It’s been a difficult test at Valencia. The weather simply hasn’t played ball. Tuesday started wet, took a few hours to dry out, then rain started falling around 3pm, meaning the riders effectively had around two and a half usable hours on track.
Rain on Tuesday evening meant the track was wet on Wednesday morning, and in the chill of a November morning, it took a couple of hours before the track dried out enough for the riders to hit the track.
At least it stayed dry and sunny throughout the day, and the last couple of hours saw the best conditions of the test, times dropping until falling temperatures put paid to any thought of improvement. The teams may have lost time, but at least they had a solid four and a half hours of track time to work.
For half the factories, what they were focusing on was engines. Yamaha, Honda, and Suzuki all brought new engines to test, and in the case of Yamaha and Honda, two different specs.
Ducati was mainly working with a new chassis, aimed at making the bike turn better. Aprilia had a new engine and a new frame to try. And as usual, KTM had a mountain of parts and ideas to test.
As the Silly Season for riders is almost complete, the test rider market is starting to take shape. The first official announcement came today, as Aprilia announced that Bradley Smith will be taking on a role as test rider for the MotoGP project for the Italian factory.
Smith had told the media yesterday that he felt like he still had work left to do in the MotoGP paddock. “At the end of the day I feel like I have a lot to offer,” Smith said. “Also I’m not done. When you’re not done, the motivation is high.”
“I’ve said before I want to be back inside this paddock full-time in 2020. The motivation is high to help the whole project and ride well myself and put myself in the shop window. As long as that’s managed in the right way in the team structure, it’s certainly not a negative thing to be [a test rider].”
“Having wildcards available is always a good incentive for the rider and also a good incentive for the project. Everyone pushes on and pushes forward.”
Smith had also been in the running for the job of test rider inside Yamaha’s new European test team, but that option disappeared during the British GP.
“In Silverstone the final nail in the coffin came from Lin Jarvis when he said there would be no British rider as a test rider,” Smith said. With Smith out of contention there, that means that Jonas Folger is almost certain to take the role with Yamaha as test rider.
Suzuki will have Sylvain Guintoli working as a test rider for them next year, while Michele Pirro will continue at Ducati. Mika Kallio will return with KTM, though the Austrian factory is also trying to persuade Dani Pedrosa to take on a role alongside Kallio.
Stefan Bradl is likely to return with HRC as test rider. At Ducati, Casey Stoner is leaving the Italian factory at the end of the season, though there is no sign of whether he wishes to continue as a test rider.
Source: Aprilia; Photo: © 2018 Sebas Romero / KTM – All Rights Reserved
The legacy of the Lost Grand Prix lingers on. Silverstone was on the minds of many at Misano, and there was still much to be said about the race. The conclusion remained nearly unanimous, with one dissenting opinion: it was way too dangerous to race at Silverstone, and the new surface was simply not draining correctly.
Riders chimed in with their opinions of what had gone wrong with laying the asphalt, but those opinions should probably be taken with a pinch of salt. They may be intimately familiar with the feel and texture of asphalt, but the ability to ride a motorcycle almost inhumanly fast does not equate to understanding the underlying engineering and chemistry of large-scale civil engineering projects.
What riders do understand better than anyone, of course, is whether a race track is safe to race on, and all but Jack Miller felt the same way eleven days on from Silverstone. “The amount of rain was not enough to produce those conditions on the track,” Marc Márquez told the press conference.
“For me it was more about the asphalt, more than the weather conditions. And it was T2 and T3, that part was something that you cannot ride like this. Because there are many bumps, the water was there but inside the bump was even more water, and it was impossible to understand the track.”
It had rained far more in 2015, when the race had been able to go ahead, than it had in 2018, when the race had been called off, Márquez said. “For example in 2015 it was raining much more, in Motegi last year it was raining much more. But for some reason, we already went out from the box and it was only light rain but the water was there. It was something strange.”
2015 Was Worse
Valentino Rossi agreed. “For me, the rain was hard, for sure, but from what I remember very similar to 2015,” the Movistar Yamaha rider said. “In 2015 it was very slippery but the amount of water on the track was normal. The problem of this year is that also with less rain, the water remained on the track. In fact, during FP4, when all the riders arrived to Turn 7, half-crashed and half went straight on.”
“So it means that it’s not normal, because also in FP4 it started to rain quite lightly. And for example last year, in Motegi, it rained a lot more. But there wasn’t a worst place of the track, it was all the same. When we did the sighting lap to the grid, the amount of water was too much everywhere. The problem is the asphalt more than the bumps, I think.”
Jorge Lorenzo was one of the first riders to run into problems during FP4, being forced to run straight on into the gravel when the heavy rain came. He explained his view of proceedings. “I was one of the riders who went straight in FP4,” he said. “It was very strange, because before arriving there, before arriving in the second part of the long straight, there was almost no water, or only very little splashes.”
“An almost dry track, so we were riding with confidence. But then I went into fourth or fifth gear, it was a different world there, it was like a big swimming pool in the straight, a little bit foggy. It was very strange and I started to close the throttle, but even like that it was not enough to stop the bike. To stop the bike, I needed like 400 meters, 500 meters, and even like that, the front was locking, the rear was locking, and I couldn’t stop.”
Things had improved by Sunday, after the work done at Stowe to try to improve drainage. “In the two sighting laps on Sunday before the race, it looks like they made some work in that area on Saturday afternoon, they improved a little bit the drainage of the tarmac, so it was a little bit better in that zone, but the problem was everywhere, in all the corners that the drainage was not correct, and we were spinning in all acceleration points, and it was very difficult to ride.”
It is a busy schedule for the MotoGP teams since coming back from their all-too-brief summer break. After back-to-back weekends at Brno and Spielberg, five teams headed to Misano, for a private test this weekend.
For Ducati (the only team to issue a press release after the test, the test was mainly about preparing for their second home race at Misano in three weeks’ time. Misano is a huge race for Ducati, and a good result there is an absolute necessity.
If the times released by Ducati are accurate, then a good result is almost assured: Jorge Lorenzo lapped at just about the circuit pole record, while Andrea Dovizioso was six tenths slower than his teammate.
Riders, teams, journalists, fans, almost everyone likes to complain about the layout of the Red Bull Ring at Spielberg. Three fast straights connected by hairpins, with a long left hand corner thrown in for the sake of variety.
The facilities and setting may be magnificent, but the track layout is pretty dire. Coming from the spectacular, flowing layout of Brno, the contrast could hardly be greater.
And yet the Red Bull Ring consistently manages to produce fantastic racing. The combined gap between first and second place across all three classes on Sunday was 0.867 seconds, and nearly half a second of that was down to Moto3.
The MotoGP race was decided on the last lap again, just as it had been in 2017, though the race was decided at Turn 3, rather than the final corner. Spielberg once again served up a breathtaking battle for MotoGP fans, with a deserved winner, and the rest of the podium riders losing with valor and honor.
If we were to be picky about it, it would be to complain that the protagonists of the MotoGP race were rather predictable.
It is no surprise that the factory Ducatis would play a role at the front of the race: a Ducati had won in Austria in the previous two races, and the long straights from slow corners are almost made to measure for the Desmosedici’s balance of power, mechanical grip, acceleration, and braking stability.
Nor was it a surprise that Marc Márquez should be involved, the gains made by Honda in acceleration giving the RC213V the tools to tackle the Ducatis.
Naturally, the show starts with a look at Ducati’s third-straight victory at the Red Bull Ring, and how it came to be that Jorge Lorenzo stood on the top podium step, come Sunday afternoon.
Part of Lorenzo’s victory can be credited to his tire choice, which creates some discussion as well about the Michelin rear tire selection.
The conversation then turns to Marquez’s increasing lead in the MotoGP Championship standings, as he continues to gain on Valentino Rossi, who is making the best of a lackluster year on the Movistar Yamaha YZR-M1.
Lastly, the show takes a look at Aprilia Racing, which seems to be making little progress on its MotoGP program. The show covers the various reasons why Aprilia is struggling, and how the factory team can turnaround its fortunes.
Of course, the show finishes with out winners and losers from the weekend, which you won’t want to miss.
As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!
The return of WorldSBK to the Czech Republic proved to be a race weekend to remember. Tensions between Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes overflowed, Alex Lowes delivered on his long-held promise, and we saw flashes of brilliance from else on the World Superbike grid.
Mark this day, because today is the day that Aprilia Racing signed Andrea Iannone to its factory MotoGP – the Italian motorcycle brand sealing its fate to the Italian rider for the next two seasons.
The news had been expected, for quite some time, and today when we saw Suzuki Racing formally ending its relationship with Iannone, we knew it was only a matter of time before Aprilia announced its contract.
Iannone’s third factory team in the MotoGP paddock, it will be interesting to see what he can accomplish with his teammate Aleix Espargaró at Aprilia – a team that is still struggling for results in the MotoGP Championship.
Breaking up with Suzuki before he could be dumped, Andrea Iannone has already made it clear that he would not be returning to the ECSTAR Suzuki team for the 2019 MotoGP Championship season, but now the break up is official.
Issuing a press release today, Suzuki Motor Corporation announced that the Japanese factory and the Italian rider would not be collaborating further, into 2019.
Though Suzuki won’t mention it, it is widely held that Joan Mir will be taking Iannone’s seat at ECSTAR Suzuki, and as such he will partner Alex Rins inside the factory team next year.
In its press release, Suzuki thanked Iannone for his help and positive results during their time together, but the reality is that Iannone never gelled with the team, with considerable friction existing between him and the Suzuki squad.
The French GP is seeing a number of announcements being made for the coming seasons, and one of the less surprising pieces in the silly season puzzle is finally in place, as Aleix Espargaró has renewed his contract with Aprilia Racing.
As such, Espargaró will ride with the factory Aprilia team through the 2020 MotoGP Championship season, as the Spaniard has shown himself not only capable of helping to develop the Aprilia RS-GP race bike, but also as a strong competitor on the machine.
Of course, the big question is who will be Espargaró’s teammate for the next season or two? As it seems increasingly likely that Scott Redding will not be returning to the Italian squad, after a number of poor results on the Aprilia.
Soon Aprilia dealers in the United States will begin flexing their racing prowess, with a new certification program from Aprilia Racing.
The certification program hopes to leverage Aprilia’s racing experience on the international stage, and thus turn Aprilia dealerships into performance shops capable of honing Aprilia’s motorcycles for track use.
As such, Aprilia Racing certified dealerships will have access to a host of performance parts that Aprilia Racing has developed back in Italy, during the course of their racing programs in MotoGP and WorldSBK.