You would think that after a tough weekend of racing in punishing conditions, the riders would find it very hard to spend eight hours on a MotoGP bike, pushing as close to race pace as possible, testing new parts and setup.
Not according to Andrea Dovizioso. “No, for me it’s very easy, and it’s the easiest way to do that. If there is a break, it’s worse,” he told us at the end of Monday’s test at Brno.
There was a pretty full cast of MotoGP characters present, with one or two notable exceptions. The Reale Avintia and Angel Nieto Team Ducati teams were both absent, because they had nothing to test except setup, and testing is expensive.
Pol Espargaro was in the hospital waiting for scans on his broken collarbone and his back, which confirmed that luckily only his collarbone was fractured, and it won’t need to be plated (though he will definitely miss KTM’s home race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria).
HRC test rider Stefan Bradl was also absent, after stretching ligaments in his right shoulder in a crash he caused on the first lap. A crash in which he also took out Maverick Viñales, who also suffered a minor shoulder injury, and decided not to test.
Given the massive tension in Viñales’ garage at the moment between him and his crew, skipping the test may have been the best option anyway.
Monday was the next episode in a busy ten days for MotoGP. After the Czech Grand Prix, Brno played host to the traditional post-race test, with all the MotoGP paddock bar the satellite Ducatis taking part.
After a mixed weekend of weather, conditions were absolutely perfect, with warm (but not hot) temperatures, clear skies, and a track that got better and better as the day went on and bikes laid down more rubber.
Valentino Rossi ended on top of the timesheets, an unusual occurrence in recent years. Rossi has never been short of speed, but has usually needed the adrenaline boost of race day to find the final tenth or so to put him ahead of his rivals.
The test was enough on Monday, Rossi beating Marc Márquez by eighteen thousandths of a second, while Maverick Viñales was third and Jorge Lorenzo fourth.
After a tough race on Sunday, managing tires on a drying track, around half of the MotoGP grid headed back to the track on Monday for a day of testing. Not everyone was enthusiastic about that.
“Usually we hate Mondays, and this is a Monday that we hate,” Danilo Petrucci told us with a wry grin on his face. He pinpointed why testing made a lot less sense for satellite riders than for factory teams.
Satellite teams only really have setup changes to test, and the occasional tires, if the single tire supplier has something new. There was a real downside to working on setup at a track you have just raced at, Petrucci said. “If you are angry because you didn’t get the best set up on Sunday, you getting more angry if you find it on Monday.”
The change of official tire suppliers for MotoGP, with Bridgestone departing and Michelin arriving, is arguably the most significant change to the class since the series went to a single tire in 2009.
Changing tire manufacturers has a massive impact on everything, from bike design to rider preference, and Michelin face a huge challenge to get everything ready in time.
Bridgestone helped by staying on for an extra year to allow Michelin to properly prepare, and the tires which the French manufacturer have been developing are looking very promising.
Their preparations have not been helped by conditions. Test days have been hit by rain, with testing severely hampered.
This was also the case at Brno, when the majority of the MotoGP field was due to get their first outing on the Michelins since Sepang, though the factory riders had a chance to test after Mugello.
The rain did give a group of journalists a chance to grill Piero Taramasso, Michelin’s manager of two wheel motorsports activities.
The post-race Michelin tests have been something of a frustration for journalists following MotoGP. With riders barred from speaking publicly about the tires, and no official timing for the tests, it has been hard to make sense of the events.
Today’s Brno test was even more frustrating. Rain all day, alternating between heavy downpours and a very light drizzle meant that the track was more or less wet all day. The riders stayed in their garages and race trucks, for the most part, with a handful of riders putting in a handful of laps.
Though the test was mostly a washout for Michelin, the French tire manufacturer did get some useful data from the test. Riders went out on three types of tire: slicks, wets, and intermediates, in varying conditions.
Marc Marquez did not take kindly to finishing fourth on Sunday, that much was obvious from the test. He lined up at pit lane exit at precisely 10am, waiting for the track to open.
As soon as it opened, he was away, the first rider to take to the track in a long way. When Jorge Lorenzo went fastest, Marquez seemed determined to catch him, finally leaving the test at the end of a long day at the top of the timesheets.
Testing is not really about who is fastest, though riders cannot avoid turning it into a competitive sport. It is more about carefully running through options and testing parts, selecting what works and what doesn’t, trying new bikes and parts, and testing out set up changes which are too experimental or time-consuming to try on a normal race weekend.
Riders are still trying to go fast, but they and the teams are more interested in comparing their own times, rather than the times of others.
Marc Marquez put in a late push in the afternoon to top the post-race test on Monday, the Repsol Honda rider dipping under Cal Crutchlow’s pole record from 2013. Marquez deposed Jorge Lorenzo at the top of the timesheets, though Lorenzo closed down the Repsol Honda man’s advantage.
Rain fell late in the session, stopping activity for a while, and looked like preventing Valentino Rossi from going out on the 2015 version of the YZR-M1, but the sun burned off the rain and dried the track enough for testing to resume for the final hour.
It had been widely rumored that Yamaha would have some important updates to test at its private test being held yesterday and today at Brno. The biggest expected update to be tested was a seamless gearbox, but though Yamaha Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis had hinted they might be testing the new gearbox, it was far from certain. Armed with audio from the test, we were able to analyze the sound, as we have done previously (on both the Honda and the Yamaha), to try to judge whether Yamaha was indeed testing a seamless gearbox, and if it was, what advantage it was giving the riders.
Naw…we’re just having some fun today, but not as much fun as Nicky Hayden’s pit crew during the Brno test. Staging this photo of the team supposedly starting up the Desmosedici’s new two-wheel drive system, the photo plays right into the rumors that Ducati is literally trying anything under the sun to make the GP11 work for Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. With Filippo Preziosi essentially saying there are no sacred cows at the Italian racing effort, we honestly wouldn’t put it past Ducati Corse to give the two-wheel drive system a go…too bad its banned by MotoGP rules.
With yesterday’s race out of the way, MotoGP’s riders spent their Monday back at the Cardion AB circuit in Brno, testing their 800cc & 1,000cc machines. While we’ve already seen the 2012 Honda RC213V and the Ducati Desmosedici GP12, making its first public appearance was the 2012 Yamaha YZR-M1. Both Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies tested the new M1 at Brno; and additionally, the duo also put in laps on their current M1 machinery, which received a more powerful version of their 800cc motor.
With both Yamaha riders happy with the upgraded motor on the 800cc machine, and the package coming together for 2012, Yamaha’s reintroduction into 1,000cc racing can be marked down as a success. However, it was Casey Stoner on his RC213V, with its newly revised chassis for Brno, that was fastest for the day, and easily surpassing Dani Pedrosa’s qualifying time from Saturday during the test.
Also making progress was Mika Kallio on the Suter CRT machine with its BMW motor. The claiming rule team (CRT) has clearly made some improvements, being only 4.3 seconds down on Stoner’s time. Suter still has a long way to go, but can walk away from Brno having saved more face than they did at Mugello a few months ago.