The track was a lot busier on Tuesday at Valencia, after the halfhearted beginning to MotoGP testing on Monday afternoon. A group of well-rested riders took to the track to get prepared for the 2014 onslaught, and take the first steps on the road to a new season.

Some familiar faces, some new faces, but also a couple of new bikes, with the Yamaha FTR machines run by Forward Racing making their debut on the track, and Nicky Hayden getting his first taste of the Honda RCV1000R.

The times set by the brand new Open class bikes hardly set the world on fire, but that was to be expected given the fact that this was the first time either of them had seen serious use in the hands of Grand Prix riders. “Don’t forget that Casey [Stoner] did just five laps in Motegi with that bike,” Honda principal Livio Suppo told me. “It’s really just a first shakedown with the riders.”

That point was illustrated by Scott Redding, who has a problem with the wiring loom on Gresini’s Honda RCV1000R, and had to wait while they fixed that problem.

It was probably for the best, as Redding is still struggling with injuries to his arm and back. The problems is worse in left handers, which Valencia has in abundance. By the end of the long left of Turn 13, the pain had become almost unbearable, Redding said.

Though Nicky Hayden was prohibited from speaking to the media due to still being under contract to Ducati (and generating much speculation about exactly what he will say when his contract ends on December 31st), Suppo said Hayden had been impressed.

“Nicky seems very very happy with the handling of the machine,” the Honda boss said. “They’ve still got some things to improve with the software, but I believe we can do this with Magneti Marelli.”

Electronics is an issue with the Yamaha FTR as well. You can hear it as the Yamaha goes up and over the hill through the everlasting left hander of Turn 13. The bike spits and gurgles like a chain smoking coal miner, reminiscent of the CRT bikes when they first hit the track. “The electronics package we’re on now, I’m not happy with,” Colin Edwards commented.

“Yamaha developed something with their testing and said ‘OK, the bike runs good, let’s throw this in,’ but I don’t like the theory, the theory that they’re using right now. We spent all year developing something that works real good, and we need to put that in this unit. Right now I have zero trust in it.”

The rest of the bike he loved, however, and was especially happy to be back on a bike with some horsepower. “It’s a freight train, it just keeps pulling and pulling. It’s a pleasure to shift gears and not keep bashing your helmet against the screen because it’s missing a gear.”

Aleix Espargaro was also delighted with the power of the Yamaha motor. “The engine is much better, it has almost 2,000 RPM more than the Aprilia,” Aleix said. “The top speed, after two years, it’s great to be in the top six, it’s really strange and I’m really happy.”

The weak point of the chassis was the braking, the same complaint made by the riders on factory and satellite Yamahas. “With the Aprilia, I can enter the corner in the last moment while braking really really hard.” That was not the way to go fast on the Yamaha, Aleix said.

Brother Pol had an impressive second day on the Tech 3 machine. He ended the day 1.3 seconds behind Marc Marquez, and just over a second slower than Jorge Lorenzo. It had been a busy day, getting used to all aspects of the Yamaha M1, Pol said. They had tried both hard and soft front and rear tires, used the carbon brakes, and trying different set up changes to learn what effect they had.

He was clearly still trying too hard: watching from the brake point for Turn 14, the end of the long left hander before the tight final corner, the difference between Jorge Lorenzo and Pol was striking. Lorenzo’s movements were fluid, lazy, the bike on rails as he lined up the corner.

Espargaro junior jerked upright, the bike twitching below him, looking right on the edge of control. He was clearly a lot slower than Lorenzo. “I’m trying to ride the bike as fast as possible, but I’m not smooth,” Pol commented afterwards. It was clearly an area for improvement.

What was surprising to Espargaro was that riding the bike was less tiring than he had expected. At the end of a Moto2 race, he was destroyed, but at the end of testing, he was holding up pretty well, Pol said. This was perhaps a sign of things to come, he opined. The start to his MotoGP career had been pretty smooth, but the problems would start from here on in, as he tried to go faster and faster.

Testing concludes on Wednesday, though imminent rain looks like calling a premature halt to the action. The factory Yamaha team have already called it a day, finishing up on Tuesday before heading home. Once testing concludes, we will have a full view of the test, including who has been working on what.

Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • Dave P

    So this may be a silly question, but are riders able to practice on tracks with their motogp bikes other than “test days”? Are there regulations on that (like which tracks, which days, etc)? Or do these guys get a little practice here and there and have to learn while racing during the season?

  • Conrice
  • “So this may be a silly question, but are riders able to practice on tracks with their motogp bikes other than “test days”? ”

    Nope. The only testing they get to do with the race bikes are official test days and free practice sessions. Outside of official practice, they can ride whatever other bikes they like, e.g., supermoto or MX, to hone their skills.

  • L2C

    The rules on testing are one of the most shining examples of Dorna’s ineptitude. And it’s one of the most overlooked reasons why injured riders have the most difficult time returning to their jobs in healthy form. Just ask Ben Spies.

    That situation Spies had with Pramac, where upon his return he re-injured himself in free practice, could have been entirely avoided had he been able to practice and test on the Desmo prior to attempting to race at Indy. (Which is perhaps the most hated and dangerous track on the calendar, among the riders.) What happened with him is a total shame. If not for Dorna’s shortsightedness, and Pramac’s negligence, Spies could still be racing today.

  • L2C

    And you know, I just remembered that Race Direction has injured riders do pushups or other sorts of exercises to verify if they are fit or not to race. LOL… That is definitely something that cannot be made up.

  • “That is definitely something that cannot be made up.”

    Yeah, I know. The nerve of somebody actually being expected to prove that he/she has the strength and endurance to do something as simple as brake a bike from 300+ kph to 60 kph in 100 metres. They should just take the riders’ word for it.

  • L2C

    You think pushups is enough to prove race-readiness? Can’t tell if you’re yanking my chain or not. ;-)

  • “You think pushups is enough to prove race-readiness?”

    Do you have a better test regimen that will both prove fitness and not compromise the riders before heading out on the track? Making them benchpress 3x their body weight or pull of a gymnastic floor routine isn’t likely to be a good idea.

    Since none of us here know the precise fitness test protocol, it’s tough to be overly critical of it, I think. Dr. Costa has been in the game for a loooooong time. I certainly believe that he and his staff have learned a thing or two about evaluating race fitness over the span of decades.

  • Dr. Costa isn’t the one who makes the call, it’s a doctor who varies from venue to venue. The tests are just as varied, but can include push-ups, jumping on one leg, or anything else that the doctor wishes to see preformed by the rider in question in order to evaluate their race readiness.

    The big thing they are looking for is the ability to operate a motorcycle safely under racing conditions, and to be able to get out of harms way if they crash. Some tracks are more lenient than others, and others are tougher to get an “ok” from.

  • Thanks, Jensen. It seems odd to me that race fitness wouldn’t be the domain of Clinica Mobile, but it is what it is.


  • Dave P

    Well thanks for the helpful answers guys!

    Side note, I’m actually an M.D. myself. So how do I get that gig, Jensen? haha. I’ll take any input on what tests I should mandate. How about a little karate kid? Catching flies with chopsticks? Go!

  • L2C

    The thing is, returning injured riders are usually on painkillers -some would say “doped up”- when they suit up for a race. This is strikingly different than many other sports that rule out the use of painkillers altogether. Is it possible that the evalutating doctor in MotoGP would take the use of painkillers -that pain would be less of a factor due to a rider’s use of them- into his/her account in determining race readiness?

    This is why I have a nagging issue with the race-readiness routine, because race readiness should include some sort of assessment of an injured rider’s ability to operate a motorcycle in conditions that would help to make a better determination if he/she is actually fit to race.

    At Indy, Ben Spies didn’t remember that his Desmo’s traction control doesn’t become enabled until the bike is in second gear. For this shortcoming, he high-sided and injured his left shoulder. Combined with the previous injury to his right shoulder that he was recovering from, this ultimately proved to be career ending day at the track.

    Did the use of painkillers cloud Ben’s memory and/or his own judgment that he was fit and ready to race? Because it is not only up to the doctors to decide. And what about Pramac who obviously didn’t go through a motorcycle operation and safety checklist with the man? Does the team not have its own routine to determine whether a returning injured rider is competent enough to race one of their bikes?

    So, yes, I do think that bench presses and pushups are not enough to determine race readiness. The ability for a rider to actually ride and successfully operate the machine that he/she would use during a race should also be assessed. The restrictions on practice and testing appear to be in conflict with this idea.

    And if somebody knows about this stuff as relates to MotoGP/WSBK etc, please take the time to do an in-depth report. I know I’d appreciate it.