Three factories and eight WorldSBK riders turned up at Jerez on Monday, Ducati bringing their brand new Panigale V4R, but at the end, Jonathan Rea was fastest. Plus ça change.
All eyes were on the Ducati garage, and Alvaro Bautista's first day on the Panigale V4R. "First day at school" was how the Spaniard characterized it, taking some time to adapt to the bike. It was quite a switch from the Desmosedici he had been riding in MotoGP, the bike having a lot less power. But the V4 engine still has plenty, rival teams complaining that the Ducati was 10km/h faster than the others at the Aragon test. Here, the difference was less, but the Panigale was still clearly quicker than the rivals.
The bike reminded him more of a 250, Bautista said, needing corner speed to get more out of it. Aruba.it Ducati teammate Chaz Davies joked that it might have reminded Bautista of his 250, but that bike was very different to the 250 Davies rode when he was in the class. But overall, Bautista's adaptation went well, the Spaniard trying two qualifying tires as it was the first time he had had a chance to ride qualifiers. He needed one set to figure out the potential of the tires, and a second set to attempt to set a time on the tires. His time was good enough for second place, three tenths behind Jonathan Rea on the Kawasaki, and a couple of tenths ahead of his teammate Chaz Davies.
Jonathan Rea finished the first day of testing for the WorldSBK riders on top of the timesheets, the 2019 Kawasaki ZX-10R proving to be as fast as ever with the Northern Irishman aboard. Alvaro Bautista adapted to the Pirelli tires and WorldSBK Ducati Panigale V4 quickly setting the second fastest time three tenths behind Rea, and a quarter of a second ahead of his Aruba.it Ducati teammate Chaz Davies. Alex Lowes was the fastest Yamaha in fourth.
Steve and David start off with a look back at the race, and how the weather affected both the weekend and the race itself. We talk about those who crashed, and those who didn't, and whether the right decision was made in red-flagging the first race. We discuss the strength of the Ducati, Marc Marquez' crash and what consequences it might have, how good the Suzuki has been this year, and KTM's first ever podium.
Another day, another test at the Jerez circuit, this time with the WorldSBK riders. The Yamahas, Kawasakis, and Ducatis are at Jerez on their second test of the season, after kicking off at Aragon. It was another late start due to overnight rain, but the weather has been significantly better over the course of the day, and the track has been busy since it dried out enough to get some use.
The switch to Triumph engines in Moto2 has had a major impact on the chassis manufacturers in the middleweight class, requiring a complete redesign of their chassis. The dimensions of the Triumph 765cc triple is very different to the Honda CBR600RR engines which they replace, and the power delivery places very different demands on the chassis in terms of handling and getting drive out of the corners.
After the first test at Jerez, Kalex appears to have done the best job of understanding the requirements the new engines place on the chassis. Eleven of the top twelve riders were on the German bikes, with only Jorge Navarro on the Speed Up spoiling the party in sixth. Austrian giant KTM were in real trouble, Brad Binder the best-placed KTM rider in thirteenth, over nine tenths behind Luca Marini on the Sky VR46 Kalex. Six of the last ten riders are on KTMs.
Reason for Kalex chief chassis designer Alex Baumgärtel to celebrate? "Well, it's too early to say," the affable German told us on Saturday. "It's just one and a half days now, and one of those had a wet session start, so I would say 'tranquilo', let's be calm. It was not a bad start, let's call it like that, with only minor problems. But everybody still had quite a lot of work to do to understand how systems work."
Press releases from some of the teams after the first Moto2 test with the new Triumph engines and Magneti Marelli electronics:
TOP-2 FOR LOWES AT JEREZ MOTO2 DEBUT
Press releases after the inaugural MotoE test at Jerez:
Bradley Smith dominates opening test for MotoE World Cup
Jerez marked the start of a new era for Moto2 as a whole, but it also marked a reset in the career of Tom Lüthi. The Swiss rider moved up to MotoGP with the Marc VDS team for 2018, but suffered through a miserable season vying for the last few places in every race. It was, he told us, the most instructive year of his career.
For 2019, Lüthi returns to Moto2, racing a Kalex for the Dynavolt Intact GP team. On Saturday evening, a group of journalists spoke to Lüthi at length about adapting back to Moto2, and how the class has changed with the advent of the Triumph engines and the introduction of Magneti Marelli electronics. It proved to be an extremely enlightening insight into the differences between the old Honda-powered 600cc Moto2 bikes, and the new, 765cc Triumph-powered triples.
Q: How are you adapting back to Moto2?
TL: It was actually a good day for us. A little bit disappointed, it was a pity it was shortened a little bit by the rain and the conditions. I've got to the point already where I have really had enough of this rain, after Valencia, and now again! It's tiring...
But we could work quite well, it was an interesting day, but still a lot of work to do. I have still quite a lot of focus on the seat position, still not absolutely happy with that. We could improve some steps, but still there is some more to do, for sure. Also in the bike in general we could improve, electronics side, engine brake side, we could make steps forward, but there are still many things to try to understand what's the right thing and what's the wrong thing. It's still a new bike.
Combined times from all three days of testing:
Times combined from all three days of the first ever MotoE test:
Heavy rain on Saturday night, and intermittent rain during Sunday severely limited track time for the last day of Moto2 testing. Most riders chose not to risk a crash, and packed up and went home early. Of the few who did venture out, Steven Odendaal was quickest, scoring a moral victory for the RW Racing team and the NTS chassis.
Testing is now finished, and the Moto2 class will reconvene in February.
Overnight rain left a wet track at Jerez, and rain on and off all day meant it never really dried out fully, limiting the usefulness of the last day of the test.
The weather hit the MotoE riders perhaps even more hard than the Moto2 riders: there are 12 bikes present, and 19 riders, so riders in two-rider teams are having to share bikes. And when some sessions are wet and some dry, making comparisons is hard.
Luca Marini finished the second day of testing for the Moto2 class on top of the timesheets, the Sky VR46 rider getting under the existing pole record in the morning session of practice. Sam Lowes, very happy to be back on a Kalex with the Gresini Team, was second, a quarter of a second slower than Marini, while Alex Marquez just pipped Remy Gardner for third.