Ducati’s MotoGP test plan has suffered a blow, after the Bologna factory wrongly interpreted the testing rules in booking the Losail Circuit in Qatar for a private test on Sunday and Monday.
The plan for the private test had been to have Casey Stoner test the Ducati Desmosedici GP (or GP16, as everyone else calls it) at Qatar on Sunday and Monday, after the official IRTA test had finished at the track.
The benefits for Ducati would have been that Stoner would have been testing on a relatively clean track under broadly similar conditions as the other MotoGP riders, allowing a good back-to-back comparison of the feedback between the factory riders and Stoner.
So, testing is over and the winter test ban can start. Riders who intend to race in 2016 are banned from testing between December 1st, 2015 and January 31st 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.
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.