Running The Numbers: Analyzing The Test Pace Of Marquez, Viñales, Rossi, And Lorenzo

So much happened at the MotoGP test at Valencia that it is hard to take it all in and cover it in one go. Time offers a little bit of hindsight and perspective, and a chance to digest everything that came at you so fast over the two days at Valencia. So here are a few notes and thoughts looking back.

Real pace

It is attractive to judge performance in testing just by casting a cursory glance at the timesheets and drawing conclusions from that. But the headline times tell very little of the story. A more complete analysis means examining every lap, and seeing the kind of consistency and speed each rider can maintain. It is all very well posting a 1'30.0, but if every other lap is a 1'32, then the actual pace is not particularly good.

So I extracted the laps of four of the main title contenders for 2017 from the analysis PDF files on the website, placed them into a spreadsheet and sorted them from fastest to slowest. Discarding the properly slow laps (slower than around 1'34.5) allowed some clear patterns to emerge from the two days, especially once charted visually. I selected Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez as the two most significant riders to stay with their teams, and Jorge Lorenzo and Maverick Viñales as the two most important riders to be switching factories.

Of the four, Viñales emerges as very strong, both in terms of best lap and race pace. He posted the best time on both days, and was consistently fast as well. Compared to the others, he was stronger on Tuesday than on Wednesday, but that probably has more to do with his program versus the others than anything else. It is unclear how much of his time Viñales spent on the 2016 and 2017 Yamaha M1 – I asked Wilco Zeelenberg this question, but he told me that was confidential information, and the two bikes are visually almost identical – but it is likely he focused mainly on the old bike, rather than working on new parts or set up.

That is not the case for the other three. Márquez spent the first day turning the Honda RC213V upside down to test various bike geometries, while also testing the bike in three different configurations – 2016 bike, 2016 chassis with 2017 engine, and 2017 engine. Rossi spent his time evaluating the 2017 engine – or rather, an evolutionary step halfway between this year's bike and next year's – and Lorenzo rode the GP16 for most of the first day, before jumping on the GP17 for the second day.

Running the numbers

Though Viñales looks impressive, it is Marc Márquez whose pace jumps off the page once you dive into it. On Tuesday, Márquez and Viñales looked evenly matched. Viñales did a total of 35 laps between 1'30 and 1'32, while Márquez posted 33 laps at the same pace. Rossi had 24 laps at that pace, and Lorenzo posted 26 laps under the 1'33 mark.

But it is on Wednesday that Márquez shows his hand. Jorge Lorenzo posted 29 sub-1'33s and Valentino Rossi did 37 sub-1'33s. Maverick Viñales posted 39 laps at that pace, but it was Marc Márquez who really ground it out. 55 times Marc Márquez posted a lap quicker than 1'33, 17 of which were in the 1'30 bracket. Comparing the average pace of the laps under 1'32, Lorenzo is a tenth quicker than Rossi, while Viñales is two tenths quicker than Lorenzo. But it is Márquez who is quickest of all, two tenths quicker than Viñales on the Yamaha, and nearly half a second quicker on average than Rossi. The tables below show the total number of laps and the average pace.

Lap time Viñales Márquez Rossi Lorenzo
1'30 1   2  
1'31 17 17 8 11
1'32 17 16 14 15
Total 35 33 24 26
Lap time Viñales Márquez Rossi Lorenzo
1'29 1      
1'30 8 17 3 1
1'31 23 31 18 17
1'32 8 7 16 11
Total 40 55 37 29
Average of
1'30s & 1'31s
1:31.273 1:31.070 1:31.560 1:31.452

It is only once you put the numbers into chart form that the real pattern emerges. Charting the lap times for each rider ranked from fastest to slowest gives a clear picture of the pace set in testing. On Tuesday, Viñales and Márquez are evenly matched, posting a lot of fast laps. Similarly, Lorenzo and Rossi are roughly equally fast, with all four riders setting very close headline times.

On Wednesday, Márquez sets the pace. He is a fraction slower than Viñales in outright speed, but his consistency is outstanding. Viñales has a few fast laps, then a lot more in the 1'31s. Once again, Lorenzo and Rossi are evenly matched, though this time, it is Lorenzo with fewer laps at a fast pace.

What does it all mean? After just two days of testing, any conclusions we draw are unlikely to hold up until Qatar. Marc Márquez is clearly quick, and given the consistency of his pace on the 2017 engine, the Honda looks easier to manage. Maverick Viñales is as quick as any of the other four aliens, and has no trouble maintaining his pace. Jorge Lorenzo is already at the same level as Valentino Rossi after just two days on the Ducati. But Qatar is still four months away, and the factories have the whole winter to get to work.

Unhappy campers

It is worth bearing those charts in mind when listening to what the riders had to say after the test. Reading between the lines of their public statements, nobody was happy (they never are: despite constant improvements, the bikes are always terrible, because they are always being ridden at their very limit). Marc Márquez hinted at Honda not having done enough work on the engine, and it still not managing to accelerate manageably and smoothly. Valentino Rossi didn't quite express the disappointment he obviously felt at the lack of acceleration from his Yamaha M1. Though Lorenzo was not allowed to speak, Andrea Dovizioso told us Ducati still need to improve the turning of the GP17 mid corner.

A sign of the situation at Honda is the fact that the Repsol Honda team decided against traveling to Jerez for the private test booked for next week. The official line is that Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa got through their full program of testing, and so heading to Jerez has little point. An alternative way of interpreting that is that Márquez and Pedrosa don't see the point in testing an engine which isn't good enough. Better to let HRC work over the winter, and use private test days early in 2017 to test the final engine.

The one rider who seemed genuinely happy was Jorge Lorenzo. The Spaniard looked relaxed and was smiling, chatting with Casey Stoner, who is acting as an advisor to Ducati and Lorenzo. Lorenzo was banned from speaking to the media, but sources with knowledge of Lorenzo's mood reported he was relaxed, and felt able to breathe freely now that he was free of the constant tension of the Movistar Yamaha garage. It is not just the "blue bike" that Lorenzo is fast on, the source said. No wonder Yamaha did not want to allow Lorenzo to participate in Ducati's private test at Jerez.

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Brilliant analysis as usual David! This is the kinda detail you just can't get anywhere else. 2017 is shaping up to be even more fun than this season. Lorenzo/Ducati intrigues me a lot. I'm not Jorge's biggest fan, but I really hope he succeeds there. Yamaha didn't feel like 'his team' anymore and not always given the respect for his successes at times. Winning races or even landing a title for Ducati could possibly be his finest achievements. But let's wait and see down the line.

I also wanted to ask, now that Winglets are banned, what's the next big tech gadget that might appear in MotoGP in the next few years?  Do you think we'll ever see something like KERS (Kenetic Energy Recovery System) or any other kind of hybrid technology? Obviously this is more of a car tech, than bike, but any extra power gained and bit of fuel saved, would be welcomed.

I vaguely remember KTM trying something like this back in the 125cc days with Marc Marquez. A tiny KERS like system, it only produced a few HP, but given how small and light he was at the time, they gave it a try. But it ended up causing more grief than anything positive and it was later shelved.

Would love to see something radical and unusual like that. Any thoughts?


The GPC met recently and clarified the rules on engines, amongst other things, which now state that the machine must be propelled exclusively by an internal combustion engine.

So there is no chance of hybrid tech coming into MotoGP any time soon. Something of a foolish step I feel but no doubt someone told Carmelo that hybrid systems in F1 cost a lot of money.

I honestly think aerodynamics and especially downforce are still going to be the next avenue of greatest gain. The designers are just going to have to be a bit clever about how they do it to fit within the rules.
The tech nerd side of me likes the idea of this, but mainly I'm a bit nervous that there bikes will just all look horrible ugly

This reminds me of a fairing I made for my son to race in Brazil 11 years ago. People said it was horrible, and laughed at us, until we used our clear advantage in the fast sections of the track to win the 1st national race by over 5 seconds. All of a sudden the bike was beautiful and I was a genius aerodynamicist. I for one like the bikes with wings and look forward to seeing how the manufacturers will conceal the wings. I hope they look like something from science fiction films, and I also look forward to the time when someone will develop a front suspension that is not a fork and works better than those early 20th century contraptions.

Lorenzo has more yet in the bag relative to the others. Weds he did 3 outings in the morning on the sorted GP16 before embarking on development duties. 2nd day. His relaxed pleasant face should be seen as ominous.

I have given more thought to Lorenzo changing his style to adapt to the Duc than seems fitting. It is already doing the job for him. And Vinales is overriding the Yamaha in his own style and it seems ton be working. Perhaps I have gotten caught up in riders talking about getting their bikes to work for them as a difficulty, or over representing Vale's mismatch for the Duc to try to apply it to other instances.

Marquez will be the one to beat. Vinales on the Yamaha - will he also experience the frustrating roll - off en route to apex as Hondas and Ducatis block the sweeping corner speed that is in the bike's DNA? The Blue bike needs another 2015esque gain in horsepower to break this pattern. It is there, but will make for a less sweet ride. I suggest they go for it and let the riders and rear tire learn to deal with it.

Jorge is impressing. If he had spent day 2 working with the GP16 he would look it.

Pol on the KTM as well - can you believe where he put that thing already?

Kawasaki, what is it exactly that you are awaiting? Wrapping paper and a bow? Your Superbike could have a few bikes behind it in the right conditions here. Get on with it already, why wait? Take one SBK rider and a new kid, and toss what you have in. With these electronics you can match Aprilia from the get go in 2018.

Speaking of WSBK - first ride on the Honda Bradl was 3 tenths off Hayden. Not bad! Melandri is fast on the Duc twin. Curious about the Aprilia project. Kawi, surely your wounds are well licked from the McCoy - Hopkins era. Come on back, this is the time.

Yes Maverick's times are impressive, but not really all that surprising, as the Yamaha is a transverse four just like the Suzuki and could be called an improved Suzy. The Ducati is an Italian V4 and has to be a lot different to ride than the Yam, if Ducati can adapt the bike to suit Lorenzo's high corner speed, I can see JL disappearing into the distance in the the first race. Vinales has a tendency to overheat his tyres, perhaps due to generally poor starts, so his race performance tends to be inferior to his practice results.

Thank you David! It's always very interesting to cross-reference impressions with data and draw a new bigger picture.
I tend to slightly disagree though, on some points.
Altogether I was disappointed : I expected a better Yamaha and a better Lorenzo.
From what I saw (and then heard confirmed by one of your colleagues, Zamagni, who generally shows unbiased views) on day 2 the serenity and happy face of Lorenzo were gone. They spent the day readjusting the position on the bike with no improvement..... even some official statements from management saying that JL "must adapt" sounded strong.
Altogether when you look at lap times for JL the glass is half empty: he owns the track, feels overconfident on it, set an unbelievable lap record in quali, spent 3 days showing how perfect he is in Valencia,... so i expected more when he got on the bike that was on the podium the day before. Given also the fact that Dovi did pretty well. The smile he had on his face when he was in front of JL.... (maybe he was thinking that they'll give him back the money they cut from his pay and went into JL pockets.... :D )
Now the question is : as the bike will not radically change in its nature and architecture to suit JL style, how will JL manage to change? David : is there any specific training that he will get into in order to achieve that goal?
Now Honda.... there I see the glass more than half full it's not only the great and consistent pace of MM, Dani too seemed comfortable, dare I say better than Sunday race? All in all the Hondas performed well the engine is better and they are still gonna enhance the electronics: it does not bode well for the others: MM might kill it by mid season and do a 2014 again. I hope not.
Last but not least.... Yamaha! What a disappointment! What's going on? Why do you think they are so behind? I know their philosophy is step-by-step but here it's step by step backwards!
I expected Vinales to be outright fast, we know he has the potential and the skill. You can see that he is a perfect match with the bike and the team. But I don't think we can make comparisons with VR performance. MV spent the 2 days learning the bike (and what an amazing fast learner is he!) It was a nice surprise but not that big: he was on the winning bike perfectly tuned to the track: he delivered what expected. If he learns to be a bit more combative and more confident in passes, he might easily aim at straight regular podiums next season with no doubt. And maybe the championship? (On a side note: if memory serves me MV and MM have been bitter rivals.... and I think that MM statement that he did not try a time attack on Wednesday is a lot of BS.... ).
As for VR.... I was almost in pain seeing his disappointment. It's like a kid that was promised GTA VI for Xmas and got Super Mario Bros on Nintendo 2012. And icing on the cake that stupid crash.... caused by the fact that they needed to save the 2 soft tyres.... and so he gambled and used a hard compound.... I don't know if it's stupid or desperate.... or both. A big mistake from him and the team.
If they don't find something in Sepang next week I will definitely worry.

I generally use the 'analysis' pdf report each track session on a MotoGP race weekend to try and compare riders and their progress. I never went as far as putting laptimes on a graph and that was a lot more revealing than simply counting the number of fast laps and comparing them. That graph would be very insightful after warm-up every round! At least I think it would be. 

I was very surprised that Marquez was so much stronger than everybody on the graph. During pre-race timed sessions he is often content to run very short lap cycles searching for a single fast lap, so to see his times expressed in graph form was impressive to me. VR, on the other hand, runs very long sessions steadily trying to find speed (and usually well off Marquez and Lorenzo's quickest laps). 

I was not surprised to see Maverick as steady fast as he was throughout every session spent on the track. He seemed to repeat that method of finding pace the last half of the season. Also, could it be that the newest Michelin tires had something to do with the test results? There were a few crashes but not like we have come to expect given all the laps these guys rode. 

Iannone didn't get in nearly as many laps but he threw down some impressive speed as well. Too bad Suzuki didn't have their top guys at full strength throughout the test. Plus Rins was never fast enough to help much. They made a big mistake letting Espargaro go. Their rider choices have always been a puzzle to me, but at least Iannone can win for them.

My take is that wings on the Duc are more about allowing more power to reach the rear wheel without cutting it down for anti-wheelie. The riders report that they make the bike a rougher ride overall. Yes, we can geek out over tech of downforce on the front at lean, but it is a secondary consideration. Some set up changes to re balance the bike without wings may favor cornering.

@mgm I enjoy disagreeing with you so often and sincerely look forward to your posts. You expected MORE from Lorenzo's first outing?! Man, I would hate to work for you. Brutal! Care to make an early bet of a pint on his Qatar finish? Methinks he may win there, and should be on the podium. Guinness?

@Motoshrink: the feeling is mutual: I love disagreeing with you! :D
I'm game for the bet but certainly not for the Qatar race. C'mon! Did you forget the last two seasons and where the Ducati finished? I'm the first one to bet on a minimum of a podium for JL...
Let's make the bet interesting: Jerez! I bet that in normal weather conditions he won't be on the podium. And I bet a bottle of wine - italian wine. So... are you on?
And yes maybe I'm a bit harsh with my judgement on the test... still.... he was on the bike that podiumed the day before and he's payed 12.5 millions to win the championship. On the first day I thought that he was going to really impress us, but then on day 2 seeing all that back and forth on finding different solutions for the position on the bike and his face I got the strong feeling that he'll have to adjust - change?- much more than he expected. He needed to match Dovi and he did not. It's still a long way to Qatar and anything can happen. But so far I stand by my first impression: I expected more. (Knowing that this expection contradicts every single fiber of my forever yellow heart :D )

I quickily looked at day 2 for Dovi.  He did 16 laps in 30s and 31s versus Lorenzos 28 laps.  Jorge did do 5 more laps overall but still he handily beat Dovi in this regard.  However, when you average those lap times Dovi comes out closer to Vinales than to Lorenzo, so Dovi wins there.  Maybe this fits in with the Duc being difficult for Dovi to ride and so he is inconsistently fast.  I remember him on the Honda and Yamaha and he wasn't as fast but he seemed really consitent.  Then when he moved to Ducati he lost the consistency but has found some top speed.

I think Lorenzo will take a few more tests, but he will get there.  It seems like it will be another interesting hopes.

I didn't expect him to beat Dovi his first day out on the unfamiliar bike. I don't think a win in his first race weekend, even Qatar, it is too easy at all. I like the Jerez bet though - I bet he podiums, you bet he doesn't, and a bottle of wine at stake. Seems like a tempranillo is more fitting, but I enjoy Italian wine too. They ship just fine.
You're on!

But let's spice it a little bit.
Let's set some rules:
- if he gets on the podium not by his own doing but because there were two DNF in front of him (ie : a blown engine, Iannone being his usual bin it self,....) does it still count?
- if there are team orders and Dovi has to give him the position (I know I know only in a parallel world Dovi can be top 3 in Jerez, but you never know....) does it count?
- if he's fighting for the podium and he's taken out by ....(pick a name: MM, AI,.... ) do we consider that he still made it?
- if he has a problem with the helmet and ends up 4P... do we give him a bonus of one position? (Humm. Strike this last one, it was mean....) :D
Waiting for your comments....

Let's keep it simple. Only caveat I can think of is that he is on the grid. If he isn't for some reason let's have a re-do. Bottle of wine on Jerez podium. I really enjoy Amerone, have you?

And I will enjoy my Guinness at Qatar and think of you, he will be at the pointy end and Jorge with all that motor is going to be REALLY interesting to see next yr.

Amarone it is.
I might join you for that pint in Qatar....

....mention one more time de puniet the bet is off!
my sense of humor -though great - has a limit.....
Apologies to all readers : we got carried away with these posts and betting.... it won't happen again

Elena, is that you?
What do you think of Lorenzo's Ducati outing? How are things? I remember you on a 125GP with us at Portland International Raceway, you were fast. Off the Triumph middleweight and onto the Suzuki Superbike now?

This "test" was just eyewash!  The real testing goes on in private, not with people in the stands and television coverage.   Considering the race the Sunday before, the perfect weather conditions and the track being in Spain where so many of the riders are from this was just an exercise in public relations.

As for the factories going to hybrids, be careful what you wish for.   F1 lost parity and fans since the hybrids became mandatory.  One team wins all the races and the cars sound like vacuum cleaners.  No thank you!  I'd rather see them go all electric or not at all.

PS:  Where is the incentive for Kawasaki to come back to MotoGP?   The days of "win on Sunday, sell on Monday" are gone.  Racing may improve the electronics and the bike overall but it has no relevance to the vast majority of buyers. 

Gee ,that was a surpisingly negative post to come from a so-called fan. I think there was more to the test than 'eyewash'. You think Iannone, Vinales and Lorenzo were there for PR? That they weren't trying? What about KTM or the Aprilia boys? Such foolishness...

that it is a long time to Qatar and that anything can happen.  Well, ok the last part is true but as for the first part how many days of actual testing will JL get on the Duc between now and then?  If he is to change his style this likely requires considerably more time than changing settings.  I think JL is still one of the few riders who almost always keeps both feet on the pegs as he brakes.  He doesn't change his spots very easily - unlike the chamelion aka Rossi.

Where I do agree is that at the Valencia test I was thinking if he matched Dovi then the rest of the grid need to be on the look out in 2017.  The final result of the test wasn't a disaster but I doubt any of his competitors are losing too much sleep about how they are going to have to beat JL on the red rocket.

'The chamelion' actually said it would be foolish to rule out Lorenzo for the championship...