After a tough race on Sunday, managing tires on a drying track, around half of the MotoGP grid headed back to the track on Monday for a day of testing. Not everyone was enthusiastic about that. "Usually we hate Mondays, and this is a Monday that we hate," Danilo Petrucci told us with a wry grin on his face. He pinpointed why testing made a lot less sense for satellite riders than for factory teams. Satellite teams only really have set up changes to test, and the occasional tire, if the single tire supplier has something new. There was a real downside to working on set up at a track you have just raced at, Petrucci said. "If you are angry because you didn't get the best set up on Sunday, you getting more angry if you find it on Monday."
One of the reasons for Petrucci's ire was the loss of a lot of track time at the start of the test. A truck which had been taking down advertising hoardings around the circuit overnight had made a real mess of the track, and it took a couple of hours to clear it all up. Even then, the track remained dirty after a day and night of heavy rain, and it took a long time for the track to clean up enough for times to start to drop. In essence, only the last couple of hours of the test – extended to 6:30pm, to make amends for the loss of time earlier – which provided really useful data.
Testing is worth it for factory teams, however. Because a factory team has new components to test, and a battery of staff to help analyze the results of testing. Some factories are forthcoming about what they are testing, others are more reticent. All, however, do not tell the media the full truth, a fact accidentally underscored by Valentino Rossi on Monday. In the chaos of impromptu media debriefs which accompany a test, when Rossi arrived at the appointed site between the Movistar Yamaha trucks, he first cast an inquiring look at the Yamaha press officer, who told him "swing arm, chassis, electronics". Which means that whatever the factory Yamaha team were actually testing (rumors of a new engine abounded), all Rossi would mention were those three things.
The Italian had tested a new chassis and a new swing arm, the chassis aimed at improving braking stability, the swing arm on improving grip on corner exit. They had both been a clear improvement, Rossi said, though the difference had been small. He was keen to get the new parts as soon as possible, which means they could see action within the next couple of races.
Jorge Lorenzo did not try the new chassis and swing arm, but not because he was leaving the team at the end of the season. The chassis was a development of the frame being used by Rossi, which Lorenzo had already rejected. "We have a different direction in chassis," Lorenzo said. "I understood that he tried another step, in his direction, with this new chassis. So Yamaha have no meaning for me to try this chassis. That's why I didn't try." If Lorenzo didn't like the chassis Rossi was already using, he would be even less likely to use the revised version.
Honda were even more tight lipped than Yamaha, with both Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa vague about exactly what they had tested, or even if those parts were new or not. Márquez and Pedrosa did let slip they had been working on the rear of the bike, with Pedrosa trying parts in the suspension linkage.
For Márquez, the focus was on trying to improve acceleration without sacrificing the braking stability which is the strength of the Honda. They went back and forth with the bike, trying things at the front end, then trying things at the rear end, looking for the right balance. They found some improvement in acceleration, which remains the weak point of the bike, and the biggest area of need.
Dani Pedrosa, meanwhile, spent most of the test working on a base set up, searching for something to give him confidence in the tires and in the bike. The changes Michelin have made to the tires have penalized Pedrosa the hardest, the Spaniard suffering his worst ever season in MotoGP so far. His team have gone back to basics, working on a base set up.
At Suzuki, only Maverick Viñales was testing, Aleix Espargaro sent off home to allow his broken finger a chance to recover. There was not a great deal for Viñales to test either, the Spaniard working on electronics in search of more grip in acceleration.
Aleix Espargaro was not the only absentee at the test. Both Aprilia and Ducati had also left on Sunday night, Ducati heading down to Misano for a private test at the track alongside their WorldSBK team, where Marco Melandri is making his debut on the Ducati Panigale R. The Aspar and Avintia teams were also absent, having little to test for the rest of the season.
The satellite Honda and Yamaha teams were present in Brno, but all they were testing was set up. For Bradley Smith, that was useful, as he has lacked a base set up for most of the year. They now have two different basic starting points for each race, one bike set up for turning, one bike set up for drive out of corners. His hope is that they can arrive at a race set up more quickly using one of the two base bikes.
It was not a fantastic day for the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, however. Yamaha had given WorldSBK rider Alex Lowes with a brief test on the Yamaha M1, as a reward for winning the Suzuka 8 Hour race. But the factory Yamaha garage had too much to do, and so Lowes was handed one of Pol Espargaro's bikes for the end of the test. Lowes rode well, given such a short time on the bike, finishing 2.6 seconds shy of Espargaro's time, on a track he had not ridden at for a very long time. Unfortunately, he made a mistake at the end of his run, getting caught out off line and losing the front on the dirty section of the track. A shamefaced Lowes headed back to the pits, but he had enjoyed his first outing on a MotoGP bike.
Michelin had also brought new front tires to the test for the riders to try, and they were met with broad approval. The new tires were better in braking and offered more grip on the edge of the tire. There were two fronts to test, with most riders showing a preference for one of the new tires. It will not be available until next season, however.
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