The second day of testing for the MotoGP class is underway at Phillip Island. The day kicked off with fifteen minutes of practice starts for the riders, after which almost the entire field took to the track to make use of near perfect conditions.
There's this thing called sandbagging in motorcycle racing. You've probably heard about it. It's where a rider doesn't show his hand completely ahead of the season, doesn't smile in public, hangs a tale of woe on the media, about how he is struggling with the bike, and how much work they have to do. Then, when the flag drops and the racing starts for real, the rider goes out and completely destroys the opposition.
The key to sandbagging is not to give too much away on the timesheets. Riders find all sorts of smart ways of doing this. Working on one sector at a time, perhaps. Pushing for the first half of the lap, then backing off for the second half. On the next run, they back off in the first half of the lap, and push for the second half. The bare lap time shows up as unimpressive, but put the two halves together and you have something very impressive indeed.
Marc Márquez appears to be trying to sandbag at Phillip Island, but he is not doing a very good job of it. He has the act down just fine: lots of criticism of the bike, a lot of concerns about which areas still need work, pointing out that Phillip Island tends to hide the weak point of the Honda RC213V. The point where he is falling down on is hiding it out on track.
Marc Marquez has ended the first day of the Phillip Island MotoGP test on top of the timesheets. The Repsol Honda rider was quick from the start of the day, taking over as fastest in the middle of the day, and holding his advantage until the end.
Bikes are back on track again in good conditions in Australia. After a brief delay in the early morning, when the track was still too cold for riding to make much sense, nearly all of the MotoGP riders have now taken to the track. Maverick Viñales is back at the top of the timesheets, a position he left a couple of weeks ago at Sepang. Andrea Dovizioso follows in second, close to the time of the Yamaha man, while Australian Jack Miller sits in third place.
Testing continues until 17:45 local time today, with the weather set fair for the day.
Times after 2 hours of testing:
MotoGP is heading down under. After the initial excitement of the first test of 2017 at Sepang, the atmosphere at Phillip Island is a little more subdued. The novelty of bikes back on track has worn off a little, and now it's back to the grindstone, the hard work of running through lots of parts and changes and verifying the results found at Sepang.
Phillip Island is a strange place to go testing. It is a truly unique place, like no other. It is a test of rider more than bike, of courage more than technology. The track has a lot of fast flowing corners, very little hard braking, very little hard acceleration. What you learn from testing at Phillip Island is how stable the bike is in very fast corners, how well it wants to change direction at high speed, and how good you are at making your tires last.
That last reason is the real benefit to testing at Phillip Island. It is above all a chance for Michelin to put their tires through some serious punishment, and one of the main reasons for testing there. The series went from having two tests at Sepang in February to a test in Malaysia and then Australia in 2015, in response to the disastrous race in 2013, when Bridgestone's tires turned out not to be up to handling the new asphalt. Michelin wanted to be prepared, so tested there in 2015, gathering data to build tires that worked.
What conclusions can we draw from the first MotoGP test of 2017 at Sepang? Well, it's the first test of 2017, and the factories still have the best part of two months to refine their bikes before the season starts in earnest in Qatar. Any conclusions we draw are at risk of crashing headlong into reality at the end of March. But with all that data from the test available, it is hard to resist the temptation to dive into it and read the tea leaves.
To make some sense of the timesheets from Sepang, I examined the lap times of the fastest thirteen riders at the end of Wednesday. The reason for selecting Wednesday was simple: as it was the last day of the test, the riders were all fully up to speed, and the teams were putting together the lessons they had learned on the first two days, selecting the most promising parts to develop going forward.
It was also the day when most of the riders did long runs, especially as conditions allowed it, the weather staying almost completely dry all day. That meant that the riders had a chance to do some long runs, though only Jorge Lorenzo actually ran full race distance in one go.
The reason for selecting the top thirteen riders, rather than doing it for the entire grid, was simple. The top thirteen riders included all of the favorites for the 2017 season (and eight of the top ten from 2016), bikes from five of the six manufacturers now in MotoGP, and two of the four rookies for 2017. It also includes Casey Stoner, Ducati test rider and still one of the fastest men on two wheels.
With four of the top seven from last year's Moto2 championship moving up to MotoGP, the intermediate class is wide open for 2017. There are riders like Lorenzo Baldassarri, Tom Luthi, Franco Morbidelli, and Taka Nakagami who start the season hotly tipped for success. There are dark horses like Miguel Oliveira on the KTM, Domi Aegerter and Danny Kent on the Suters, Alex Márquez on the Kalex. And to top it all, there is an exciting crop of rookies entering the class, headed by reigning Moto3 champion Brad Binder, with Fabio Quartararo and Pecco Bagnaia to watch as well.
What surprises is the depth of Italian talent in the class, a product of leading Italian teams in Moto2, and the conveyor belt of talent emanating from the VR46 Academy backed by Valentino Rossi's mighty commercial empire. The combination of those two forces was present at the launch of Forward Racing's Moto2 campaign for 2017 in Milan. The team, owned by Giovanni Cuzari and now run by Milena Koerner, sees their two riders from last year return, with Lorenzo Baldassarri expected to challenge for the title, and Luca Marini aiming to regularly challenge the top five, and start knocking on the door of the podium.
But Lorenzo Baldassarri is clearly the main focus for Forward in 2017. During the presentation, both team owner Cuzari and VR46 principal Alessio 'Uccio' Salucci anointed the 20-year-old Italian as the favorite for the title. A small group of journalists attending the launch gave Baldassarri a grilling on how he felt about the upcoming season. Starting with whether he felt any pressure after hearing Cuzari and Uccio tell the crowd they expected him to win the title this year.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams present at the Valencia test:
DI GIANNANTONIO FRACTURES RIGHT COLLARBONE IN VALENCIA TEST
Testing season has begun for all three Grand Prix classes now, as some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams assembled at Valencia for the first private test of 2017 after the winter break. Fastest man of the Moto2 group was Miguel Oliveira on the KTM, quicker than Pons rookie Fabio Quartararo by just under two tenths. Oliveira's teammate Brad Binder was not present, still recovering from an arm injury.
Yamaha Motor Racing issued the following press release after the launch of their 2017 racing program, including their WorldSBK effort, in Milan:
Yamaha Motor Europe Launches 2017 Racing Challenge in Italy
The Red Bull Honda team issued the following press release after their team launch in Austria on Monday:
Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team unveiled at Hangar-7
The famous Hangar-7 facility in Salzburg, Austria, provided the stunning backdrop for the unveiling of the Red Bull Honda World Superbike team, which will charge into the 2017 WorldSBK season with Nicky Hayden and Stefan Bradl riding the brand-new Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2.
The 2017 WorldSBK calendar is close to being finalized. When it was announced at the combined WorldSBK/MotoGP test in November of last year, the calendar featured thirteen rounds of racing, only twelve of which had been confirmed. The missing round, many present at the test felt, was a Jerez-shaped hole waiting to be filled. Now, MotoMatters.com has learned, the penultimate round of World Superbikes will indeed take place at Jerez.
Last year Ducati’s Gigi Dall’Igna maddened many with his wings, now he may have solved an age-old problem with Formula 1-inspired jounce-dampers
This year’s brand-new MotoGP bikes are currently on their way from Malaysia to Australia for the second preseason tests, which take place next week at Phillip Island.
If you are a motor sport fan of a James Bond bent it’s tempting to imagine an industrial-espionage agent dodging through airport security to stow away aboard Dorna’s cargo plane, where he prises open Ducati’s flight boxes to disassemble that little black box at the back of Jorge Lorenzo’s GP17.
The Paddock Pass Podcast is back! After a hiatus over the winter break, Steve English and David Emmett get together to go over the latest news from testing, now that bikes are back on track.
The first subject is Sepang, where the MotoGP grid had reassembled for the first test of 2017. We go over the results, debate how strong Marc Marquez is, whether Maverick Viñales can pose a real threat for the title, ponder the strength of Valentino Rossi on the Yamaha, discuss how strong Jorge Lorenzo will be on the Ducati, and spend a few words on the exceptionally strong field of rookies who join MotoGP this season.