While Yamaha and Aprilia's factory riders have already departed for a much needed vacation, the factory Honda, Suzuki and Ducati teams began three days of testing at Misano on Wednesday. Each of the three factories has their own area to work on ahead of the summer break, in preparation for the second half of the season, which resumes three weeks from now in Indianapolis.
Honda have a new motorcycle to try, though neither Marc Marquez nor Dani Pedrosa tried the 2016 version of the RC213V on Wednesday. That will have to wait until tomorrow, when both riders will get their first taste of next year's bike. The 2016 bike did hit the track today, in the hands of HRC test Hiroshi Aoyama. Calling it the 2016 bike is perhaps a misnomer. According to HRC team principal Livio Suppo, the bike consists of a new chassis, housing the 2015 engine. Changing one variable at a time was part of the strategy, Suppo told GPOne.com's Matteo Aglio. Using just the chassis and the 2015 engine meant they could make sure the chassis is a step in the right direction, before using the 2016 engine to make sure.
Testing the 2016 engine is a difficult proposition anyway. With the software for the current year frozen, work has only just begun on the 2016 spec software, which is expected to be a major step forward from the software currently being used by the Open teams in MotoGP. With software having such a massive effect on bike behavior and dynamics, using Honda's own software on the 2016 engine makes little sense.
While the 2016 bike awaits, Marquez and Pedrosa were focused on the rest of the season. For Pedrosa, the main objective was to make up for the time he lost during his absence after surgery. The team have been working on a base set up for Pedrosa to use for the remainder of the season. Primary focus was on the balance of the bike, and improving both corner exit and corner entry.
For Marquez, the main aim was to continue the improvements they made at Barcelona, Assen and Sachsenring. Misano is a good track to test the area the current version of the RC213V is struggling with most, hard braking and entry into corners where approach speed is high. They made a small step on Wednesday, and a direction they hope to pursue tomorrow. Part of that came from modiflying Marquez' riding position slightly, and in some changes to bike geometry. Both Marquez and Pedrosa were fast, and under the existing lap record: Honda reported Marquez as having posted a best lap of 1'32.31, Pedrosa as posting a 1'32.76. The existing pole record is 1'32.915, held by Marc Marquez.
At Suzuki, Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales can still only dream of more horsepower and a seamless gearbox, their two biggest problems. At Misano, they were left to work on bike set up, mainly. Aleix Espargaro and his crew found improvements in front end feeling, a major issue at the Sachsenring. After the race in Germany, Espargaro had also named improving turning performance in the tighter corners, of which Misano also has its fair share.
Maverick Viñales, who has made an exceptionally impressive debut in MotoGP aboard the Suzuki, was concentrating on the other end of the GSX-RR. He and his team worked on improving the rear of the bike, which had been chattering badly in recent races. To that end, Viñales spent a good deal of time on a full fuel tank, which can exacerbate the problems at the start of a race. The two Suzuki men were credited with very similar lap times, Espargaro lapping in 1'33.2, Viñales in 1'33.17.
Set up was absolutely the main focus at Ducati. The GP15 first hit the track in February of this year, a completely new bike built from the ground up, and so both Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone have been lacking a base set up. The two Italians were working on exactly this on Wednesday, running through a major program of set up changes in pursuit of data. The work they were doing was 'fundamental', Dovizioso told GPOne.com, aimed at understanding and analyzing the effect of set up changes on the bike and using that to find the direction they need to work in.
The work for Andrea Iannone was much the same. They had not tested any of the minor upgrades on Wednesday which Ducati had brought to the track. Instead, they had worked on set up, collecting data on various chassis changes in pursuit of future improvement. Neither Andrea was particularly satisfied with the time they posted, though they both emphasized that they were not chasing lap times, but doing longer runs of five or six laps with a specific set up. Dovizioso was reported as having clocked a 1'32.8, Iannone a 1'33.4. Also present was Danilo Petrucci, trying the GP14.2 of his teammate Yonny Hernandez. It was less difficult to ride fast, Petrucci said, the Italian setting a time of 1'33.4.
All of the riders were impressed by the newly resurfaced Misano, carried out by Studio Dromo, the company led by Jarno Zafelli, the man behind the layout of the Argentinian circuit at Termas de Rio Hondo. "The new asphalt is spectacular," Aleix Espargaro said. Marc Marquez concurred, describing the new surface as "excellent," and lapping very fast despite track temperatures of around 56°C. The new surface was so good that it actually made comparisons with data from last year very difficult.
Below is the press release issued by the Repsol Honda team after testing on Wednesday:
Marquez and Pedrosa commence testing schedule in Italy
Fresh from their 1-2 finish in Germany last Sunday, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa were back on track today in Misano, Italy to begin their 3-day test.
This first day was spent reacquainting themselves with the circuit and its new tarmac, and adapting their setups to suit this track. Both reported positively and that the track is faster than it was previously.
Tomorrow Marc and Dani will test the new 2016 prototype before spending Friday testing with the new 2016 tyre supplier.
1’32’.31 [84 laps]
"Today was a positive day. We have been working to adapt the setting to the new tarmac, that is very good by the way, and also on checking some different things for the riding position on the bike. In the afternoon we focused more on the setup of the bike as this is a good circuit to work on the issue we have of sliding with the rear entering some corner. We found something good but tomorrow we have to continue working on this area as I’m still not 100% happy. We will also test the 2016 prototype HRC have brought here."
1’32.76 [63 laps]
"The new surface is very good and much fewer bumps than before and I am happy with it - they have done a good job. It is very positive to have few days testing in this part of the season, trying to find a ‘base setup’ that can work everywhere as due to my injury that forced me to stop for 3 GPs, we still have some work to do comparing with a normal season. When we are here for the race the temperature won’t be so high and for sure the lap times will be better. I’m happy with the work done today and looking forward to check the new prototype tomorrow!"