Valencia MotoGP Test Wednesday Notes: Viñales' Speed, Marquez' Consistency, And The Last Tired Stragglers

So 2016 is officially at an end, and the first test of 2017 is in the books. By the end of what is essentially a week of hard work, the entire paddock – riders, mechanics, journalists – are completely exhausted, and tired of it all. The frisson of the first test of 2017, with so many riders swapping teams and new bikes being debuted made it all much more interesting. But we are still all glad it's over.

First, there was the last day of testing to get out of the way. The last day of the test is perhaps the most dangerous. A mixture of tiredness and competitiveness means riders are pushing hard in sometimes tricky conditions. Alex Rins, Andrea Iannone, Marc Márquez, and Jack Miller all crashed on Wednesday. Rins and Iannone had crashes which were both serious and strange, losing the front in straight up and down braking. Iannone escaped with bruises and a badly banged up elbow. Rins was a good deal less lucky, suffering suspected fractures of the T8 and T12 vertebrae, though there was no spinal damage and Rins had full motion in his extremities.

After Iannone went down within a few minutes of Rins, the session was red flagged while the track was inspected to try to find the cause. At first, some kind of fluid on the track was suspected. Then, the finger of blame was pointed at the white line and kerb, which had gathered up a lot of rubber over the weekend, and had become greasy as a result. Officially, that was pinpointed as the cause, and a section of soft barrier was put in front of the fence at Turn 12 before the session was allowed to continue.

Whether the white line really was to blame is still open to question. Sam Lowes had crashed there the day before, and had not been on the white line when he went down. It was like a crash in the wet, he said, blaming himself for making a mistake in braking. Andrea Iannone blamed the temperature. He had been on an out lap when he went down, and the front had gone away from him as soon as he touched the brakes. Occam's Razor would suggest that a combination of unexpectedly cold conditions and cold tires caused the crashes. It is hard to argue with William of Ockham.

The delay caused by the red flag meant an extra half an hour was added on to the end of the day, but little use was made of it. The light was already getting weaker at 5pm, and half an hour later, dusk was starting to descend. Temperatures were plummeting, and a lot of riders had already called it a day. Satellite riders, especially, had little to do, and little appetite for unnecessary risk.

Maverick Viñales ended the day as fastest, the Spaniard spending both days riding the 2016 version of the Yamaha M1, and taking to it like a fish to water. Viñales was the only man to lap in the 1'29s, though he was nearly six tenths slower than Jorge Lorenzo's pole time from Saturday. But he was also consistently quick, posting 8 laps in the 1'30 bracket, and 25 in the 1'31s, from a total of 48 laps.

Marc Márquez finished second, spending most of his time on the new-for-2017 big bang engine. He remained vague on the differences between the two engines, saying only that it had a little more grip, but was still causing problems in acceleration. He had continued with experiments in set up, making radical geometry changes in pursuit of solutions for their problems with acceleration.

But Márquez was still quietly disappointed. Though HRC is doing its best to control information flowing out of Honda, Márquez made it clear that he believed there is still much work to do, and it is down to the Honda engineers to find a fix. "We must work much more," he said. "Honda needs to work much more this winter to give me something more in Malaysia."

Dani Pedrosa was even more secretive, refusing point blank to speak about how the new engine was. As gains become more marginal, MotoGP factories retreat first into platitudes, then into plain old obstruction. An interview with a MotoGP rider is becoming more and more like the classic BBC interview with the former leader of Malawi, Hastings Banda. Each question is likely to meet with the response, "I can't tell you that." It does not help the sport when the media is given little or no information to report on.

Viñales may have been faster overall, but Márquez' consistency was bruising. Of the 54 full laps Viñales completed, 30 were inside the 1'31 bracket, and 17 were inside the 1'30 bracket. To put that inside some kind of perspective, Márquez posted exactly the same number of laps in the 1'30s that Jorge Lorenzo posted of 1'31s. His total of 1'30s was just one less than Valentino Rossi's haul of 1'31s. Rossi managed just three laps in the 1'30, Lorenzo a solitary lap at that pace.

While the Honda riders were saying next to nothing, Valentino Rossi was being almost as vague. The new bike was acceptable, he said, but it still lacked the kind of acceleration he had been looking for. The Italian was withholding judgment until the private test at Sepang next week. Yamaha will need to bring a much improved engine to make Rossi happy.

Work continued at Ducati, with Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo focusing on the GP17 on Wednesday. Dovizioso praised the fact that the bike was a little more comfortable to manage, making riding at a fast pace less tiring. The GP17 was helped by a better engine, but there was still some room for improvement in mid corner speed, he said.

That was confirmed by Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna. The Italian praised the work of both Dovizioso and new boy Jorge Lorenzo, and conceded that turning was still a problem for the GP17. It was improved, but there was still room for something more. The first touch of the throttle was also an issue, and something he had to work on over the break.

Dall'Igna had plenty of positive words for Lorenzo, but some which he phrased a little strangely. Lorenzo was a champion, Dall'Igna said, and so obviously his feedback was very clear. The team needed to work together for the remainder of the winter tests to improve their communication, he said.

The oddest thing Dall'Igna said was about the lap times Lorenzo had posted. Dall'Igna had been a little disappointed, he said, though he immediately explained that Lorenzo had been doing something other than working on set up to chase a quick lap. "I'm not really happy about the lap time he has," Dall'Igna told the press, "but I think that if the lap time was the target, we had to work in a different way."

Instead of optimizing set up for a single fast lap, Lorenzo spent some time doing back-to-back comparisons of the GP16 and GP17, and then testing parts for the GP17. The testing had helped clarify the direction of development of the bike. "I have a clear idea of what he needs, and I hope that I can give him something in the next test," Dall'Igna said.

Though official testing is now done for the year, that does not mean the bikes have been parked up in the garage. Ducati head down to Jerez for a private test next week, where they will be joined by Suzuki, KTM, and Aprilia, and probably Honda. Yamaha jet off to Sepang, for a private test there. It is all still go until the end of this month, and the official test ban comes into place until the end of January.

Then, MotoGP will observe a well-deserved break. The 2016 MotoGP season has been phenomenal. It is hard to see how the series could get better. It is likely to surprise us once again.

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I assume, just to be consistent and fair, that Yamaha will refuse to take Vinales to their private test as they stopped Lorenzoi testing for his new factory at their private test?

I will give you just 1 star for this comment because you are talking about Yamaha. If you wrote something bad about evil Honda, I would give you 5 stars.

Now serious, it is their right to do that. Jorge is still under contract with them.

That's the sound two brass objects make hitting together...

Its also the sound heard echoing across the paddock today as Vinales and Lorenzo made their ways back to their motorhomes.  

Roll on 2017

Vinales is really impressive.  I knew hld do well but looking at the times he set for the first time testing shows a level he has that should give other riders much to consider.  New team, new bike, first ride, sitting atop the timesheets.  Whether people were going for the top time or not, him being on that bike for the first time should make it a little harder for him to set the fastest time. 

Lorenzo is just as impressive.  Ducati, even now, is still a bike that seems to have a very different character than all the other bikes.  Lorenzo looked like he had been riding this bike for quite some time.  It looks like he is not uncomfortable on the bike.  In fact, judging from Ducati Factory comments, he seems very comfortable.  I expect to see him back to being Lorenzo the Metronome next year.  He is high on my list to take the title.

As David pointed out Lorenzo's lap times are nowhere near Marquez's. While Rossi's lap times weren't very good either, it is very unusual for Lorenzo to be so far off the pace of the leader. Actually almost everytime Lorenzo was so far from the leader in a practise he also wasn't able to fight with the leader come race day. Unlike Rossi who might be (a bit) behind in the practises and "finds something" on Sunday. What I want to say with this is that practises are a very good indicator of what Lorenzo can do while they aren't as good for indicating how fast for example Rossi will be under race conditions.

Also if you look back at the Valencia tests in the past: I am not so sure about this but isn't it common for those who changed bikes and will win races the next season that they adapted very well and were at the top or close to the top at the Valencia test? I remember of course Casey Stoner who switched from Ducati to Honda in 2011 and topped the timesheets at the Valencia test 2010 on the second day and then was indeed very strong in the 2011 season. And what I want to say with this is that while it was of course only the first test and everything can change in the other tests, most of the times there wasn't changing very much in the coming tests or the next season: The guys who switched manufacturer and were on top in Valencia were those who were on top during the next season and the guys who switched manufacturer and were (a bit) off the pace were also (a bit) off the pace during the next season. Valentino Rossi at the end of 2010 is an example for my off-the-pace-theory while Casey Stoner in the same year is the antithesis.

Therefore I have to conclude that I believe that Maverick Vinales will be able to win races and maybe even the title while Jorge Lorenzo unfortunately won't be able to regularly win races. In the case of Jorge Lorenzo I really hope I am wrong and actually I have some hope that I will be because he did indeed not look uncomfortable on the Ducati. We will have to see him a lot closer at the top in Sepang...

2016 is just over and 2017 is shaping up to be even better at the sharp end of things. I can't recall the last time new riders/rides switching teams were this fast or comfortable with the new bikes. And to see Lorenzo riding the Duc that smooth gives me nightmares. He's got one heck of a control. And MV sure has proven he means business next year. His success aboard the Zuki isn't the end afterall. The Honda seems better with the new bike - Pedrosa's time considering his health is a good measure of that. And Aleix on the Aprilia - honestly I didn't expect him to be this comfortable and fast on the RS-GP. Good work there. Special mentions to Folger and Zarco on the Tech3 bikes. Rookie of the season 2017 will be tough for sure. I've always thought Folger would do better on the bikker bikes and he hasn't disappointed me at all. Hope Poncharal helps put some sense of consistency into his brain. The lad very much needs that. KTM - Smith and Pol are adjusting well to the trellis and the screamer as far as we can see. Steady progress is in queue for the pair. Ianonne - can't wait to see him win mroe races. Only disappontment were Rins and Lowes. Both need some rest physically and mentally to make the switch. 

And I know this is too early. But Bagnaia, if successful in Moto2 will see himself on a GP bike on a full-time contract soon. The kid has got heart. Gas on 2017. I've never been this excited about the next year with months to spare.

If we look into the stats of both Lorenzo and Vinales from thier performance in the qualifying and race to their performance in the post race test. It looks like adapting to Yamaha for Vinales has been seamless whereas Lorenzo to Ducati will still take time. My bet for 2017 championship will be Marquez, then the 2 Yamaha's and next will be Lorenzo.

For all the work you put into this season! I assume you'll write another piece sort of round up with your impressions about these 2 days.... I reserve my questions and comments for that.
Quick question: will you cover both the Jerez and Sepang tests?
I agree with your final statement : 2017 looks so full of promises!

Thank you for all your hard work

Both the bigger part of the media and the commentators on the live feed were all praising Lorenzo, and how well he had gelled with the Ducati. And deemed it almost an instant success. But I am a bit more skeptical myself.

If we look at the time sheets, he is down in 8th. A decent result for a rider that switched to a new bike off course. But shouldn't we expect more from Lorenzo? THE Lorenzo!

Both Iannone and Dovi have proved that the Ducati is a potent weapon this year. And looking at the top speed charts, the Ducatis had what? The 6 fastest bikes out there by far down the straights. With Lorenzo and Dovi out-pacing Viñales and Rossi with about 10 km/h on the straight on average.

And shouldn't we expect Lorenzo, clearly one of the most talented riders on the grid, to be just a little bit closer to his teammate? Off course, he is on a new bike and in a new team. But so was Viñales on the Yamaha, clearly out-pacing his veteran team mate who has been on the bike for several years, and ending the tests as the fastest rider out there. And so was Iannone, ending the tests in 4th on a clearly less competitive bike, and with 2 huge crashes.

Lorenzo only out-paced Aleix Espargaro, on the clearly inferior Aprilia, with 0,141 seconds. And he was only 0,2 seconds faster than both MotoGP rookies Zarco and Folger, on the Tech3 Yamahas that were often up to 20km/h slower down the main straight. 

I think that the problem is that most of the media is still comparing Lorenzos move to Ducati, with Valentinos. But somehow forgetting that the bike Valentino flung his leg over was a completely different animal than the GP16 and GP17 that Lorenzo is taking over today. The situation within Ducati is also completely different, with a whole new organization that is working in a completely different way than when Valentino made the switch. Gigi Dall'igna has turned the whole organization around, and made it quite successful. I think it is more fair to compare Lorenzos switch to Ducati with Iannones switch to Suzuki and Viñales switch to Yamaha. And when compared to those two, Lorenzo and Ducati clearly has some work to do... 

Off course, testing is testing. And I am sure that once we roll out on FP1 in Qatar, Jorge will be in the top-5 once again. But I'm not convinced that his first test on the Ducati was as huge of a success that everyone is making it out to be. They clearly have a lot of work to do, and they are not helped by the fact that Jorge won't be allowed to be in the bike for the private test next week.

I am extremely impressed with Viñales though, and am pretty convinced that he will be a force to reckon with in 2017.

Great wrap up as usual!

Anyone know why the Ducatis were testing with the winglets this week. I'd think they'd ditch them since they can't use them next year.

So am I the only one that thinks the real reason ducati is keeping the wings on the bike is because they are pretty confident of having similar downforce on the bike next year through a fancy aero package (just without wings). The whole 'keeping it the same for a comparison/Baseline' argument seems a little thin to me when it's spread out over the entirety of both days of the test

I disagree. As an engineer (albiet in electronics and software, not mechanical) I change one thing at a time, measure the difference and then change something else. Two days is not a lot of time to allow Jorge to adapt to the bike and provide back to back comparison of the GP16 and GP17 without the added complication of changing more things. Gigi is following sound engineering principles, as he always does.

That's all well and good, and certainly plausible, but what about Dovi? He didn't need all that time to adapt. To me there are too many things that don't quite line up. I also thought it could possibly be done to help Lorenzo's confidence with a fast lap time, but that also didn't explain dovi
If you look at the other factories, none of them kept wings on their bikes (as far as I know) even if they had new riders.
Ducati are also the main proponent of aero in motogp, they know the advantages and I can't imagine them giving them away easily.
Also lastly trying to regulate the direction of performance development in motorsports has a long history of being cleverly circumvented, I remember back when dual clutches were banned in motogp to stop seamless gearboxes, that worked well.

Have KTM perhaps tried to take a little too big step by building a completely new MotoGP bike using a trellis frame and WP suspension? Too many unknown variables?

I don't think so. They have tons of experience with them in the lower classes. The inverse may be possible, that their suspension mated to that frame work where Ohlins might not since they are so used to different characteristics. The Ohlins monopoly won't last forever. It was telling that Pol got right up to pace and found himself focusing on rear tire drive, Smith focused on the screamer engine seeming unfamiar. Not a struggle with the chassis/suspension. The package is working okay. It is a brave innovation, but looks good!

I wish we could have gotten a better sense of the Ducati strength next year but without them taking the wings off and going for those true fast laps we can't speculate about what they are bringing. I hopoe to see Rins back healthy next year but those back injuries are long roads. This means that Suzuki has a lineup with both riders having very similar injuries and I wonder what it might mean for their chances now.

Moto Brothers Podcast

Maveric Viñales (MV), Marc Marquez (MM), Valentino Rossi (VR) & Jorge Lorenzo (JL)

Lap times grouped within 0.250 sec

MV had a fast lap (below 1:30.000 sec.). He had 8 laps within 1:31. 500 sec.

MM had an impressive pace. 19 laps within 1:31.250 sec.

JL had 6 laps within 1:31.250 sec.

VR had 9 laps within 1:32.000 sec.

Dylan Gray said, during the two-day Valencia test broadcast on, that Yamaha had presented a radical new fairing for technical scrutiny, but that it had been deemed illegal. Do you have anything on that, David?

Hi David,

I consider that another year where my time and money was well spent at MM.  Thank you.

Given you are always raising the bar I thought I might throw in a challenge.  As a die hard 27 fan it is great to see him involved in MotoGP again, I would really like to know his thoughts on how things are shaping up.  The format, the teams, and in particular the strengths and weaknesses he sees in the various bikes.  Lastly (as if the above isn't already enough), I would like to understand how his input is used by the riders, especially given the difference in styles.

Hey! Nobody said it would be easy :-)

cheers, Nick

David, in the paragrah that opens with "Viñales may have been faster overall, but Márquez' consistency was bruising", you then go on to talk about Vinales laptimes, although I'm sure you actually mean Marquez

Happy to help :-)

I really like the fact that you need a big brain to really appreciate David's writing.  I used Billy O's theorem to arrive at a finely distilled list of MotoGP insight and analysis.  MM being at the sharp end of that list of course.

Anyway, I thought Iannone's upright time on the Suzuki was both impressive and ominous for the Hamamatsu factory's finances.  He looked pretty quick out of the gate but the bucking bronco with the loud livery reminds me of his hey day in the 250 class.  I hope he has a chance to heal over the break so we can see what he can really do with it.  His teammate ...  

I really hope for the best for Alex Rins future (both physically and mentally).  Last year he was more on his game and looked like the next big thing after Maverick.  He was looking a bit defeated ever since Luis Salom's passing so this was the last thing he needed.  The t-shirt at the last race reminded me that he didn't want the fans to forget him.  I won't.  Not Luis, not Shoya, not Marco or any of the rest ...

Just not to end on that ... did anyone actually see Karel Abraham at the test?  I know a time for him was posted but man, even the Suzuki test rider got on camera before his big crash. lol

Karel is only on the grid because daddy can pay for it.  It annoys me that he's riding around keeping a derserving rider off the grid.

Strange Turn 12 crashes for both Suzuki riders. 

Both straight up and straight down, at the merest hint of a brake which was almost fully enclosed.

Cool temperatures obviously played a part, as too did enthusiasm.

An hour into the session, Rins crashed on his fifth lap whilst getting up to speed.

Iannone crashed on his first flying lap at the same corner - just minutes after Rins in an identical crash.

Rookie Rins had two bikes without wings. Iannone also had two bikes - but he rode without wings for the first time on Wednesday morning and he quickly crashed in the same spot as Rins.

Andrea Dovizioso is the man with the most experience of wings and he explains:

'Today I rode the GP16 without wings and this was a very telling excerise, there's a big change. The bike becomes less safe, in acceleration the front is lighter and it's easy for the front wheel to lock in braking.'

Novice errors from both Suzuki pilots.

For me, the most impressive thing about Vinales is that his bike didn't have wings. 

Will it finally be fully seamless? Was it in this test? Would greatly help Yamaha against Honda in manufacturers title challange. Thank u.

nobody has commented on this but...

does the fact that lorenzo's logo has gone from 99 with halo/horns to two sets of horns seem a statement of intent ?

To test or not to test. What remains to be seen after a first insight of what can be done on and to a bike that everybody is on at this moment. Sincere hope for Lorenzo, but looking at this year, just cant help myself think about all the excuses he will come up with next year if the weather is non-lorenzo. Unless Ducati has a pact with Michelin, dont think Lorenzo will win one race unless all conditions are perfect and everyone around him has an off-day. I think Lorenzo will be struggling more than last years ducati riders that CS is faster as test rider than all of them, ofcourse only on the first day of testing.