Friday saw the birth of two new eras in Grand Prix racing: the start of the MotoE class, and the first official test with the Triumph Moto2 engine managed with Magneti Marelli electronics. The Triumph 765 triples introduce a very different sound into the paddock to the four-cylinder Honda CBR600RR engines they replaced, and have a very different character.
The Moto2 riders had a tough start, the track starting out wet after heavy overnight rain. But by the time the track had dried out completely after lunch, the riders got in a lot of laps on the first day of testing. They will have to balance the number of laps with engine life, as they are limited on the distance they can do on these engines, official engines being used for Moto2 testing under the new system.
A different engine character requires a different riding style. "We've got a lot more power in the middle," Sam Lowes explained. "The top end is similar. Engine brake and blipper means you can attack the corner a bit better, turn, and get out. We just compared a bit the lap time, the corner speed is loads lower today than I was on the Honda, but on exit and entry, you're already faster. It's not like MotoGP, because it's only 130hp, but it's a bit like MotoGP in that you have to stop the bike more than you did on the Honda. You can get away with a little bit less speed in the slower corners, because you don't have to carry speed to keep the RPM, your window of good power is a lot bigger. You can short shift and drive."
What was obvious from watching track side was that the bikes were a lot more difficult to control. There was more wheelie coming out of Turn 13 onto the front straight, and the bikes were moving more during hard braking. Some of this may be solved as the teams get to grips with the new electronics, and understand the different maps they have at their disposal. Though the bikes were perfectly ridable, and the closeness of the times suggest that the teams could go racing tomorrow if they needed to, studying and understanding the possibilities the Magneti Marelli electronics offer will quickly improve performance. One team manager bemoaned the need to hire an additional electronics specialist to help with their two riders.
Another issue was that the teams and riders had difficulty starting the bikes, the long-stroke, high-compression triple needing a very different approach. Starter rollers will need to be more powerful - 24V instead of 12V - and riders will have to study the right moment to bump start the bike. Some mechanics suggested using second gear rather than fourth gear, to get the engine turning more quickly.
Lorenzo Baldassarri finished the day on top of the timesheets, though Balda, Luca Marini, and Sam Lowes all looked very strong throughout the day, all swapping top spot among themselves and never far behind. It looked like the KTMs were struggling more than the Kalexes, as Brad Binder was the first KTM, setting the eighth fastest time. The front end of the KTM - with a revised, much larger air inlet to feed the airbox - appeared to be a problem, where the Kalex chassis seemed to work straight out of the box.
Nicolo Bulega was the fastest rookie, the Triumph engines appearing to be easier to adapt to than the Honda motors, although the level of this cohort of Moto3 entrants is phenomenal. There was also some phenomenal bad luck for reigning Moto3 champion Jorge Martin, the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider getting flicked off at Turn 2, and fracturing the humerus in his upper left arm, and three bones in his right foot. Martin will be relieved the winter break is nigh. Despite his misfortune, he finished the first day of testing in fifteenth, just over a second behind Baldassarri.
||Dimas Ekky Pratama
||Fabio Di Giannantonio
||Khairul Idham Pawi