After the excitement and confusion of the first day of testing at Sepang, some semblance of normality returned on Tuesday.
Cooler temperatures and more stable weather meant that riders had much more time to do work on track, the heat and humidity not quite as oppressive as they had been the previous day. The excitement over new bikes and gearboxes had also subsided, and the hard grind continued.
If Tuesday is representative of the normal state of play in MotoGP, then it seems like there are already two favorites for the title emerging from the pack, though margins are slim indeed.
Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo were the only two riders to crack the two minute barrier, posting fast times early-on in the day, then getting back to work on 2015.
Nobody else got near, with the exception of Andrea Iannone, who piled in a quick lap at the end of the day to fall just short of two minutes, the Ducati GP15 quickly proving its worth.
If the purpose of testing in Sepang is to ensure that as little time as possible is lost to the weather, then the first day of the MotoGP test fell well short of its objectives. The Malaysian circuit sweltered under oppressive tropical heat all day, rendering most of the day of little use for testing.
With track temperatures approaching 60°C in the early afternoon, the grip disappeared, and the heat made riding a MotoGP bike a punishing affair.
Then, just as the riders returned to the track as the air began to cool, a tropical thunderstorm washed the track out, with lightning causing the session to be red-flagged for a while. It was not a day in which the teams could get an awful lot done.
That was a shame, as they had an awful lot to do. Ducati had brought the GP15 for its on-track debut, Yamaha had its fully seamless gearbox, Suzuki had unleashed a few more horses from its GSX-RR, and Aprilia had a stack of chassis and electronics solutions to test on track. With on a couple of hours of productive track time, much was left untested.
The engineers have had two weeks to pore over the data from the first MotoGP test at Sepang, identify problems, analyze strengths, and find more ways to go faster. Their analyses have been translated into designs, into new parts, into yet more software, ready to put their theories into practice.
On Monday morning, at 10am Malaysian time, the MotoGP riders get to try out all of the new parts and ideas thought up by their factories and teams in search of a few more fractions of a second.
The eyes of the world will not be on what the engineers did between Sepang 1 and Sepang 2, however. Attention will be focused on Yamaha and Ducati, who will be testing hardware which has been a long time coming.
Yamaha is bringing its fully seamless gearbox to the Sepang 2 test, and Ducati will roll out its Desmosedici GP15 for the first time. Both could make a significant impact.
The 2015 MotoGP season kicks off tomorrow. On Wednesday, the riders take to the track once again at Sepang to continue the development on the bikes they will be racing this year, and to test out the new updates the engineers have been working on during the winter break.
And yet the two most important and interesting developments won’t even be at the first Sepang test.
Ducati’s much-anticipated Desmosedici GP15 is not quite ready for primetime, and so will not make its public debut until 19th February at the launch in Bologna, and not make its first laps in public until the second Sepang test at the end of this month.
Yamaha’s fully seamless gearbox – allowing both clutchless upshifts and downshifts – will also wait until Sepang 2 before Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo get their hands on the bike.
The official reasons given for the delay are that the GP15 and Yamaha’s gearbox are almost ready, but not quite, still needing a few last checks by the engineers before they are ready to be handed over to the factory riders.
Those of a cynical – or perhaps even paranoid – bent may be tempted to speculate that the delays are more to do with the media than the engineering. The first Sepang test this week is well-attended by journalists and photographers alike, the MotoGP press just as eager as the riders and the fans for the winter to be over.
The second Sepang test sees only a very few journalists attend, with few publications willing to spend the money to cover the expenses for what is often just more of the same.
Perhaps the factories have caught on to this, and are taking advantage of the opportunity to test important new parts with a little less media attention. Or perhaps it really is just a case of not being quite ready in time.
Despite the absence of the really big news, there will still be plenty to see. So who will be testing what, and what are the key factors to keep an eye on?
Are you having a hard time finding that special gift for the motorcyclist in your life? We might have just the thing for you. Paul Bird Motorsports is unloading their MotoGP equipment, now that the British team is leaving the premier class of motorcycle racing.
Up for sale are various pieces of machinery, spare parts, a team transporter, garage pieces…and of course, PGM’s race bikes — four PBM-built CRT machines and two Aprilia ART bikes.
Despite being exhausted from a full weekend (make that a complete season) of testing, the entire MotoGP grid was once again out in force on Monday, turning the first laps of the 2015 preseason (full times here).
All except Nicky Hayden, that is, as Honda have brought only one RC213V-RS to Valencia, and there was no point for Hayden to spend more time on the RCV1000R, as that bike will be replaced by the new RS for next season. Hayden gets his turn on the bike tomorrow, weather permitting.
There was both old and new on display at the test, some things virtually unchanged, others radically different. New riders joined the grid, as well as two new factories, and a reshuffling of riders and crew between the garages.
The biggest change was at Suzuki, which saw Aleix Espargaro move from the Forward Yamaha team into the new Suzuki squad, where he was joined by Maverick Viñales, fresh from Moto2. Both riders were very impressed with the GSX-RR, praising its handling and the bike.
After finishing fifth in the 2014 World Superbike Championship with Aprilia, Marco Melandri will continue with the Italian manufacturer, but switch to the MotoGP paddock for next season.
Melandri will join Alvaro Bautista in the Aprilia Racing garage, where they will compete on an updated version of the ART machine, which was originally built to compete under the CRT bike rules.
The team, now operated by Gresini Racing, will come up to speed during the 2015 season, and in 2016 they will race with a brand new race bike, which will use the compulsory “open” spec-electronics from Magneti Marelli.
For Melandri, the move to MotoGP is a bit of gamble, with Aprilia’s program uncertain. But with the Italian brand pulling resources from its WSBK project for its one in Grand Prix racing, the writing has been on the wall regarding which series would take priority.
With the announcement that Scott Redding will ride with Marc VDS Racing in MotoGP, for the next three seasons no less, the rest of the pieces in the 2014 MotoGP Silly Season can finally start falling into place.
In the first of many announcements we expect to come in the following days, we learn that Alvaro Bautista has signed a two-year deal with Aprilia’s new MotoGP team.
The news is hardly a surprise, as Bautista currently rides for the Go & Fun Gresini Honda team, which will lose its title sponsor for 2015; and instead will manage Aprilia’s MotoGP efforts for the next four years, which will be called Aprilia Gresini Racing.
Keeping the team more or less intact, Bautista can expect a bike similar to the current-spec Aprilia ART of next season, while 2016 will see an all new bike (likely a purpose-built V4, that’s not too dissimilar from the 2014 ART)
It is to be a weekend of announcements, most of them already widely expected. The most widely trailed move has now been confirmed officially: from 2015, Aprilia is to return to MotoGP with the Gresini Racing team.
Aprilia and Gresini have reached agreement for the next four seasons, with Gresini running the Italian factory’s team through 2018. The partnership benefits both sides: by entering via Gresini, Aprilia will save €3.4 million in their first year in the class, an important saving which will allow them to spend more resources on development.
The partnership was important to Gresini, as having lost their sponsorship from Go&Fun, the future of the team’s places in MotoGP was under severe threat. Aprilia’s funding will now keep them in the premier class.
Under normal circumstances, Scott Redding would already know exactly where he will be racing in 2015. He has a contract with HRC and Gresini to race with the Go&Fun Gresini team, which puts him aboard the factory option Honda RC213V next year, replacing Alvaro Bautista.
Up until a few races ago, the only question mark was whether Redding would continue to run Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, which come as part of a lucrative sponsorship deal for Gresini, or whether the team would switch to Ohlins and Brembo, like the factory Honda team.
In the past couple of weeks, that situation appears to have changed. Ahead of the Brno round of MotoGP, rumors emerged that Gresini was struggling to raise the funds for 2015.
While the World Superbike riders were busy at Imola, Ducati’s MotoGP team was making use of their freedom from testing restrictions to try out a few things ahead of the Italian round at Mugello. Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow were present for the factory Ducati team, as was official test rider Michele Pirro, while Andrea Iannone was circulating on the Pramac bike.
The two factory men had a new chassis to test, according to GPOne.com, though the frame was not radically different to the item they have raced so far. The new chassis did have a greater range of adjustment, something which the factory felt was needed as their riders had been operating at the limits of the current frame’s adjustment.