After three glorious days for MotoGP testing, the weather at Phillip Island has taken a turn for the worse. The first day of the final two-day test for the WorldSBK series ahead of this weekend's opener was hampered by strong winds and intermittent showers, wreaking havoc on the teams' testing programs.
Jonathan Rea is seeking history in 2017 but it's a clean sheet of paper as the champion strives for a third title
For the last two years Jonathan Rea has been as consistent as the tides and wrapped up the WorldSBK crown with almost a complete season of podium finishes. Since joining Kawasaki in 2015 the 30 year old has notched up 23 wins and 46 podium finishes from 52 races. To put his number of victories into perspective Rea's two year reign would place him in the top ten for career wins.
Last year Rea became only the fourth rider to successfully defend a WorldSBK crown and this year the Northern Irishman could write his name in the history book as the only rider to ever win three titles in a row.
On Friday at Phillip Island, shortly after a quarter to four in the afternoon, local time, a new chapter started in the annals of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. Maverick Viñales had just passed the halfway mark of what was supposed to be a full race simulation when Marc Márquez entered the track. The reigning champion latched onto the back of the Movistar Yamaha, following him around the track. After a couple of laps, Viñales lost his patience, and aborted his race simulation.
Viñales was not best pleased. "I don't know what to say, because sure I don’t want to gain nothing, because there is nothing. But it's not normal. You are doing your race simulation. Someone pulls out… you cannot stop. After five laps that he was behind, finally I needed to abort the race simulation. Anyway the track is 4 kilometers. Strange that he was there, where I was."
Márquez played the innocent. "Today there was one run that I go out and I saw that he passed. Then there was some gap, but I was able to recover this gap. Then I followed him two laps and it was interesting to see a different bike." The Repsol Honda rider then commented that he had also followed a Ducati and a Suzuki, to see where they were strong.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the second preseason test at Philllip Island:
MOVISTAR YAMAHA POSITIVELY WRAP UP PHILLIP ISLAND TESTING
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team's Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi successfully signed off their testing programme at the second official IRTA test today, securing first and twelfth place respectively in the combined standings.
PHILLIP ISLAND (AUSTRALIA), 17TH FEBRUARY 2017
Maverick Viñales has ended the third preseason MotoGP test of 2017 at the top of the timesheets. The Movistar Yamaha rider started the day with a succession of quick laps which would not be beaten, before getting down to the long grind of development work, turning a total of 101 laps.
Times after two hours of testing:
Scouring through the timesheets after the second day of the MotoGP test at Phillip Island, and reading through everything the riders have said, a picture emerges, not just of what happened on Thursday, but also how history has affected them. Seeing Marc Márquez' workload, his approach, the things he is working on, and it is hard not to think back to his past three seasons in MotoGP. The lessons learned in each of those seasons color everything he is working at Phillip Island, and give us a glimpse of his objective for 2017.
On Thursday, Márquez put in 107 laps around Phillip Island. That is 20% more than most of his rivals, and nearly double the amount which some of them rode. Asked if he was playing games in suggesting the 2017 Honda RC213V was not ready, Márquez was curt. "I don’t play games, because if I'm ready I would not make 107 laps! Because my hands are destroyed."
Why put in so many laps? A look at the past three seasons offers an insight. In 2014, Márquez destroyed the field in the first part of the season, winning ten races in a row, and a total of thirteen. For a man with a thirst for victory matched perhaps only by Valentino Rossi, this was an ecstatic period. It also lured him into a false sense of security, the bike suffering as a result. This was not helped by Honda's insistence on building a bike as powerful as possible, with no view of making it easy to use.
Winglets may have been banned for 2017, but the drive for aerodynamics development continues. This time, however, winglet development will continue on the inside of the fairing, rather than the outside. The development ban applies solely to the exterior surface of the fairing, and not the interior.
What this means in practice is that while the shape of the fairing must be homologated at Qatar, with one update allowed during the season, that only applies to the outer surface of the ducts, and not to the vanes (the small struts or winglets inside the ducts which control the airflow and can be used to alter downforce) inside those ducts. Development of aerodynamic control surfaces will still be allowed, as long as the changes remain on the inside of the fairing.
An eagle-eyed MotoMatters.com reader spotted the gap in the regulations. Section 22.214.171.124.10 of the FIM Grand Prix Regulations reads as follows:
A faster motorcycle, a more focused mind and a better atmosphere in the Yamaha garage. Could this be the year Rossi wins his tenth world title?
Last May I wrote a ridiculously premature story on this website, headlined: could 2017 be Rossi’s year?
The premise was straightforward. Jorge Lorenzo had already signed for Ducati, so I suggested that “the Desmosedici will do what he wants at some tracks but not at others”. Maverick Viñales looked set to take over Lorenzo’s user-friendly Yamaha, “but at some tracks he won’t have the experience of the bike to nail the set-up to the nth degree, without which he won’t win the title”. And Honda needed to build Marc Márquez a bike “that will allow him to do what he did in 2014”, when he walked the title, winning ten consecutive races.
In other words, if Lorenzo, Viñales and Márquez aren’t at 100 per cent, then Rossi could win the 2017 title because he alone will have a bike that “he probably knows as well as he knows his mum and dad”.
Maverick Viñales has returned to the top of the timesheets on Thursday, stepping up the pace on his Movistar Yamaha to end the second day of test at Phillip Island as the fastest man. Viñales' pace was relentless, topping the timesheets early in the day with a run of three laps of 1'28, then adding two more 1'28s at the end of the day.
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.