Faces dropped as teams headed into the paddock at Phillip Island on Thursday morning. Another day of rain? Surely not. Had they not suffered enough?
What was needed was some dry track time, so that the teams could get on with the piles of work they still have to do getting ready for the 2016 season, and Michelin could start to get some proper feedback on their slicks.
Their supplications to the heavens did not go unanswered. As the day went on, the sun came out and the track dried out, conditions getting better and better.
By the end of the session, lap times were tumbling, riders getting close to the times set during the race in October, and Maverick Viñales getting a tenth under Marc Márquez’s best race lap.
“Go to Phillip Island to test,” they said. “It will be summer, conditions will be perfect.” What they didn’t say was that this was summer in Phillip Island, a season which can include all four of the other seasons of the year.
Sure, it was warmer than in October, but rain kept blowing in off the Bass Strait, drenching the track, then the winds drying the track out, before another shower drenched the track.
“Honestly, it was a waste of a day for everyone,” was Cal Crutchlow’s assessment of the day. “The last two corners were dry at the end but the first four corners were soaking wet and the rest were somewhere in between.”
Dani Pedrosa was in broad agreement. “I think it’s quite rare to have full wet conditions in this track, because it dries up so quick. We had most of the day, half the track dry, half the track wet, and spraying all the time, and drying again all the time.”
Going by the number of laps posted by each rider – between twenty and thirty, where eighty or ninety might be more normal – the first day of the second MotoGP test at Phillip Island could indeed be regarded as wasted.
Phillip Island is arguably the greatest race track for motorcycles in the world. It is a circuit where every racer wants to race, where every trackday rider wants to cut some laps, where every race fan wants to visit. There are a million reasons to visit Phillip Island, all of them good.
Testing in preparation for a MotoGP season is not one of them, however. Phillip Island has a long history of riders winning based on bravery and ability, rather than equipment.
In October, Maverick Viñales finished in sixth on the massively underpowered Suzuki GSX-RR, just a second behind Dani Pedrosa, who had won a week previously at Motegi and would win a week later at Sepang.
Between the two of them, Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi have won twelve of the last fourteen races on a variety of Hondas, Yamahas and Ducatis.
Testing at Phillip Island does not teach you as much about the motorcycle underneath the rider as it does about the rider on top of the motorcycle, and the testicular fortitude they are able to display at the circuit.
Viñales described testing at the track as being about checking to see if he had “the cojones” around the circuit. With a new, more powerful GSX-RR at his disposal, there was one useful aspect of testing at the Island: “I need to use more cojones if I have more power,” he quipped.
This is probably the episode you all have been waiting for from the Paddock Pass Podcast, the guys’ perspective on the Phillip Island and Sepang rounds. On-hand for the chat are the usual suspects: David Emmett, Neil Morrison, Tony Goldsmith, as well as special guest Jensen Beeler (hey that’s me!).
The show is a bit longer than usual, but as you can imagine catching up with two MotoGP rounds and having to hash out the entire Sepang Clash fiasco is a bit of an undertaking. What does the future hold for Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez, and Jorge Lorenzo? Tune in to find out, with the embedded player found after the jump.
Also, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Cheers!
The controversy surrounding the “Sepang Clash” continues onward this week, now with HRC Executive Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto weighing in on the events that happened in Phillip Island and Sepang.
The Q&A released by HRC comes after a series of important events: Repsol issued a strongly worded press release that casts doubt on their future in MotoGP, FIM President Vito Ippolito issued an open letter on the subject that urged parties to act in the best interest of MotoGP racing, Valentino Rossi appealed his penalty with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and Marc Marquez was allegedly assaulted by Italian TV prank show.
Needless to say, there is no shortage of drama in the MotoGP world at the moment, and there’s no sign of it abating until the conclusion of the final round, in Valencia.
Find after the jump the full transcript of HRC’s Q&A with Shuhei Nakamoto, it is an interesting insight into how Honda views what happened in Australia and Malaysia. We will let you form your own opinions on its contents.
The pre-event press conferences held on the Thursday ahead of each MotoGP round can vary a good deal in interest. For the most part, they are full of pleasantries and platitudes, both riders and journalists doing their best to look interested and not to start playing with their phones.
After the utterly entrancing race at Phillip Island four days ago, we expected this to be one of the less interesting ones, the only mild interest being the dismal air quality in Malaysia.
How very wrong we were. Yes, there was the discussion of the obvious, of how the championship chances of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, and of Danny Kent in Moto3 would play out.
But there was also an explosion of interest once Rossi made accusations that Marc Márquez was trying to help Lorenzo win the championship, accusations he pressed home further once the press conference finished.
It first livened up once Andrea Iannone and Valentino Rossi were asked what they thought of the abuse that had been plastered all over the Facebook and Instagram feeds of Iannone after the race at Phillip Island, where Iannone finished ahead of Rossi and took valuable points in the championship.
Iannone shook it off, saying that 90% were positive, and the rest were “just an opinion.”
Rossi was much stronger in his condemnation of the behavior of people calling themselves his fans. “I think that in reality they are not my real supporters,” he said.
“Is a great shame, because these people are very stupid. Unfortunately, this is the time of the social network where everybody can say his idea, even if it’s a very stupid idea. The people like to speak bad about other guys that are more lucky than them, with more talent, and more happy, because they do with their life what they want.”
Rossi pointed out that he held no grudge against Iannone for beating him. “He just did his race, and is normal that he try to beat me.”
It was the race we had been waiting for. We knew it had to be coming, but each time we thought, “this will be the race!” the magic dissolved into thin air after a few laps, and the race settled into a rhythm.
Not this time. From start to finish, four of the best motorcycle racers in the world – three of the best the world has ever seen, and one candidate to be elevated to that elect club – fought a close quarters battle for victory, spiced up with a dash of very serious consequences for the championship.
No more runaway victories, no more cat and mouse, no more stalking until the final lap. It was all-out war, from the moment the lights went out all the way to the checkered flag.
There was a rather keen irony that this race should be such a thriller. At Brno, at Misano, at Motegi, so often, the barnstorming race we had expected based on practice and qualifying failed to materialize once the flag dropped.
At Phillip Island, the question on everyone’s minds after Saturday night was more like how large Marc Márquez’s margin of victory would be, and whether the battle for second would last longer than a few laps. How very wrong we were, and how very happy would we be to have been proven so.
Jorge Lorenzo’s worst fears were confirmed from the start. On Saturday, he had been furious about Andrea Iannone’s using him as a target during qualifying, and stealing second place on the grid.
Iannone got the drag to the line and took off like a scalded cat. Lorenzo followed, and before the first lap was halfway done, we got a taste of what was to come. Lorenzo cut underneath Iannone at the Hayshed in a brilliantly audacious move at an unusual place to pass.
It would not be the last brave move. It would not even be the best. We were in for a treat.