2013 Misano MotoGP Test Round Up: 2013 vs 2014 Machines, Spec Electronics And A New Rear Bridgestone
The rain on Monday morning brought a welcome respite for tired journalists at least, after a night spent filing stories until the early hours of the morning. It meant that the Misano MotoGP test did not get underway until very late in the morning, with most riders staying in the pits until well after noon.
Once they got started, though, there was a lot to be tested. Both Yamaha and Honda had brought the latest versions of their 2014 prototypes for testing, but with the championship heading into its final five races, there was a lot to work on with the current crop of machines.
That was particularly true for Dani Pedrosa. The Repsol Honda man dropped from second to third in the championship at Misano, Jorge Lorenzo matching him on points, but taking the position on the basis of having more wins. Pedrosa has complained of a lack of rear grip almost all season, and if he is to retain a shot at the title, his team have to find a solution. Did they find anything? Pedrosa gave a series of carefully worded answers trying to put a positive spin on the test, but the short answer was 'not really'. There were positive points and negative points, and they had some ideas to try at the next races, but in reality, they did not find the silver bullet they were looking for.
So focused were they on the 2013 bike that Pedrosa only put in four laps on next year's bike, and he had little to report about it, other than that the spec Magneti Marelli ECU was working well with HRC's ECU software. He had not noticed the difference between the two. Marc Marquez had, having also tried the 2014 bike, but it was more a matter of feeling than anything else. Both old and new packages worked well, but there was a small difference between the way the two systems felt to Marc Marquez. The fact that Honda has managed to port and translate their vehicle dynamics algorithms so well from their proprietary ECU to the spec Magneti Marelli unit suggests that the spec ECU hardware, at least, is up to the job of managing a MotoGP bike. The spec software, on the other hand...
Marquez had less to improve on the 2013 bike than Pedrosa - but then, given that he has scored five wins, a total of twelve podiums, and currently leads the championship, that is hardly surprising - and so could devote a little more time to the 2014 machine. The bike was an improvement from the prototype tested at Aragon back in June, Marquez said. At that test, there were more negatives than positives, he explained, but now the positives vastly outweighed the negatives.
At Yamaha, both riders had spent time on the new prototype, though Lorenzo insisted he had only tested a new motor. The new engine spec had a little better acceleration, but his team needed to check the data to be sure they saw the difference which Lorenzo believed he felt. Rossi had been more concerned about this season, and had worked on finding a cure to the front end stability problems he has under braking. He believed they had found a solution, or at least a partial one. It was a step in the right direction, which he hoped to continue to work on at Aragon.
Ducati had very little to test. Nicky Hayden had been given the special Brembo carbon brake disks to test which the riders will use at Motegi, where brakes overheating become a problem. The larger mass helps disperse the heat more effectively, and as far as Hayden and Dovizioso could tell, they had worked. Dovizioso had also worked on a different set up for corner entry, and he said, they had learned something. What they had learned, it emerged, was that the changes hadn't worked, but this too is useful knowledge.
Suzuki were also once again present, with Randy de Puniet taking on temporary test duties. The bike sounded a little louder than it had at Barcelona, and appeared to have a few cosmetic differences, including a slightly different nose. Suzuki are still using their proprietary Mitsubishi ECU hardware, as they continue work on the bike, but they are already running into fueling problems. Test rider Nobu Aoki told one reporter that Suzuki is having problems at low revs, and though he did not say so, that is exactly where fueling is so critical. It is easy to get good throttle response when you have plenty of fuel to burn, but as you work towards making do with the (frankly depressingly stingy) 20 liters each rider has for the race, fueling at partial throttle and low revs becomes particularly sketchy. The reduced fuel limit was one of the main reasons Suzuki decided to put back their projected return to 2015, taking another year to try to get to grips with the problems of lean running.
The most significant news was the testing of a new spec rear Bridgestone tire, aimed at providing a usable harder option rear tire. The current hard tire is almost unusable, temperatures never getting hot enough to allow the tire to maintain its core temperature. By introducing the new rear tire, which uses a special new construction to improve warm up while retaining durability, Bridgestone hope to be able to offer riders a choice. This would give Bridgestone the chance to introduce an even softer soft option, which would be ideal for mornings when the track was cool, and prevent some of the early morning crashes we have seen.
For the most part, the riders loved it, those who had tried it. The one exception was Jorge Lorenzo, but he was comparing its performance to the softer option rear. Bradley Smith said that the new tire solved some of Yamaha's problems with edge grip, but both Ducati men were pleased as well. After such an overwhelmingly positive reception, the tires are likely to be debuted sooner, rather than later. And that can only be a good thing.
The paddock heads home for a week now, riders dispersing to train and help with sponsorship deals. In 9 days' time, we reassemble at Alcañiz, for the Grand Prix of Aragon.