Ever since we found out that Yamaha was only going to release Jorge Lorenzo from his contract to test at Valencia after the last race, but not at a private test at Jerez a week later, there has been much speculation as to the cause.
Had growing friction between the factory and Lorenzo led Yamaha to block the test? Was Yamaha afraid of just how competitive Lorenzo would be on the Ducati? Or, as the more conspiratorially inclined would have it, was this the invisible hand of Valentino Rossi at work?
The massed media had to wait until Motegi to find out. In the pre-event press conference, Jorge Lorenzo acknowledged that Yamaha had told him that the Jerez test was off the cards.
“Well, obviously I would like to make the Jerez test, but it is not a thing that depends on myself. For the moment, looks like I will test in Valencia. Looks like for Jerez, Yamaha is not so keen to permit that.” Lorenzo felt disappointed by the decision.
“I think that for the years we’ve spent together, and for the things we’ve won together, I deserve it. But obviously it doesn’t depend on myself and I will respect whatever decision Yamaha will make, because I am a Yamaha rider.”
Due to the large number of journalists asking to speak to Lin Jarvis to get his side of the story, Yamaha convened a press conference to allow the assembled media to ask questions.
In the space of half an hour, the Yamaha Motor Racing boss laid out in clear terms why the decision had been made. It was a masterclass in the underlying truth of MotoGP: this is a business, with millions of dollars involved, and a tangled web of interest beyond just Yamaha.
Yamaha has a duty to its shareholders and its sponsors to hold Lorenzo to the contract they both signed. Helping Lorenzo to try to beat Yamaha on a Ducati would be to fail their sponsors and Yamaha’s corporate interests.
The legal oddity that riders’ contracts are out of sync with the MotoGP season creates an uncomfortable truce among the factories.
When riders sign with a factory, their contracts run from January 1st to December 31st. But for the factories and teams, the new season starts on the Tuesday after the last race of the year, at Valencia.
This is a particular problem for the 2017 season, with so many riders changing factories. Traditionally, there has been a gentlemen’s agreement among the factories to allow the riders to test with their new team, despite still being under contract to the old one.
So in previous years, the likes of Valentino Rossi (twice) and Casey Stoner have lapped Valencia aboard their new steeds dressed in plain leathers.
The plain leathers are just one side of the compromise. As a rule, the riders switching factories are not allowed to speak to the media, or only allowed to speak in the most general of terms, avoiding direct comparison between their new bikes and their old bikes.
The riders continue to perform PR duties for their old factories up until the end of the contract deadline.
The 2017 season is starting to take shape. After the announcement of the provisional 2017 MotoGP calendar in the run up to Aragon, Dorna published the schedule of official tests for the 2017 preseason. Like the race calendar, the test calendar looks remarkably similar to last year.
Testing kicks off after the final race of 2016 in Valencia, and as last year, the riders get a day off between the race and the test, with the bikes taking to the track on Tuesday.
Up until last year, the test had always started on the Monday after the race, but that was changed last year, with the explanation that the teams needed an extra day of preparation to get the bikes set up with the Michelin tires and spec electronics.
No major technical rules are to change for 2017 (with the exception of the banning of winglets), but the extra day of rest is to be maintained.
Yamaha continues to hand out rewards for its recent win at the Suzuka 8-Hours endurance race, having just granted Alex Lowes a ride on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 MotoGP bike this past weekend at the British GP, and this coming weekend at the San Marino GP.
Yamaha’s next recipient will be its test rider, Katsuyuki Nakasuga, who will get the honor of racing as a wild card in front of his home crowd at the Japanese GP in Motegi, Japan.
Nakasuga-san is no stranger to the MotoGP paddock, and this year’s race in Japan will be the fifth time that Nakasuga has raced in the Japanese GP.