from Moto2 can be culled to you that way. Why let Honda pipeline so many top riders? And the data is helpful. And development. Start seeing satellites more as collaborative allies and less as customers. Economies of scale are important - once you have the sweet kit engineered, one more unit is not so costly. Just look at what Honda has done w such things fruitfully. 2015 bike too Marquez for Marquez excepted.

Last thought - weather. 2016 had lots of it. This inordinately affects certain bikes (Yamaha) and riders (Jorge). Tomorrow here in Portland Oregon USA we will have 67 degrees F...perhaps the new norm is weather oddities. The data confirms it. Perhaps a post-Jorge Yamaha can have development towards a more evenly front/rear balanced bike that suits the Michelins better as well as mixed conditions.

Go KTM! Really every bike outside of the old Fab Four has my support. Never thought I would say it, but Lorenzo in red has my cheers.

Marquez' start to the year: 3,1,1,3, threw away a 4th,2,2,2. This year wasn't about Marquez accepting he had to struggle and not win the championship. It was about understanding that he couldn't win every single race. Not denying that Honda had problems at the start of the year but it's clear they got their head around the electronics quite a while ago. 

Rossi has still been fast everywhere all year. He's just blown it. I expect, and hope, for a great battle all year between him and Marquez in 2017. I don't see Rossi making all those mistakes again. It seems like Marquez has learnt the value and need for consistency now he knows he isn't more talented than Rossi and Lorenzo. Rossi seems to have had to learn how to deal with knowing he can be the fastest everywhere again. Lorenzo is an unknown because of the bike change of course, I'm not just dismissing him for the sake of it. 

That's a pretty great recipe whatever way you look at it.