If Valencia is an important test, the Jerez test is even more significant. At Valencia, the riders are tired, and the teams know that they cannot burden them too much. The Valencia circuit is also not well suited to test duties, too tight and contorted to give the new bikes a proper workout.
At Jerez, after a few days off to relax and absorb the lessons of Valencia, the teams and riders are back on the track again. The test program for most factories looks to be bigger and more comprehensive than at Valencia.
Maverick Viñales finished the day as fastest, quick and comfortable on the new 2020 prototype of the Yamaha M1. That Viñales had a clear advantage over the rest of the field is plain, but the gaps on the timesheet do not represent the real relative strengths between the riders. A mixture of drizzle and red flags caused by crashes meant that anyone going out on fresh soft rubber was likely to have their attempt at chasing a time stymied by conditions, or forced back into the pits due to a red flag. The teams got plenty of work done, but events conspired to prevent the usual battle of egos which ends each day at the test.
Yamaha: Frame and engine
At Yamaha, work continues on the 2020 prototype. Both Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales have one bike with the new chassis and engine, one bike with the old frame and engine, though both riders are spending the majority of their time on the new prototype. Markings on the frame suggest it is still not the definitive version, as is the fact that the frame is still bare aluminum, rather than anodized like the 2019 bikes.
The main focus for Yamaha at the moment is the engine. Not only did the factory Monster Energy Yamaha riders have the new engine to test, so did the two Petronas Yamaha riders. Whether that was exactly the same spec as the factory riders is unclear, riders doing their best to cloak everything in uncertainty.
Maverick Viñales seemed to say that the engine specs were similar, but with a couple of days extra on the bike, the factory Yamaha riders had the electronics dialed in better. "Right now we are using different electronics, and everything is a little bit different because we are working really hard with what we have," Viñales said, when comparing his work to that of the Petronas Yamaha riders. "I think still we are working in advance of what they have."
Fabio Quartararo certainly felt that having more time on the bike was the reason for Viñales' advantage of three quarters of a second over him. "He already made two days of testing in Valencia so he is already getting used to the bike," the Frenchman said. "But we know Maverick is a really fast rider. It was the first time that we tried this new prototype engine and of course it's never easy to go fast when you have new things on the bike, it was more to understand."
A good start
The overall reaction of all the Yamaha riders was that the engine was a good start, but more was still needed.
"Yamaha are working hard on the engine but you know it's not easy," Valentino Rossi said. "You need time because the difference is quiet big. The Valencia and Jerez tracks are not the perfect ones to understand the top speed but you already feel something, for sure we need to work but at this moment the engine is just like the one in Valencia."
The risk of chasing more power was that it would come at the cost of a less friendly engine. "If you want to make an engine which is faster, it's not so difficult," Rossi said. "The problem is to have the power but with a good engine delivery and with Yamaha we work very much because we need the top speed but must do better with the power delivery."
There is already evidence of a more aggressive response, Franco Morbidelli said. "It was good," the Petronas Yamaha rider told us. "I tried the new spec and I had a new feeling on it. It seems a bit faster, it seems a bit more angry in fifth and sixth gear. This is what we wanted and this is positive, now we have to analyze for good what is better and what is worse and hopefully we can keep the working routine for tomorrow."
The focus at Jerez is on the engine, Yamaha hoping to have it dialed in much better for the Sepang tests. That is when they can start to focus on the chassis, Viñales said. "I think we need to improve the chassis but it is just the first prototype of the new chassis, so for sure in Malaysia we are going to have more steps on the chassis."
Valentino Rossi was already working on chassis parts, having put the carbon fiber swingarm back on the new bike. Viñales, who has previously said he is not a fan of the carbon swingarm, is currently still using the standard aluminum one. "I tried the carbon swingarm two or three times in some FP1s, and for me it was already worse than the normal one I have, so there is no meaning to try it now," Viñales told us.
A surfeit of Marquezes
The Repsol Honda garage now has two Márquezes in it, forcing journalists to refer to each brother by their first names, something we are trained not to do. Riders are, after all, not our friends, and the use of the surname is a way of maintaining a professional distance.
Alex Márquez may be riding in the Repsol Honda team, but due to the existing sponsorship commitments with the Marc VDS team, who have Total as an oil sponsor, Márquez is riding in plain black leathers and a 2019 bike in HRC livery. He was working on adapting to MotoGP, learning to change his lines and adapt his riding style. The Spaniard finished the day 1.2 seconds behind his brother and teammate. "Now we are working in a different way because I'm trying the new bikes, and he's just trying to learn the category," Marc said. "But today already was just 1.2s slower than me, I need to keep pushing because you never know about the teammate!"
Brother Marc has two 2020 prototypes in the garage, alongside a 2019 bike to run back-to-back tests on. The 2020 prototypes have the new engine and two slightly different frames, without the rear cylinder mount. The two large carbon fiber covers on each side of the front of the frame are gone, replaced by a much smaller single duct leading from under the tank to the fairing. The connector panel on the right hand side of the bike is different too, suggesting that the relocation of components forced by the much larger airbox for engine upgrade in 2019 is continuing.
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