Features

Rossi Speaks About Sepang, Yamaha, Viñales At The Monza Rally

Valencia may be the last race of the season for most MotoGP racers, but it is not for Valentino Rossi. The Italian always has one final event to compete in before the winter break. As a keen rally fan, Rossi always takes part in the Monza Rally, an exhibition race in which many top stars from several different two- and four-wheeled disciplines compete.

As it is an event which takes place entirely on four wheels, I do not cover it on MotoMatters.com, a website devoted entirely to racing on two wheels. (Indeed, so little do I care for four wheels that I have not owned a car for nearly 15 years, relying solely on motorcycles for transport.) However, as the Monza Rally takes place in a more informal atmosphere, there is a chance for Rossi, and some of the others around him, to speak a little more freely.

Our friends over at GPOne.com did go along to the Monza Rally, and provided very full coverage of the event. They used that opportunity to speak to Valentino Rossi, as well as Yamaha team boss Maio Meregalli and Rossi's friend and Sky VR46 team boss Uccio Salucci about the way the private Yamaha test at Sepang had gone, and how Maverick Viñales had been received in the team. Those conversations revealed some fascinating insights.

Jerez Test Analysis: Would Jonathan Rea Really Beat The MotoGP Riders On His WorldSBK Kawasaki?

In a typically robust column written at the end of last week, David Miller, editor of Bikesportnews.com, suggested that the time which double World Superbike champion Jonathan Rea had set on Thursday at the combined WorldSBK and MotoGP test at Jerez had made the MotoGP bikes look a bit silly. Rea had ended the day as the fastest rider on the day, setting a time of 1'38.721, nearly a quarter of a second faster than Alvaro Bautista, who was riding the Ducati Desmosedici GP16 at the track.

Rea had set the time on a modified version of a road bike, costing something in the region of €300,000, beating the satellite Ducatis (estimated lease price, just shy of €2 million), satellite Hondas (official lease price €2 million, actual cost to lease about 50% higher than that), and the factory Suzuki, KTM and Desmosedici GP17 ("I'm sorry sir, you'll have to put your checkbook away, this one isn't for sale").

Miller draws a number of conclusions from this, some sound, some based more on hyperbole than reality. The claim that MotoGP is no longer a prototype series is unfounded. MotoGP bikes (and their predecessors, the 500cc two strokes and four strokes from whence they came) have never been prototypes, as Grand Prix racing was hobbled by rules from the birth of the series in 1949. The ban on forced induction, imposed in the 1930s when the excess of horsepower made possible by supercharging far outweighed contemporary braking technology, was left in place.

Jerez Test, Day 3: MotoGP versus WorldSBK

With MotoGP and WorldSBK sharing the track Jonathan Rea led the way for most of the day. We sought out three opinions on the differences between the bikes....

As the sun set on the third day of the Jonathan Rea hogged the limelight with the second fastest time of the day. With MotoGP bikes sharing the track with WorldSBK runners the big story was that Rea spent most of Wednesday leading the way.

The question in the aftermath however was how does this reflect on both championships?

Rea was a tenth of a second off the fastest time of the day set by Hector Barbera. The speed and performance of the Kawasaki rider was hugely impressive but is this a sign that the production bikes can hold their own or is it a fortuitous confluence of circumstances?

Tom Sykes And Jonathan Rea: Kawasaki Getting Up To Speed For 2017

It took Kawasaki until last year to finally win a WorldSBK manufacturers title. Having retained the crown in 2016 the Japanese factory will have to dig deep in 2017

Winter testing is a time to take stock of what worked well on your bike in the past and what now needs to improve. Kawasaki has won over half of the races in the last three years, 39 victories from 76 races, but despite these successes the team are working hard to find improvements.

The final four rounds of the season saw Chaz Davies and Ducati dominate proceedings and the Italian manufacturer's renaissance over the last 12 months has made it the early favourite for title success in 2017. New regulations will see split throttle bodies now outlawed and there are also changes to the battery regulations.

While Jonathan Rea has been running his bike in this specification for most of 2016 his teammate, Tom Sykes, has not. The Englishman spent last off-season commenting about the lower inertia engine he is now having to deal with a significant change in the mass around the engine unit. Whereas in the past Sykes used a battery in his ZX10R to maintain lower inertia he will now have to revert to a crankshaft with a generator that will increase the engine inertia. The higher inertia was a problem for Sykes in 2015 and he had hoped that the changes for this year would offer him advantages compared to Rea. That didn't transpire and now the Yorkshire rider is clearly feeling the pressure.

Jerez WorldSBK Test, Day 2: Dry Track Sees Kawasakis Leading

The second day of the Jerez test dawned in similar circumstances to yesterday. With dense fog and cool temperatures it looked as though there would be sparse action on track but almost immediately Ondrej Jezek rolled down pitlane. With Grillini team only running for half of the allotted time Jezek was keen to get out and gain some experience on a WorldSBK machine.

While the Czech was spinning laps the majority of the field was waiting their time for the conditions to improve. Though the KRT riders stayed in the pits all day yesterday, they did get some wet weather running today.

Eugene Laverty & Lorenzo Savadori On The 2017 WorldSBK Aprilia Title Assault

It was hardly the first day at school for either Eugene Laverty or Lorenzo Savadori but while the bike was similar it was new surroundings for both riders. With the Shaun Muir Racing squad switching to an Aprilia steed in 2017 the opening day of the Jerez test was the team's first experience of the Italian bike.

Both Laverty and Savadori have plenty of experience of the RSV4, the Irishman was a title contender on the bike and Savadori raced it this year, and that certainly helped both throughout the day. For SMR, however, it was all change, having used BMW S1000RR's during their debut WorldSBK season. For team boss Shaun Muir it was clearly an important day for the British squad.

"For us the change to Aprilia signifies that we've got a very strong bond to the factory," commented Muir. "That bond has been shown by the level of people that they have brought trackside to this test, and from Saturday afternoon when we all arrived we've bonded and gelled well together. Inside the garage we've got to blend a British and Italian team but on day one there was a lot of smiles."

Jerez WorldSBK Test: New Riders On Track Despite The Weather

Come to Spain they said, the weather will be great they said...

There are typically only a handful of valuable winter testing venues. Jerez in the south of Spain is one of the most popular. Usually the winter sun provides almost perfect conditions for WorldSBK teams to undertake their off-season programs. The weather was not co-operating today and there was limited mileage for all of the runners.

The test did however offer the first glimpses of the Milwaukee Aprilia. Their partnership has been one of the biggest off-season talking points and while Lorenzo Savadori and Eugene Laverty were unable to complete a lot of miles they were at least able to start their tenure with the team. For Laverty it also marked a return to the WorldSBK paddock after two years in MotoGP. As a result the team were keen to get out on track and a 11.20am Savadori ventured out.

Running The Numbers: Analyzing The Test Pace Of Marquez, Viñales, Rossi, And Lorenzo

So much happened at the MotoGP test at Valencia that it is hard to take it all in and cover it in one go. Time offers a little bit of hindsight and perspective, and a chance to digest everything that came at you so fast over the two days at Valencia. So here are a few notes and thoughts looking back.

Real pace

It is attractive to judge performance in testing just by casting a cursory glance at the timesheets and drawing conclusions from that. But the headline times tell very little of the story. A more complete analysis means examining every lap, and seeing the kind of consistency and speed each rider can maintain. It is all very well posting a 1'30.0, but if every other lap is a 1'32, then the actual pace is not particularly good.

So I extracted the laps of four of the main title contenders for 2017 from the analysis PDF files on the MotoGP.com website, placed them into a spreadsheet and sorted them from fastest to slowest. Discarding the properly slow laps (slower than around 1'34.5) allowed some clear patterns to emerge from the two days, especially once charted visually. I selected Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez as the two most significant riders to stay with their teams, and Jorge Lorenzo and Maverick Viñales as the two most important riders to be switching factories.

Valencia MotoGP Test Wednesday Notes: Viñales' Speed, Marquez' Consistency, And The Last Tired Stragglers

So 2016 is officially at an end, and the first test of 2017 is in the books. By the end of what is essentially a week of hard work, the entire paddock – riders, mechanics, journalists – are completely exhausted, and tired of it all. The frisson of the first test of 2017, with so many riders swapping teams and new bikes being debuted made it all much more interesting. But we are still all glad it's over.

First, there was the last day of testing to get out of the way. The last day of the test is perhaps the most dangerous. A mixture of tiredness and competitiveness means riders are pushing hard in sometimes tricky conditions. Alex Rins, Andrea Iannone, Marc Márquez, and Jack Miller all crashed on Wednesday. Rins and Iannone had crashes which were both serious and strange, losing the front in straight up and down braking. Iannone escaped with bruises and a badly banged up elbow. Rins was a good deal less lucky, suffering suspected fractures of the T8 and T12 vertebrae, though there was no spinal damage and Rins had full motion in his extremities.

After Iannone went down within a few minutes of Rins, the session was red flagged while the track was inspected to try to find the cause. At first, some kind of fluid on the track was suspected. Then, the finger of blame was pointed at the white line and kerb, which had gathered up a lot of rubber over the weekend, and had become greasy as a result. Officially, that was pinpointed as the cause, and a section of soft barrier was put in front of the fence at Turn 12 before the session was allowed to continue.

Valencia MotoGP Test - What Is Every Factory Doing At Valencia?

It has been the most exciting first day of testing for many years. It was reminiscent of the year Valentino Rossi switched to Ducati, and Casey Stoner went to Honda. But Tuesday was 2011 on steroids: Jorge Lorenzo to Ducati, Maverick Viñales to Yamaha, Andrea Iannone to Suzuki, KTM entering the class, and four fascinating rookies. Add in the GP14.2 being replaced by a bevy of GP15s and GP16s, significantly more competitive motorcycles, and you have a test so fascinating and intriguing that it is hard to know where to start.

So let's start with the timesheets. Maverick Viñales ends the day as fastest, on his first day on the Yamaha, pushing for a quick lap towards the end of the day. Valentino Rossi was second fastest, his quickest lap set on the 2016 bike he raced on Sunday early in the day. Jorge Lorenzo set the third quickest time on the Ducati, stepping up late in the day to come very close to topping the timesheets.

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