So, testing is over and the winter test ban can start. Riders who intend to race in 2016 are banned from testing between 1st December 2015 and 31st January 2016. Engineers now have a long winter ahead of them to try to make sense of the data gathered at the test at Valencia and Jerez, or else send their test riders out in the chill of winter, as Aprilia intend to do at Jerez in a few weeks. Those engineers have an awful lot of work ahead of them.
The men and women at Ducati will be getting the most time off over the holiday period. It is clear from the first two tests that the Italian factory has hit the ground running with the new unified software, and have the systems working relatively well. One Ducati engineer reckoned that they were already at about 50% of the potential of the software, far more than the 10% MotoGP's Director of Technology Corrado Cecchinelli had estimated at Valencia. The fact that Scott Redding topped the final day of testing at Jerez on the Pramac Ducati GP15, a couple of tenths faster than Marc Márquez and the only rider to crack into the 1'38s, is proof enough that Ducati have the situation under control. (For a full list of unofficial times, see below).
Redding has been impressive throughout the test, and was a very happy rider after Friday. "The good thing for me is that I feel comfortable on the bike," Redding said. "I know what's going to happen. Today I nearly crashed at the last corner because I tried to force the front a bit but it didn’t want to. The bike was talking to me. When you have a good feeling like this you also have a bit of confidence. You know what’s going to happen." Last year on the Honda, the RC213V did anything but talk to him. Whenever he tried to go faster, he would go slower. Now, on the GP15, he was fast, knew he could go faster if he pushed harder.
Press releases from the MotoGP and World Superbike teams after the final day of testing at Jerez:
Have HRC made the same mistake again? In 2015, the Honda RC213V was a nasty beast to tame, suffering with an excessively aggressive engine. The engine was probably the single most important reason Marc Márquez could not mount a realistic defense of his second title, forcing him to try to make up in braking what he was losing in acceleration, and crashing out as a result. At the Valencia test, all eyes were on Honda's new engine, to see if they had finally fixed the problem.
Valencia turned out to be a little too complex to make a real judgment. The switch to spec electronics and Michelin tires introduced way too many variables to be able to filter out a single factor, Honda engineers taking a long time to extract some kind of consistency from the new unified software all MotoGP bikes must now use. The 2016 RC213V engine seemed a little less aggressive, but the new software made it hard to tell. The current test at Jerez was supposed to give a clearer indication, with HRC's engineers having a better handle on the unified software.
Though the verdict is not yet in, it is not looking good for the 2016 engine Honda brought for the tests in Spain. Both Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez have reported the engine as still being too aggressive, and difficult to manage, though the engine character has changed. "Last year's engine was aggressive in the top," Márquez told reporters after the second day of testing at Jerez. "Now we have more power in the bottom, but still we don't understand the way to deliver this torque. It looks like aggressive in the bottom, but then smoother in the top compared with last year." The key will be finding the right balance between the top and bottom end.
Press releases from the Repsol Honda, Gresini Aprilia and Aspar Ducati teams after testing on Thursday at Jerez:
Testing continues in Jerez for Marquez and Pedrosa
The Repsol Honda Team have completed a productive second day of testing in Jerez.
Cold temperatures of 5ºC welcomed the team at the track but by late morning it had soon warmed up to 18ºC and once again remained dry and sunny for the duration of the test.
Marc spent this second day concentrating on the 2016 specification engine and electronics, with long waits in the box between exits as his team adjusted the Magneti Marelli software. He completed a total of 58 laps with his best time of 1’39.57.
Dani did 53 laps today and a fastest time of 1’40.10. He continued to carry out a comparison between the 2015 and 2016 specification engines and software.
The three day test will conclude tomorrow.
1’39.57 58 laps
The final test of 2016 for the World Superbike class has already lost two of its participants. Both Ten Kate Honda's Michael van der Mark and Pata Yamaha's Alex Lowes have been forced to withdraw from the test due to injury.
Lowes suffered a dislocated shoulder when he fell heavily at Turn 3 on Wednesday, crashing in the late afternoon. Though he walked away from that crash, and quickly had his dislocated shoulder put into place, a painful shoulder and restricted movement meant there was little sense in continuing. Lowes has returned to the UK for medical treatment, with the objective of being completely fit when testing resumes next year.
What happened to Michael van der Mark is a little more mysterious. The Honda Pro Racing organization posted a brief update on its Facebook page, adding little detail to Van der Mark's withdrawal. Van der Mark was suffering with pain in his right arm on Wednesday, which given his times on the day (Van der Mark was over a second slower than his new teammate Nicky Hayden) appear to have severely affected his speed. Van der Mark has now flown north seeking treatment, and will see a specialist in Antwerp, Belgium for further examinations.
The Repsol Honda team issued the following press release after the first day of testing at Jerez, complete with photos:
Repsol Honda Team commence final test of year
With the testing ban coming into effect of 1st December, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa took to the track today in Jerez for the first day of the three-day test.
A cold fresh morning greeted them but they were blessed with good weather all day remaining dry and sunny until the end of testing. Both Marc and Dani spent this first day comparing different engines and working on the electronics set up.
Marc finished the day with a best time of 1’39.92, completing 65 laps in total. Dani, who missed the race here this year due to injury, managed 56 laps and his fastest time was 1’40.12. He had a small crash on the last exit in the final corner, but escaped unhurt.
Casey Stoner is to leave Honda and work with Ducati as a test rider and brand ambassador from 2016. Two press releases, one from Honda and one from Ducati, today confirmed the rumor which had emerged at Valencia during the race weekend, and especially after the test. Honda thanked Stoner for five years of collaboration, including two years of racing, during which he won fifteen races and a MotoGP championship. After his retirement, at the end of 2012, Stoner continued as a test rider for HRC, but rode only sporadically, no more than a couple of days a year.
Press releases from the World Superbike teams after testing at Aragon:
Jonathan Rea leaves the Motorland Aragon circuit as the fastest man from the two-day World Superbike test at the circuit. Rea spent the day working on the engine management and electronics. The 2016 Kawasaki ZX-10R has shown itself to be a powerful machine, but the acceleration is not as easy to manage as the 2015 bike. Rea's Kawasaki teammate Tom Sykes also lapped Aragon on Tuesday, after choosing to sit out the first day of the two-day test due to the weather conditions.
Chaz Davies was reported as being second fastest, though no official timing was available. According to the German-language website Speedweek, the Aruba.it Ducati rider posted a lap of 1'51.0, 0.7 slower than the time set by Rea. Davies tested electronics strategies, as well suspension components, in search of more precise steering. Javi Fores took the second Ducati out, standing in for the still injured Davide Giugliano.
Alex Lowes was the faster of the two Pata Yamaha bikes, 1.4 seconds quicker than his new teammate Sylvain Guintoli. The Pata Yamaha pair are still working mainly on getting used to the YZF-R1, running a bike basically in BSB spec, development a priority for later.
The Ten Kate Honda team have taken advantage of the private test at the Motorland Aragon circuit to showcase their talent for promoting their team and the sport. This time, they have produced two video interviews with their 2016 World Superbike riders.
In the first one, Nicky Hayden talks about making the transition to racing production bikes after so much time in MotoGP, and getting used to working with a new team.
In the second video, Michael van der Mark talks about his first season in World Superbikes, the challenges he faced, and his hopes for 2016.
Nicky Hayden interview:
Michael van der Mark interview:
Nicky Hayden turned his first official laps as a World Superbike rider on Monday, putting the Ten Kate Honda CBR1000RR through its paces for the first time. The test did not get off to a particularly auspicious start, the day delayed by a wet track and thick fog, which took a long time to clear. Nevertheless, Hayden took his first laps shortly before one, to try to get a feel for the bike. The first exit was on wet tires, the track still damp, and there was no serious action on the circuit until late in the afternoon, when the sun finally broke through the clouds.
Though no times were released, German-language website Speedweek reports that Hayden's best lap was a 1'53.3, 1.8 seconds off the fastest time of reigning world champion Jonathan Rea, who set a 1'51.5. Hayden spent a lot of time working on his position on the bike and the position of footpegs and seat. He also spent a lot of time with the electronics, trying to set them up to get a better connection between throttle and engine. You can read more of his comments on the Bikesportnews website.
The final day of testing at Valencia was a repeat of the first day: a lot of crashes on the Michelin tires, the factory Hondas, Yamahas and Ducatis working on the brand new spec electronics, the satellite bikes and the Suzukis working on their own 2015 electronics. For the Suzukis, that was not such a problem. The new electronics were likely to be an improvement on their own electronics, both Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro said, so missing out now was not such a problem. Suzuki have another test planned at Sepang at the end November, at which they plan to switch the 2016 unified software. With two days of Michelin testing under the belt, testing the spec software should be easier.
Choosing to wait until Sepang could be a smart strategy. There, with more time and test riders to help, Suzuki will have the resources to make quicker progress with the spec software. Honda, but especially Yamaha, showed that progress was possible, both Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi saying that their second day on the spec electronics had been much better than the first day. "Yesterday, the thing was it was just a check out of the system to understand how they work in which corner, but the power was not done to have the best performance," Jorge Lorenzo said. "We work on that for the next morning and I felt it was much better and I improved during all the day quite a bit." Valentino Rossi agreed. "From yesterday to today already the situation improved a lot. It is still not at the same level for sure, but it looks like we can improve I think quite quickly."
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the two-day test at Valencia:
Casey Stoner is set to make some form of return to MotoGP. The Australian is to switch back from Honda to Ducati, taking on a role as test rider for the Italian firm. There is a chance that Stoner could also be given one or more wildcard rides on Ducati's MotoGP bike.
The news comes after a series of rumors and stories, starting with the German language website Speedweek, and culminating with unofficial confirmation from Israeli TV MotoGP commentator Tammy Gorali. Ducati's Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti spoke officially to journalists at Valencia, but refused to confirm the deal. "Casey is a hero of Ducati fans, he won so many races and was a world champion for Ducati in 2007," Ciabatti said. "We will see what the future brings but we know that his contract with Honda will expire at the end of this year and obviously if there's a chance to do something together we would love to do it."