With Ducati refining the already competitive GP15 into the Desmo16, and Suzuki bringing a seamless gearbox and new, more powerful engine for the GSX-RR, the battle among the manufacturers in MotoGP is getting closer. The one exception so far has been Aprilia, who soldiered on through 2015 with an uprated version of the ART machine, which was still based on the RSV4 production bike, while they worked on a brand new prototype.
That prototype has at last made its debut at the track. On Wednesday, Aprilia test rider Mike Di Meglio took the 2016 Aprilia RS-GP out for its first official spin. Di Meglio was performing a basic shakedown test, making sure that everything worked and there were no unexpected problems with the bike, giving Aprilia time to address them before factory Aprilia riders Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl get their first chance to ride the bike at a private test at Qatar, two weeks before the official IRTA test at the circuit.
There was no press release after the shakedown test, as the bike will be officially launched later this month, along with the first official photos. However, our Italian friends over at GPOne.com managed to obtain a single snap of the RS-GP. That picture does not reveal very much: the bike looks physically smaller and more compact than the ART machine it is based on, and bearing more of a resemblance to the Honda RC213V than the ART from previous seasons.
Aprilia have said very little about the new bike, other than to acknowledge that it will be some 10kg lighter than last year's bike, bringing it in line with the rest of the bikes on the grid. Romano Albesiano has said that he would be changing the angle between the cylinders as well, though he would not be drawn into precise details. Paddock speculation suggests that the RS-GP will sport a 75º V4, rather than the 65º V4 the ART bike inherited from the RSV4 road bike. There is also speculation that the Aprilia uses a counter-rotating crankshaft, as both Ducati and Yamaha are believed to do. The benefits of a counter-rotating crankshaft are that it makes the bike easier to turn, the gyroscopic forces of the wheels being counteracted, and it helps to reduce wheelies. Whether any MotoGP bike uses a counter-rotating crankshaft remains a matter of speculation: journalists may draw conclusions from photographs, or be passed information by engineers, but they have no way of checking and independently verifying such information.
Though the shakedown of the 2016 Aprilia RS-GP was a private affair, away from the prying eyes of the world's media, a few details did emerge. Aprilia Racing boss Romano Albesiano told both GPOne.com and Speedweek that the test had been a success, and had encountered few problems. The only minor issue was a crash for Mike Di Meglio, the Frenchman falling due to a cold tire. The crash was serious enough for Di Meglio to be taken to a local hospital for a check up, bringing the test prematurely to an end.
The test plan now is to have Bradl and Bautista ride the bike at a private test on 21st-23rd February at Losail in Qatar. The Gresini Aprilia riders will then join the official IRTA test from 2nd-4th March, the aim being to be able to verify the findings of the initial test at the same track and under similar conditions.
The FIM have today at last finalized the 2016 MotoGP calendar. The two circuits which were still subject to contract, Brno and Jerez, have now had their contracts confirmed. The calendar is unchanged from the provisional calendar published between Sepang and Valencia last year.
FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix
2016 Calendar, 10 February
The FIM and Dorna are pleased to confirm that the FIM Grand Prix World Championship calendar published as provisional on November 2 is now final.
|20 March||Qatar*||Losail International Circuit|
|03 April||República Argentina||Termas de Río Hondo|
|10 April||Americas||Circuit of The Americas|
|24 April||Spain||Circuito de Jerez|
|08 May||France||Le Mans|
|22 May||Italy||Autodromo del Mugello|
|05 June||Catalunya||Barcelona - Catalunya|
|26 June||Ne therlands||TT Circuit Assen|
|14 August||Austria||Red Bull Ring - Spielberg|
|21 August||Czech Republic||Automotodrom Brno|
|04 September||Great Britain||Silverstone Circuit|
|11 September||San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini||Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli|
|25 September||Aragón||MotorLand Aragón|
|16 October||Japan||Twin Ring Motegi|
|23 October||Australia||Phillip Island|
|13 November||Comunitat Valenciana||Comunitat Valenciana - Ricardo Tormo|
* Evening Race
It is no secret that Dorna and the manufacturers active in MotoGP are keen to stage a race in Indonesia. The sport enjoys unrivaled popularity in the Southeast Asian country, and as one of the biggest markets for scooters and small capacity motorcycles in the world, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki are desperate to race there. The burgeoning middle class in Indonesia also make it a key target market for European manufacturers such as Ducati, who have seen their sales explode in the region, albeit from a very small base.
Throughout 2015, Dorna officials met with senior figures in Indonesia, including the Minister for Youth and Sports, Imam Nahrawi, and the CEO of the Sentul Circuit Tinton Soeprapto, in an attempt to hammer out an agreement. So far, Dorna have a letter of intent signed by the Minister, and a preliminary deal which would see the race staged in Indonesia for three years, starting in 2017.
There is one problem, however. The Indonesian government do not want to use Sentul Circuit. For the track to be homologated for MotoGP, the surface and facilities would have to be totally renewed and upgraded. Hermann Tilke, the man responsible for many circuits designed for F1 around the world, has been contracted to upgrade the circuit, and modify the layout to make it safer and long enough to qualify as a Grand Prix track. Such a renovation would require major investment, which would have to come from the Indonesian government. The government does not want to supply funding to the private owners of Sentul, for fear that much of the money would disappear in corruption and bribes.
This disagreement has already caused a delay. The Indonesian government has missed the deadline to submit a master plan and contract for the race, but the Minister for Youth and Sports has negotiated an extended deadline. Hosting a race in 2017 will be very difficult indeed, but the government hopes to have everything in place for 2018.
The most crucial element of that plan is a circuit. Several alternative locations have been proposed, including a number of planned new circuits. One circuit is planned to be build in Southern Sumatra, but the objections to that are the distance to a major international airport and population centers. There are also rival plans for circuits in and around the Indonesian capital Jakarta, including a track to be built in the western part of Java.
However, MotoMatters.com has learned that the prime candidate is a new circuit to be built not far from the center of Jakarta. The track will be located to the west of the city, between the airport and the city center. Sources indicate that funding is already in place for the track, and work could begin very soon. The new circuit would be publicly owned, and could potentially be ready for 2017.
There are still many obstacles on the road to a MotoGP race taking place in Indonesia, but the process of making it happen appears to be picking up pace. Given the massive interest in Indonesia, it is merely a matter of time.
The Circuit of Wales is edging ever closer to becoming a reality. BBC Wales is reporting that UK insurance giant Aviva will be backing the Circuit of Wales project, and providing funds to allow building work on the track near Ebbw Vale in South Wales to start. Construction will take some time, however, and Silverstone will continue to host the British round of MotoGP for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the race only moving to the Circuit of Wales from 2018 onwards.
The news that Aviva is to provide financial backing for the Circuit of Wales still leaves many questions unanswered. It is not clear from the reports by BBC Wales exactly how much money Aviva will be putting into the track. The circuit needs £300 million in private investment, on top of roughly £30 million in public funding in the form of loans. Whether Aviva will be providing the full £300 million for the Circuit of Wales, or sufficient seed money for building work to start is unclear.
Senior management at the circuit told BBC Wales that they were close to securing full funding. The project's CEO Martin Whitaker told the BBC that financial negotiations were at a very advanced stage, and they expected to be able to make a full announcement soon. Once those details have been finalized, then a complete timeline for construction of the project would be announced.
Even once funding is in place, the circuit will still face formidable challenges. The provision of public funds for the circuit is certain to come under attack from other tracks in the UK, none of which receive public money. Jonathan Palmer, head of MSV, which owns several UK tracks including Brands Hatch, and the driving force behind the British Superbike championship, has stated publicly that MSV will challenge the provision of public funds to the Circuit of Wales.
There are practical problems too. A 600mm high pressure gas line, which supplies a large portion of South Wales, crosses the site, and the environmental plan imposes several severe conditions on dealing with the gas pipeline, demanding that large groups of people are kept more than 195m away from the pipeline, and that building be done with care.
That is the type of detail which will be dealt with during the due diligence phase, in which financial negotiations currently find themselves. According to the BBC Wales story, that phase should be completed soon. Once it is, we shall soon find out just how solid the financial basis for the circuit is.
As we reported back in January, Marc Marquez has ended his agreement with Valentino Rossi's VR46 Racing Apparel company to produce and sell merchandising for the Spaniard and his younger brother. Today, official confirmation came in the form of a press release from his management company, Alzamora Communications. The agreement with VR46 RAcing Apparel has been officially terminated.
The ending of the contract is part of the fallout from the incident between Marquez and Rossi at Sepang, in October last year. That episode effectively destroyed any relationship that existed between the two riders, though it had been gradually deteriorating throughout the 2015 season. Rossi's accusations, both after Sepang and especially after Valencia, caused Marquez to lose any faith he may have had in Rossi, and made him decide to sever all business ties with Rossi and those linked to him. In addition to the merchandising deal, Marquez will also be ending his association with GP Rooms, the room rental business run by the Nieto family, after Marquez felt that they had taken sides against him.
The press release from Marquez' management company is below:
Barcelona, 8th February 2016
AC Management, company in charge of managing the image rights of the riders Marc Márquez and Alex Márquez, informs that they have agreed with the Company VR46 Racing Apparel, S.r.l. to terminate the license agreements previously in force and under which the latter was in charge of the exploitation of both riders’ merchandising.
Both parties appreciate services rendered while the agreement was in force and wish each other success in future endeavors.
As we reported on Tuesday, changes are to be made to Race Direction. At a meeting in Geneva on Thursday, the Grand Prix Commission decided to change the way disciplinary matters are handled by Race Direction. For this season, a separate body is to be set up to handle all incidents on track requiring disciplinary action. These issues have been handled by Race Direction until now, but the incident at Sepang between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez led to calls for such decisions to be taken away from Race Direction, to allow quicker decisions to be made.
From the start of the 2016 season, all disciplinary matters will be dealt with by a separate panel, consisting of three people. One of those will be Mike Webb, who as MotoGP Race Director is ultimately responsible for all aspects of the MotoGP race. Mike Webb will be joined by two stewards appointed by the FIM. Those stewards have yet to be appointed, and the press release issued by the FIM does not make clear whether the stewards will be appointed permanently, for a full season, or for each race individually. In the case of an incident which needs to be investigated by the panel of stewards, Mike Webb will hand over his duties as Race Director to a newly appointed deputy, Graham Webber.
The agreement to appoint a panel of stewards was much more complicated than expected. Throughout the course of the MotoGP test at Sepang, the various parties involved - FIM, the manufacturers, and Dorna - submitted a range of proposals, varying from the extremely intrusive and limiting to the more moderate proposals which were eventually adopted. The problem centers around the interpretation of rule 1.21.2, which covers the behavior of riders during the race:
2. Riders must ride in a responsible manner which does not cause danger to other competitors or participants, either on the track or in the pit-lane. Any infringement of this rule will be penalised with one of the following penalties: penalty points - fine - change of position - ride through – time penalty – drop of any number of grid position at the rider’s next race – disqualification - withdrawal of Championship points - suspension.
The wording is vague, and has been left deliberately so, as to try to narrow down a definition of exactly what comprises irresponsible riding would open more loopholes than it would close, and lead to more appeals against sanctions imposed. Under the old adage that hard cases make bad law, each and every possible infringement would have to be described in detail, which would lead either to riders pleading that their actions were subtly different to those described in the rules, and that they should they should go unpunished, or it would lead to absolute paralysis by riders, afraid to attempt a pass for fear of being penalized.
The problem with the existing system was that Dorna's Javier Alonso is a member of Race Direction, as the representative in charge of organizing all MotoGP events. Though Alonso has never previously been accused of showing any bias or favoritism, or of shaping events to fit in to Dorna's schedule, the accusations of pro-Spanish bias after the incident at Sepang raised concerns about Alonso having a say in disciplinary proceedings. To avoid any such accusations in the future, Alonso has been removed from the disciplinary equation.
The FIM press release also contains a rather strange and intriguing sentence about the communication of sanctions to the teams. According to the release, they are to be communicated via "a secure E-mail [sic] system with automated confirmation that the message has been read'. How the email is to be secured is unspecified, as is how the read confirmation is to be achieved. It also suggests that some teams were claiming not to have read emails from Race Direction containing notification of sanctions.
The creation of the stewards panel was not the only decision agreed upon during the Grand Prix Commission meeting. Another disciplinary measure was introduced: from this season, riders who skip their promotional obligations will not just face fines, but can be punished using the penalty point system as well. To this end, their obligations are to become part of the rules, instead of just set out in the contracts between teams and Dorna. The promotional activities are deeply unpopular with most of the riders, though most participate nonetheless. The threat of penalty points is aimed at coercing riders who are rich enough to view fines as a cheap price to pay for getting out of promotional activities.
Perhaps the most important rule adopted by the Grand Prix Commission was introducing greater control over tire pressures. Eventually, tire pressure sensors will be compulsory, but the details of how that is to be achieved is still to be worked out by the MSMA and Michelin. Until that is arranged, the technical marshals at each race will have the authority to monitor and check tire pressures at all points during the weekend. The new rule was brought in after the rear tire of Loris Baz' Avintia Ducati exploded at high speed down the front straight at Sepang as a result of too low a tire pressure being used.
The final rule of interest is the change to Moto2 quickshifters. A single supplier is to be appointed for quickshifters, but only after a plan has been worked out allowing all Moto2 teams to swap to the spec quickshifter. The rule is aimed at preventing the smarter Moto2 teams from exploiting the extra functionality which some quickshifter hardware offers, and from preventing gearbox problems caused by some quickshifters. Those two facts are sometimes related, as Moto2 teams have been chasing minimal ignition cuts during gear changes, allowing the rear wheel to be driven for as long as possible. The shorter the ignition cut, the greater the stress on the gearbox.
Below is the press release from the FIM with the changes to the rules:
FIM Grand Prix World Championship
Decision of the Grand Prix Commission
The Grand Prix Commission, composed of Messrs. Carmelo Ezpeleta (Dorna, Chairman), Ignacio Verneda (FIM CEO), Herve Poncharal (IRTA) and Takanao Tsubouchi (MSMA) in the presence of Vito Ipollito (President FIM), Javier Alonso (Dorna) and Mike Trimby (IRTA, Secretary of the meeting), in a meeting held on February 4 in Geneva, made the following decisions:
Race Direction and Stewards
The composition of Race Direction will remain unchanged with three members; Mike Webb (Race Director), Franco Uncini (FIM) and Javier Alonso (Dorna). However there will be a new appointment of Graham Webber as Deputy Race Director who will deputise for the Race Director when he is otherwise occupied.
Race Direction will continue to be primarily responsible for the efficient and safe running of events. However, the competence of Race Direction concerning the application of sanctions and penalties will be limited to those offences that can be considered as being indisputable matters of fact. These would include such offences as pit lane speeding, passing under yellow flags, etc.
All other issues requiring further analysis of actions, including any incidences of dangerous riding, will be reviewed by the Stewards who will exclusively be responsible for issuing any sanctions and penalties on those matters. The Stewards will also be responsible for hearing any appeals and receiving any protests. The panel of Stewards will comprise three members; Mike Webb and two other members appointed by the FIM. Mike Webb will be responsible for co-ordinating the activities of the Stewards, maintaining records and communicating decisions.
In future, any sanctions imposed by Race Direction or the Stewards will be communicated to the affected team by a secure E-mail system with automated confirmation that the message has been read. Confirmed penalties will also be displayed on timekeeping monitors and advised to the media.
Promotional Obligations for Riders
A number of obligations for riders to participate in promotional activities, already contained in the Participation Agreements between IRTA and the Teams, will now also be included in the Grand Prix regulations. Such obligations include the requirement for riders to participate in autograph signing sessions, press conferences, parade laps, etc. The effect is that non-compliance by riders can now result in sporting penalties in addition to the financial penalties contained in the Participation Agreements.
MotoGP Class Electronics
The procedure which enables the Technical Director to check specific maintenance channels on the internal datalogger, together with the precise list of compulsory channels available to him, was approved.
The homologation procedure for sensors available from third party suppliers as well as those made by the motorcycle manufacturers was approved.
MotoGP Class Minimum Tyre Pressures
Existing regulations on this matter have been reinforced enabling the Technical Director and his staff, assisted by the engineers of the official tyre supplier, to check that minimum tyre pressures are respected.
Ultimately, such information will be recorded automatically via the datalogger and be available via download by the technical staff. However, as the equipment and method of electronically recording the information has still to be finalised the technical staff and the staff of the official tyre supplier are now authorised to manually verify tyre pressures at any time.
Moto2 Class Quickshift Equipment
It has been identified that certain gearbox malfunctions in the Championship supplied engines are largely attributable to some of the quickshift components produced by third party suppliers. The Technical Director, in consultation with Externpro, will specify a brand and model of a proprietary quickshift product from a third party supplier that will be mandatory for this class. Actual implementation of this regulation will be enforced when the Technical Director is satisfied that all teams have had sufficient time to acquire the new material.
A regularly updated version of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations which contains the detailed text of the regulation changes may be viewed shortly on:
Race Direction is to be altered in the wake of the clash in Sepang between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. A proposal to split the responsibilities of Race Direction is to be adopted at the next meeting of the Grand Prix Commission to be held on Thursday.
The proposal will see the responsibility for disciplinary matters removed from the current four members of Race Direction, and placed in the hands of a separate panel of stewards. Race Direction will continue to be in charge of all aspects of running the race, including marshalling and safety, but incidents between riders will be investigated by the new panel. They will be charged with judging all incidents of unfair play, and especially of violations of rule 1.21.2, which mandates responsible behavior by the riders on track.
Exactly who will be in the panel is unclear at the moment, but the aim is not to have any Dorna staff in it. The fact that Javier Alonso, a senior executive of Dorna and one of the inner circle at the heart of the company, sits in Race Direction has occasionally been a concern from some of the manufacturers, with accusations of bias surfacing on occasion.
Those accusations went into overdrive after the incident between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez at Sepang. The Italian media, especially, accused Dorna of unfairly punishing Valentino Rossi in the affair, in an attempt to influence the outcome of the 2015 championship, and wanting a Spanish winner.
Such accusations are plainly insane. The marketing value to Dorna of a tenth title for Valentino Rossi is immeasurably greater than having any Spaniard win, let alone Jorge Lorenzo. If Dorna were to want a particular outcome, and try to influence it, they would have favored Rossi over Marquez.
Furthermore, throughout the entire history of Race Direction in its current form, there has never been an issue with pressure from Dorna inside Race Direction. Reports from those involved say that Javier Alonso has never put pressure on Race Direction to choose a particular outcome. Alonso's priority has always been to ensure that the race was run safely and fairly, reflecting the priorities of the other members of Race Direction, consisting of Safety Officer Loris Capirossi, FIM representative Franco Uncini, and Race Director Mike Webb. To preempt any suggestions of bias, and to fend off the concerns of the manufacturers, the Grand Prix Commission is to adopt this new system of two separate bodies.
Whether the new body makes any difference remains to be seen. The effectiveness of the new panel will stand and fall on the ability and reputation of the people engaged to fill it, and their experience in the field. They will be measured against the experience of the current Race Direction, all of whom have vast experience in MotoGP in their roles with Race Direction.
The instigation of a new body is unlikely to remove the allegations of bias. It is hard to see how the Sepang incident could have been handled differently. Though there were calls from the media and from fans both during the race and afterwards for Rossi to be black flagged or given a ride through penalty, Race Direction would have been accused of acting hastily if they had done so. By waiting until after the race had finished, taking their time to review the footage from as many angles as possible (and Race Direction has access to a lot more camera angles than the live TV broadcast), and talking to both riders and all parties involved. That allowed them to make a considered and careful decision, which accurately reflected the events on the track. A new disciplinary body would be expected to be just as thorough and cautious in taking a decision with such major implications for the championship.
The creation of a new body appears to be a kneejerk reaction to a situation which spiraled out of control due to the profile of the riders involved. It looks more like Dorna coming under pressure to do something, and deciding that being seen to do something was more important than actually taking account of how necessary such action might be. There are few signs that the new panel will do a better job than the current Race Direction, and plenty of opportunity for the new panel to get it wrong. There may not be an employee of Dorna in the new panel, but the new panel will be just as dependent on Dorna for its financing, and its members will be paid by the Spanish organizer, just as the members of Race Direction are.
Like the Rookie Rule, this feels like a measure that will be reversed within a few years. It adds nothing beyond added complexity and the chance for more things to go wrong.
KTM have surprised the Grand Prix world by announcing that they have built a complete Moto2 bike, together with their partners WP. The Austrian manufacturer is to give the bike its first rollout at Almeria this week, and announced the existence of the bike on Sunday.
The existence of KTM's Moto2 project had been kept a closely guarded secret, and came as a surprise to many. The fact that Moto2 uses a spec Honda CBR600RR engine has been a huge obstacle to manufacturers wanting to get involved in the class. Aprilia had originally planned to enter Moto2, but decided against it for this very reason.
KTM have decided to view Moto2 as part of a wider strategy in Grand Prix. After the success of their Moto3 project, and with their MotoGP project due to make its debut in 2017, having a representative in the intermediate class would provide a path for KTM to bring young talent through the ranks. That strategy is already being played out in part the Ajo team, who run the factory Red Bull KTM project in Moto3, and run 2015 world champion Johann Zarco in Moto2. The Ajo team are the logical partners for KTM when they enter MotoGP next season.
Having a Moto2 bike would complete KTM's line up. The Austrian manufacturer appears to have accepted that to enter Moto2, they will have to build a bike to house an engine not manufactured by them.
That may change from 2019. Honda's contract to supply the spec Moto2 engine ends after the 2018 season, and Honda have indicated that they are not interested in continuing. There has been speculation as to what could replace the current Moto2 engine configuration, but anyone hoping the class could be open to competition is likely to be disappointed. The Moto2 teams are dead set against any changes to the spec engine situation, because of the incredibly low cost of competing in Moto2. It is considerably cheaper to race in Moto2 than it is in Moto3, because of the price of machinery, despite attempts at capping costs in the junior class. As one senior factory figure put it this week, the cost of competition is directly proportional to manufacturer interest in a class.
Below is the press release issued by KTM:
READY TO RACE: WP PERFORMANCE SYSTEMS & KTM SHARE MOTO2 PROJECT
WP Performance Systems will begin testing an own motorcycle this week, which together with KTM, is being developed for the Moto2 World Championship. The aim is to close the gap between activities in the Moto3 World Championship and the MotoGP class.
WP Performance Systems, like KTM, Husqvarna and Pankl belong to Cross Industries AG. The company headquarters are located in Austria’s Munderfing right next door to the KTM Factory Racing Division. In addition to the series production of suspension elements, cooling systems, frames and exhausts, motorsports is one of the most important areas of WP’s business. Last season WP, with Johann Zarco, won the Moto2 World Championship for the first time using in-house developed suspension elements. Inspired by this excellent cooperation, the group has now energized the two companies to join together to advance to the obvious next level in the shared Moto2 project.
On behalf of KTM, WP has already produced all the chassis for the Moto3 teams and for the successful Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. For KTM’s MotoGP project, WP has manufactured many of the extremely specialized components, right up to the chassis. Now the WP Racing Department is developing a complete motorcycle for the Moto2 World Championship. The first roll-out was today at the Spanish circuit at Almeria.
Stefan Pierer (CEO Cross Industries AG): “The Moto2 project has a great significance for us. Through our growth and long-term investments we are in a position to close this final gap in our activities in the sport of Grand Prix road racing. A young rider can gather his first experience in the Rookies Cup and then advance to our own in-house Moto3 team, then further, via the new Moto2 project into the MotoGP class. These are concepts that have repeatedly proved to be successful for KTM and WP in professional racing, and in the future we want to have riders for our MotoGP project that have advanced right through the entire KTM Academy.”
Casey Stoner got the first testing miles of his return to Ducati under his belt on Saturday. The Australian started slowly and steadily doing a lot of short runs to get a feel for the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, on which he spent most of the day, before upping the pace later in the afternoon. Journalists present at the test said Stoner looked a little stiff in his early laps, not getting either elbow or knee down, but soon started to relax, and look more like his old self.
He had every reason to be wary: the last time Stoner rode a race bike on the road was during the Suzuka 8 Hours, where a throttle cable malfunction saw him thrown from the bike, injuring his scapula and tibia in the process. Furthermore, this was his first time on a MotoGP bike for a year, his first time riding the Ducati GP15 - a very different beast indeed to the GP10, the last Ducati Stoner raced - and his first time on the Michelins. Despite that, he told reporters he was very happy with how the test went. "I haven't ridden one of these bikes in over a year," Stoner said. "Haven't ridden Michelins. New bike. Everything. So I'm really surprised by the end of the day how we got on with it."
Stoner praised the both the power and the power delivery of the Desmosedici. It had "grunt everywhere," Stoner said. He was also positive about the aerodynamics and the stability of the bike under braking. All of the bike was very good, and he had been surprised at just how comfortable he had felt on the bike.
Stoner was also asked about the spec electronics, and how they felt. He had been impressed at just how good the spec software already was, he said. The electronics felt as good as they were just a couple of years ago, rather than the eight or nine which Valentino Rossi had said. Stoner felt that if anything, the electronics were still too good. What was needed was to go back to the electronics of 2006, where they have very limited influence.
No official times were released, though Stoner was apparently not too far off the pace. The fastest lap recorded by Peter McLaren of Crash.net was 2'03, but McLaren said he had only sampled a few laps, not every single lap which the Australian put in. Italian Sky TV commentator Guido Meda claimed that Stoner's fastest lap was a 2'02.1, set on the GP15 using old tires previously used by Ducati's other test rider Michele Pirro. 2'02.1 is entirely respectable for Stoner's first time back on the bike after such a long time away, and on a machine which is entirely new to him. The race lap record is a 2'00.606 set by Jorge Lorenzo during the 2015 race, while the pole record is held by Dani Pedrosa, who set a 1'59.053. During testing last year, Marc Marquez set an unofficial record of 1'58.867, but that was after three days of testing, and on Bridgestone tires.
Stoner was due to continue his test on Sunday, but a last-minute change of plan after a debrief with Ducati engineers sees him sitting out the second day of the private test. Instead, Stoner will take part in the official IRTA test at Sepang, due to run from 1st to 3rd February. Ducati decided they had other things that needed testing on Sunday and Monday, and that was best left to Michele Pirro.
Below is the press release from Ducati on the first day of private testing with Michele Pirro and Casey Stoner:
Stoner returns to the track at Sepang for his first run as Ducati Team test-rider
Casey Stoner returned to the track today on the Ducati Desmosedici GP of the Ducati Team at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia. It was a welcome return for the Australian rider, two-time MotoGP World Champion, who had not ridden a Ducati since the Valencia round in 2010. Stoner completed a total of 54 laps on the 2015 model Desmosedici GP machine, setting a best time of 2m02.1s on his final run late in the afternoon.
Michele Pirro also went out on track this morning, but just for a few laps. The Italian rider tested a 2016-spec Desmosedici GP bike fully equipped with instruments and sensors and also carried out a fuel consumption test.
Both Ducati test-riders will be back on track tomorrow for the last day of private testing, before the official IRTA test that runs thru February 1-3.
Casey Stoner (Ducati Desmosedici GP #27)
“It’s been a really good experience today with the Ducati Team. I wasn’t too sure what to expect but everybody has been fantastic, welcoming me and working with me to try and get the best out of myself and this bike. I need some time to get back to speed and get the feeling back, because I haven’t ridden a MotoGP bike for one year and any bike at all for six months. It was a very productive first day, we got comfortable with the bike and the tyres a lot more quickly than I thought I would. We’ve got a lot of things to test and get myself a little bit more acquainted with the bike but generally I’m very happy. The Desmosedici GP has a lot of potential, hopefully we can give the right input and help the two Andreas to try and achieve something great this year. I’m pretty happy and surprised with my lap time to be honest, hopefully the next day we can be a bit more comfortable after sleeping on it. It’s been fantastic working with Gabriele (Conti) again and with Marco (Palmerini) and Gigi (Dall’Igna): everyone has been really professional. So far, so good!”
Michele Pirro (Ducati Desmosedici GP #51)
“Today I only did a few laps because the schedule only included a test of electronic components followed by one for fuel economy, so once I had finished my work, the team concentrated on Casey’s debut. Tomorrow we’ll do a few more things before the first of the three days of official tests that get underway on Monday. The feeling is good and even on Wednesday we managed to do a good job. I am sure that we can get some good results, and having tested both Iannone’s and Dovizioso’s bikes I feel confident, despite the fact that the track conditions here are not very good.”
Jack Miller is to miss the Sepang MotoGP test, due to start on Monday, 1st February. The Australian broke bones in his right leg during a motocross training accident two weeks ago, and will not be fit in time for the opening three-day test of the 2016 MotoGP season. Miller is continuing his recovery, and already back in training, working on his fitness with the aim of being ready to participate in the second MotoGP test, at Phillip Island in his native Australia, on 17th February.
Miller's absence means that Tito Rabat will be the sole representative of the Marc VDS team. The MotoGP rookie and former Moto2 champion will be focusing on his adaptation to the premier class, working methodically to understand the Michelin tires and spec electronics which are to be used for the 2016 season. Rabat has swapped his Kalex Moto2 machine for a Honda CBR1000RR, and has spent the off season preparing by riding around Almeria's new layout on the Fireblade.
Below is the press release from the Marc VDS Racing Team announcing Miller's absence:
Rabat ready to get the season underway in Sepang
Gosselies, Belgium – 28 January 2016: Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS head to Malaysia this weekend, to get their 2016 MotoGP campaign underway with a three-day test at the Sepang International Circuit.
Jack Miller will miss the first test in Malaysia after sustaining a fractured right tibia and fibula in a training accident less than two weeks ago. The 21-year-old Australian had successful surgery to stabilise the injury and is already back training in a bid to be fit for the Phillip Island test on 17th February.
Miller’s absence means that Tito Rabat will be the sole Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider in Sepang. The former Moto2 World Champion started his familiarisation with the Honda RC213V and Michelin tyres during a two-day test at Valencia last year, but Sepang will be the first opportunity for Rabat to test the bike with the control ECU and unified software that is now mandatory in the premier class.
The Sepang test gets underway on Monday 1st February, with extensive video coverage from all three days available on the official MotoGP website at www.motogp.com.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to work in Malaysia. The aim of the first test is simple; to get back the feeling with the bike and tyres after a break of more than two months since the Valencia test. Sepang is also another opportunity to continue improving the communication and the way I work with my new crew after such a good start in Valencia. If I can improve my feeling and my confidence with the bike with each exit in Sepang then I will leave the first test of 2016 satisfied. I’m facing a steep learning curve this season, so I need to take profit from all nine days of testing before racing gets underway in Qatar.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“We know from working with him in Moto2 that Tito has a very controlled and methodical approach to testing and I think that will serve him well as he continues his transition to MotoGP. We’re not looking for a massive jump in performance from Tito in Sepang, but rather a steady improvement as he starts to understand the capabilities of the bike and the tyres better. He has a lot to take in, as Sepang will be the first time he tests the bike with the control ECU and the unified software, but I’m confident that he will take it in his stride. It’s unfortunate that Jack is unable to test in Sepang but we are hopeful that he will have recovered sufficiently to join us at Phillip Island for the second of the three preseason tests.”