You don’t have to be a raging Ducati Corse fan, or even a fan of Andrea Iannone, in order to appreciate the humor in the Italian rider’s winter test helmet this week at Sepang.
In case you missed it, the bright red AGV Pista GP helmet is adorned with a familiar face, Gavin the seagull. If you don’t remember Gavin, we are sure the mentioning of last year’s Phillip Island race will help jog your memory.
Coming down the hill, into Turn 10, Andrea Iannone found a spectator whose vantage point was a little too close to the action. The seagull, finally realizing the error of his ways, took flight, though not in time to avoid the outcome everyone feared.
The bird struck Iannone’s Ducati Desmosedici GP15, while it was in mid-flight, leaving a gaping whole in the front of the race bike and a puff of feathers in its wake.
Joking aside, Iannone was lucky not to be injured in the collision, and actually went on to take third in the race. Bird strikes are not uncommon at Phillip Island, and they can cause grave injuries when they occur at speed. Thankfully for Iannone, Turn 10 is one of the slowest corners on the Australian track.
While we mourn the loss of Gavin, as he has made his way to the big race track in the sky, it is good to see that he has not been forgotten. A few photos of Iannone’s helmet are after the jump.
What did we learn from the first proper MotoGP test of the new era of Michelin tires and spec-electronics? More than we hoped, yet less than we think. A quick run down on the state of play after Sepang, with more to come over the following days.
The riders approached the Sepang test with some trepidation, fearing that Michelin had not fixed its wayward front that caused so many crashes at Valencia and Jerez.
Their fears were unfounded, the new front tires which Michelin brought – a total of five different types, of varying construction and compound – were all a massive step forward.
They were not as stable as the Bridgestones they replaced, but they had gained a lot of predictability and feedback. There were very few crashes that the riders said they had not seen coming.
That does not mean that all of the problems have been solved. A couple of people went down at Turn 5 on Tuesday, in crashes they described as strange. Casey Stoner (more on him later) had a typically concise and thoughtful analysis.
“There’s a little point after probably 45°, that [the tire profile] goes down just a little bit more, that it doesn’t seem to match with the rear with some of the profiles that we’ve tested,” Stoner explained.
“That gives everybody a little bit a nervous feeling, and essentially why people are struggling into Turn 5, a big fast open corner, going in, when the bike goes light, it doesn’t like that feeling. It makes the bike a little nervous, and I think that’s when the front wants to break away.”
What did we learn from the first day of testing at Sepang? Exactly what we expected to learn. Some riders have adapted quickly, others less quickly. The Michelins have made a big step forward, and the teams have started to understand the Michelin tires better.
The spec-electronics still need plenty of work, but are pretty usable in their current form (and well liked by the riders). Yamaha and Ducati have adapted well, Honda not very well at all, with the possible exception of Dani Pedrosa.
Above all, we learned that it is too early to be making any judgment calls, and that everyone still has a lot of work to do, and a lot of room for improvement. Today’s outcome is interesting, but not definitive.
In other words, if your favorite rider is near the top of the timesheets, you can feel optimistic that they will do well in 2016. If your favorite rider is nearer the bottom, you can console yourself with the fact that there is hope, and that testing will solve the worst of the issues.
KTM has surprised the Grand Prix world by announcing that they have built a complete Moto2 bike, together with their partner WP Suspension. The Austrian manufacturer is to give the bike its first rollout at Almeria this week, and announced the existence of the bike on Sunday.
KTM have decided to view Moto2 as part of a wider strategy in Grand Prix. After the success of their Moto3 project, and with their MotoGP project due to make its debut in 2017, having a representative in the intermediate class would provide a path for KTM to bring young talent through the ranks.
That strategy is already being played out in part the Ajo team, who run the factory Red Bull KTM project in Moto3, and run 2015 world champion Johann Zarco in Moto2. The Ajo team are the logical partners for KTM when they enter MotoGP next season.
The existence of KTM’s Moto2 project had been kept a closely guarded secret, and came as a surprise to many.
These are the first images of the 2016 Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP race bike from the Japanese manufacturer, the same machine that is currently lapping around the Sepang International Circuit this week for MotoGP’s first official test of 2016.
As you can see, not much has changed visually, though obviously a lot of the development has occurred beneath the fairings of the Suzuki GSX-RR. What we can see though are subtle changes to the twin-spar aluminum frame, which has now been completely filled in on both sides.
Also, there is a new and modified air ducts on the side fairings, likely for extra cooling – on the left side, it’s near the top of the bike, while on the right side, the lower ducts has been enlarged to expose the exhaust header more. The shape of the exhaust has also changed, making for a more sweeping design.
Of course, the big news for Suzuki’s MotoGP program is the addition of a seamless gearbox. For now, Suzuki’s seamlesss gearbox only does seamless upshifts, but it is likely before the season starts that seamless downshifting will be added to the design.
The gearbox was a top-request from riders Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales, as was additional power. Early indications from Sepang seem to suggest that the Suzuki riders team will have a little bit more juice on tap for the 2016 season as well.
Super high-resolution shots are after the jump. We expect Suzuki to release more photos (hopefully of its other rider) in the coming weeks.
The hour of truth is at hand. On Monday morning, MotoGP fans will get their very first look at how the 2016 season is really going to look like. We got a glimpse at Valencia, but it was not a uniform picture.
Though the 2016 electronics and Michelin tires made their debut at the two-day test after the final race of 2015, there were still too many variables.
Everyone was on the Michelins, but some riders were on the spec-electronics, others were on the old proprietary software they had been using for the 2015 season, and the factory teams were using a mixture of both.
It was also the first time the teams had to focus solely on the new tires and electronics, without the pressure of an ongoing championship. Though for both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, the intensity of the season finale had left them drained, making it difficult to generate the necessary enthusiasm for testing.
There was a lot of work to do, for everyone concerned, and nobody did anything but scratch the surface.
Casey Stoner got the first testing miles of his return to Ducati under his belt on Saturday. The Australian started slowly and steadily, doing a lot of short runs to get a feel for the Ducati Desmosedici GP15, on which he spent most of the day, before upping the pace later in the afternoon.
Journalists present at the test said Stoner looked a little stiff in his early laps, not getting either elbow or knee down, but soon started to relax, and look more like his old self.
He had every reason to be wary: the last time Stoner rode a race bike on the road was during the Suzuka 8 Hours, where a throttle cable malfunction saw him thrown from the bike, injuring his scapula and tibia in the process.
Furthermore, this was his first time on a MotoGP bike for a year, his first time riding the Ducati GP15 – a very different beast indeed to the GP10, the last Ducati Stoner raced – and his first time on the Michelins. Despite that, he told reporters he was very happy with how the test went.
We will miss the one-wheeled antics of Jack Miller, as the Australian is to miss the Sepang MotoGP test, due to start on Monday, February 1st.
The Marc VDS Racing rider broke the bones in his right leg during a motocross training accident two weeks ago, and will not be fit in time for the opening three-day test of the 2016 MotoGP season.
Miller is continuing his recovery, and already back in training, working on his fitness with the aim of being ready to participate in the second MotoGP test, at Phillip Island in his native Australia, on February 17th.
Aprilia’s MotoGP project has suffered a setback. The 2016 version of their RS-GP MotoGP machine will not be ready in time for the first official IRTA test at Sepang, according to a report by Crash.net’s Neil Morrison.
Instead, the 2016 Aprilia RS-GP will make its debut in a private test at Qatar, ahead of the third preseason test of 2016, with its first public outing coming in that third and final test, two weeks before the start of the 2016 season.
The delay is a sign that the project is at least a couple of weeks behind schedule. At Valencia, Aprilia spokespersons said that the original plan was to hold a shakedown test at a private Italian racetrack, with the bike making its public debut in Sepang.
Designing a radically new bike is taking longer than expected, however: the 2016 machine will be a brand new prototype, designed from the ground up, at least 10kg lighter than the current RS-GP, and is rumored to have a different angle between the cylinders.
Jack Miller has broken his right leg in a motocross training incident. The Australian was riding at the Bellpuig motocross track in Spain on Sunday, when he landed heavily, fracturing both the fibula and tibia down near the ankle joint.
In a post on Instagram, Miller explained that he had been forced to shut off the throttle when another rider lost control on the up-ramp of a triple-jump. He had not crashed, but the impact of the landing had caused the damage to his ankle.
Miller was taken to the Dexeus Institut in Barcelona, where he was examined by Dr. Mir, and then had both the bones in his leg plated with screws. Examination after the surgery confirmed that it had been successful.
The injury to Miller does mean that his participation at the first test of the year at Sepang is in doubt. In a press release issued by the team, Marc VDS team manager Michael Bartholemy stressed the importance of waiting until the Australian was fit enough to ride.
It is no secret that Honda are struggling with the engine for the RC213V MotoGP. HRC have been making the engine ever more aggressive for the past three years, but in 2015, they finally went too far.
The power delivery of the RC213V was too difficult to contain, even with Honda’s electronics, and HRC suffered their worst season in MotoGP since 2010.
Things had not been looking much better for 2016 either. The engine Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez tested at Valencia and Jerez last November was at best a marginal improvement, with a bit more power at the bottom end, but still delivered in a very aggressive manner.
Added to this, HRC have had problems with the new unified software which is compulsory for 2016. Where Ducati, and to a lesser extent Yamaha have managed to integrate the less complex spec software into their engines, Honda have yet to get a handle on it.
That has made assessing the engine character even more difficult for Pedrosa and Márquez, the Repsol Honda riders finding it hard to pinpoint aggressive and abrupt throttle response on the engine character, the cruder software, or the interaction between the two.
It is a problem that Honda is now acknowledging publicly. HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto admitted to the Spanish sports daily Marca that they were having trouble making their engine less aggressive.