The point of the post-season test at Valencia is to give the new parts the racing departments have cooked up based on the data collected during the year their first run out. The hope is that the new parts – engines, chassis, electronic packages, etc – will provide improvements, make the bikes faster, and help drop the lap times even further.
There was plenty of good news for the MotoGP factories from the two days of testing at Valencia. Their work has been successful, judging by the initial results at the test. The new engines which have been brought are all quicker, the chassis which have been tested are all an improvement.
The bad news is that all of this applies to just about every manufacturer in MotoGP. Yamaha, Honda, Ducati, Suzuki, KTM, even Aprilia, they have all made steps forward. The trouble is, that if everyone makes a step forward, they all end up still left in the same place.
So who comes out of the Valencia test ahead? It is still way too early to tell. At Valencia, the factories bring their new concepts, in a fairly raw format. Engines need adapting to electronics, chassis need adapting to engines, the setups the factories start the test with are based on data from last year's bikes, and still need tweaking to refine.
The real work start at Jerez, a more complete circuit with a greater variety of corners. And the five days between Valencia and Jerez give the engineers a chance to find a better setup based on feedback from the new parts. At Valencia, the teams are figuring out whether things work. At Jerez, they start working on how to get the most out of the stuff which works.
Hope grows in the breast of man
That explains why on Wednesday, we spoke to a string of optimistic riders. More optimistic than in past years, because the factories have brought more updates which appear to have produced bigger improvements. It feels like everyone has made quite a lot of progress. But precisely because everyone has made a lot of progress, it is hard to judge just where everyone stands.
Yamaha have brought more and bigger steps than they have in recent years, with a new chassis and a new engine, aimed at improving top speed and tire life. Smarter minds than I believe the engine has a revised firing order, aimed at being more gentle with the tire, the engine sounding a little more aggressive than the 2019 M1.
That the new engine is chasing power is obvious from a glance at the new air intake. The taller intake appears to open into a larger airbox, or at least that was the impression I got from trying to peer into the intake while in pit lane today. The new shape should create smoother air and increase pressure, helping to feed the engine.
Running to stand still
The speed boost helped, but was not enough, both Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi said – only the factory Yamahas tested the new engine and chassis, the Petronas Yamaha riders likely to have to wait until Sepang to get their hands on the new bike. "For sure we need a little bit more power," Viñales said. "A little bit more has arrived, but it’s not enough, our competitors are still far away so we need to keep working on that area and try to not lose on the others."
On Wednesday, Viñales had tried to follow other bikes down the front straight, to see if he could stay in their slipstream. The fact that the new engine can be revved out higher made sitting in the draft of another rider easier, he said. "There is still 8km difference," he said. "I took many slipstream trying to understand if it was better or not. In the slipstream I felt much better because the engine keeps running, not like last year, so for that I’m quite happy. Yamaha works well, but now we are trying to recover all the information to improve for the next test."
Valentino Rossi was marginally more positive. "For me we move in a good direction, but still the gap is big," the Italian said. But more top speed was not the only objective. "For the engine, they tried to make something more easy to ride to save the tire and it's a bit better. Not so bad. It's true also that we have new tires, also for me the new tires are better. More constant. So this is a positive. Also the chassis is a bit different, something better, something worse. So you feel something, now we have to work."
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