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.
The factory Honda and Yamaha teams had similar programs. Both had the latest version of their 2015 bikes for the riders to test, as well as minor modifications to their current set ups in search of a bit more performance for the end of the year. That Honda's 2015 bike is working should be no surprise: Marc Marquez topped the timesheets on the new bike, praising the work done so far. It is an improvement over the 2014 machine, and faster in the middle of the corner, though there are still a few areas that need work. It was good enough for Marquez to get under Cal Crutchlow's pole record from 2013, however. Would he like to use it for the rest of the season? Though the bike is faster, it would be too much of a risk using it for the rest of the season.
Marquez also spent some time testing his race set up, trying to understand what went wrong on Sunday. It appeared that like Bradley Smith, he had a suboptimal tire. Marquez was very careful not to blame the tire, saying that it was also clear that the team had struggled with set up as well. But he admitted the tire was 'not perfect', and was able to lap consistently in the low 1'56s on the race bike.
Marc Marquez did not just test Hondas, he also ended up testing his leathers. The Spaniard lost the front at Turn 10 – aptly named Schwantz corner – the front wheel folding completely. Arm and shoulder hit the ground, but Marquez had the presence of mind to open the throttle a little. This was just enough to lift the back back onto its wheels, and have both tires grip again. Half-hanging off the bike, Marquez opened the throttle some more, the bike's momentum hauling it upright, and Marquez could pull himself back into the saddle. It is an amazing save, with a fair sprinkling of luck and a massive dose of talent. A brief sequence of the crash caught by a photographer is up on Marquez' Facebook page.
Dani Pedrosa also liked the new bike, though he only had a short run on the bike as his run was interrupted by rain. Overall impressions of the bike were good, and an improvement over the test after the Sachsenring. Pedrosa also tested some suspension and electronics settings, which will help for the rest of the season.
At Yamaha, the reception of the 2015 bike was much more mixed. Jorge Lorenzo liked the new chassis, but didn't notice any difference with the engine. Rossi did feel a slight improvement with the engine, giving a bit more power overall. Though the new chassis was better in braking and corner entry for both Rossi and Lorenzo, Rossi said he was losing some acceleration. Whether that was just a matter of set up remains to be seen. Lorenzo said he would like to use the new chassis before the end of the year, but Yamaha have said it would be nearly impossible. Rossi was not so convinced, though admitted that the fact that Lorenzo had tried the bike in the morning, when conditions were better, could account for the difference in feelings.
For the satellite and open class riders, there were fewer parts to test. Both Scott Redding and Alvaro Bautista spent time testing new brakes and suspension. Nissin had brought new calipers, which gave more feeling but lacked a bit of power. Redding was impressed, but said he hoped to also get more power from the Nissins. They also tested a new Showa fork, and this too provided an improvement. There had been talk of Redding having a chance to test Bautista's RC213V, but the idea ended up being rejected. Giving Redding a taste of the RC213V would be counterproductive, it was felt, as he would only end up worried about the power deficit. It would also not be good for Bautista, and with seven races still to go, preserving the harmony, and the status quo in the team, was better for the medium term, at least until the future of both riders is clear.
At Tech 3, both riders spent their time adapting to the bike. Smith confirmed that the tire he used during the race was not perfect, as he ran a lot of laps at a pace that would have seen him running in fifth place on Sunday. Smith spent nearly all day riding with a full fuel tank, as this is where the Englishman has struggled. For Pol Espargaro, he concentrated on his riding style, on riding as smoothly as possible. On Sunday, he had said that once he found himself among the leaders, he had got overexcited and tried to push aggressively to match their pace. Riding aggressively is not the way to ride the Yamaha, however, and he found himself making mistake after mistake and losing ground. Monday was all about focusing on that and improving his smoothness.
Leon Camier also had another chance to improve his understanding of the Open class Honda RCV1000R. The Englishman has been impressive so far in his role as replacement to Nicky Hayden, but felt he really needed time on the bike. His test day started badly, crashing on the exit of Turn 1. It was a strange crash, which the team could only understand by looking at the data. He had been sliding the rear around Turn 1, and hit a bump he had been hitting all weekend. This must have caused him to just touch the throttle, which threw him off.
Overall it was successful, however. He was faster than his teammate Hiroshi Aoyama, he lapped consistently in the low 1'58s, and he was just half a second off the pace of Scott Redding, rather than the second or more he had been in the race. Camier had spent his time trying to be smoother with the tires, to preserve their grip over full race distance. That, he explained, was the key to being able to push consistently for a race. He said that he had not yet been told he was to replace Hayden at Silverstone, but earlier in the weekend, a team representative told me that it was unlikely that Hayden would come back before Misano at the earliest. They did not want to make the mistake of bringing Hayden back too early, before he had recovered fully after major surgery. Hayden had three bones in his wrist removed, and though his recovery is progressing well, it will still take some time.
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