The 2017 season is starting to take shape. After the announcement of the provisional 2017 MotoGP calendar in the run up to Aragon, Dorna published the schedule of official tests for the 2017 preseason. Like the race calendar, the test calendar looks remarkably similar to last year.
Testing kicks off after the final race of 2016 in Valencia, and as last year, the riders get a day off between the race and the test, with the bikes taking to the track on Tuesday. Up until last year, the test had always started on the Monday after the race, but that was changed last year, with the explanation that the teams needed an extra day of preparation to get the bikes set up with the Michelin tires and spec electronics.
No major technical rules are to change for 2017 (with the exception of the banning of winglets), but the extra day of rest is to be maintained. Teams felt that the quality of feedback on Monday was often poor, with riders having spent all their energy in the last race of the year, the effort of the season just past catching up with them. A day off to recover, both physically and mentally, should allow the riders to focus more during the two-day test, and provide better feedback.
The Valencia test - which will be open to the public, for anyone staying on after the final race - will see a lot of team changes and riders swapping bikes. Perhaps the most eagerly awaited is Jorge Lorenzo, who will get his first taste of the Ducati at Valencia, the Italian factory working flat out to get a preliminary version of the Ducati Desmosedici GP17 ready for the test. That will be all the time he gets on the bike, though, as Yamaha have reportedly vetoed any further tests for Lorenzo in 2016. He will have to wait until 2017 to get a private test on the Desmosedici.
The Valencia test will also see Maverick Viñales take the seat vacated by Lorenzo at the Movistar Yamaha team. Viñales and Valentino Rossi will not see too many major updates at Valencia, but according to the Italian broadcaster Sky, Yamaha will be bringing some radical updates to the M1 to a private test at Sepang on 23rd and 24th November. Those changes, according to Sky, are aimed at adapting the chassis better to the Michelin tires, and allowing it to brake deeper into the corners and turn better. Yamaha hope they can do this without sacrificing the M1's amazing ability to hold corner speed. The changes follow the direction the Yamaha has taken since the middle of this year, development moving away from Lorenzo's unique ability to carry corner speed, and moving to compensate the areas where the bike is currently weaker. A new engine, with more horsepower, is reportedly also planned.
There will be more debuts, of course. Andrea Iannone will get his first taste of the Suzuki, taking over from the departing Maverick Viñales. Aleix Espargaro will head to Aprilia, where he will get to test the rapidly improving RS-GP, alongside the newly promoted Sam Lowes. And the 2017 KTM line up of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro will finally get their hands on the RC16, after Mika Kallio gives it its first public outing during the race at Valencia.
The winter test ban comes into effect on 1st December, giving teams and riders a chance to recover, and the factories a chance to work through the data found during the season and at the tests, and incorporate it into their 2017 bikes. The season resumes a little earlier than normal, the Sepang test kicking off on 30th January, and lasting for three days until 1st February.
After Sepang, the MotoGP circus heads to Phillip Island again, as it did this year. The Phillip Island test from 15th to 17th February once again replaces the second test at Sepang, giving the factories a chance to try their bikes at a different track. Importantly, it also allows Michelin to test more tires at one of the most demanding circuits of the season.
The MotoGP riders get nearly four weeks rest after Phillip Island, giving the Moto2 and Moto3 riders their first official test of the year. The support classes assemble in Jerez on 9th March for a two-day test, though doubtless they will be busy at private tests before that.
On 10th March, the MotoGP field gathers once again for the final test of the 2017 preseason, for three days - or rather nights - at Qatar. A week later, the Moto2 and Moto3 riders gather there, before the season kicks in earnest on 23rd of March at Qatar, with the first race of the season scheduled for 26th March.
The official test dates are below. MotoGP dates in bold, Moto2/Moto3 in italics:
|15-16 November||MotoGP||Valencia (post race)|
|30 January-1 February||MotoGP||Sepang|
|15-17 February||MotoGP||Phillip Island|