Jerez MotoGP Preseason Test Round Up: Getting To Grips In A Brand New World

It has been 143 days since the last day of the MotoGP test at Qatar, and 130 days since the Moto2 and Moto3 classes raced at the opening round of the series at the Losail International Circuit. A large part of the world spent most of that time in lockdown, nobody riding, nobody working on bikes, nobody checking up on equipment at circuits.

That is exactly why you go testing before the resumption of the 2020 MotoGP season at Jerez. To give everything a good shake down, make sure that nothing vital falls apart on a race weekend. The fact that the Jerez circuit suffered a power cut which delayed the restart of the afternoon MotoGP session for the best part of an hour is a case in point. A reminder that everyone needed time to get back up to speed again.

"The boys were a bit rusty," Jack Miller told us. "Everyone is getting back into everything, into their own jobs in the box and also for us riders. We’ve been off for four months. It’s quite useful to shake off the cobwebs."

Burning up

It was needed. The extreme heat meant Miller's Ducati Desmosedici GP20 caught fire briefly, and needed to be put out quickly. Ducatis catching fire is not unheard of: the Desmosedici generates a lot of heat along with all that horsepower, and the exhausts and engine are squeezed in very tightly behind the fairing. "We had a little fire with the fairing," Miller said. "We ran out of time then. Because it’s so hot the exhaust heated up and it started getting the fairing hot. By the time the boys got that done, and then we swapped the tires we just ran out of time. I think it’s a little teething issue. Everyone is a little rusty after four months off but we got it out of the way and we can now focus on Friday, Saturday and Sunday."

There was more that needed getting used to. The paddock at Jerez was deserted, rather than packed with guests, VIPs, and fans, making it emptier than even during a test. Riders and mechanics tried to figure out how to communicate in the exceptionally noisy environment of a MotoGP garage while wearing masks. Instead of journalists crowding round riders for their media debriefs, riders were taken into the media center, sat down in front of a laptop, and debriefs conducted via online meetings. It was a lot less chaotic than many feared, but still very unworldly and remote, in both the figurative and literal sense.

The debriefs ran more smoothly than expected because most of the riders were admirably punctual. Two riders weren't, throwing the schedule off, and making life complicated for journalists and team PR staff. I will leave you to guess which riders would be able to get away with that.

Atmosphere, or lack thereof

"The situation here is a bit different," Valentino Rossi told us. "For some things it's worse, for some things it's better. It's a bit more difficult because we have to always wear masks, also when you do meetings, so it's a bit more tricky. But on the other side it's very quiet! Don’t have many people! It’s unbelievable for me because I can walk in the paddock for the first time since 1997! Under this point of view it's less pressure, more relaxed."

"It’s strange because the weekend will feel like a test," Andrea Dovizioso concurred. "It’s strange to be in Jerez with just the people in the paddock. In this heat with the mask it’s very difficult, but for a rider you can focus on yourself. There aren’t people in the paddock so we have a lot more freedom, because usually if you do anything in a normal weekend it takes twenty minutes. This was the only way to race this weekend and I think that Dorna and everyone involved has done a good job."

Oily track

The power cut at Jerez came just after the session had been red flagged due to a crash, and oil on the track. Aleix Espargaro's 2020 Aprilia RS-GP started spewing oil, and Alex Márquez and Danilo Petrucci crashed as a result. Márquez Jr walked away unhurt, but Petrucci was not so lucky. He hit the ground hard and banged his head, and though he was declared fit by the medical center, he chose to sit out the rest of the session, fearing concussion.

"Unfortunately I had a very, very big crash," the factory Ducati rider said. "I was in a big group of riders. I was quite in front of that group. Aleix was in front. When he was braking the bike was losing some smoke. I immediately thought it was oil but after half a lap he was still riding good so I thought it was not oil. But when I arrived at Turn 11 I lost the front."

Turn 11 is a bad place to crash, given the speed involved. "It was a fast corner, a right in third gear at 150kph," Petrucci said. "I started to tumble and I hit the head two or three times. Unfortunately I saw a lot of stars in my eyes so we decided to quit the afternoon session. That was the most important session because it’s during race time. But I’ve been lucky because I just have some pain in the neck. But it’s not too much."

Handling the heat

Getting time in the afternoon is crucial, to understand how both riders and bikes will cope in the oppressive heat. "You could definitely feel it on the bike," Bradley Smith told us, the Englishman a substitute for Andrea Iannone at Aprilia. "Something similar to what it was in Thailand when we very first tested there. It's going to be an interesting one. We've never seen these types of temperatures over a race distance."

"The temperature was unbelievable and maybe the track temperature was even hotter than Malaysia," Andrea Dovizioso confirmed. "It’s impossible for the tires and bikes and when you are behind another rider the heat is unbelievable. In the race it will be very hard for everybody. When you lap alone the problem is not as bad."

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David, without roaming the paddock how are you able to tell which tires riders are using in the FPs (not Qualy's)? Debrief with riders? Curious to understand if all riders put a SOFT tire for a quick lap time or someone didnt.

yes, should be easy to spot color codes on the tires but from the pits... From the live feed they don't always show riders as they depart so I'm guessing it's a bit harded to identify tires unless David has a bionic eye for these kinds of things

How I've missed these roundups!!  Wonderful to have racing back and David bringing it all to life on our screens again.

Hey David have you posted up the subscription part?  Can't seem to access?

Damn have missed racing and these roundups.

Yesterday, the timing and results section on the website was missing the Moto3 results. I will add them today. Sorry about that.

... the temperatures were going to be so abnormally hot (for a MotoGP race) this weekend. I'd guess this will be a prominent factor in how these races play out.

Waiting for the weekend like a kid waiting for Christmas. It's gonna be a bloody interesting season with the new rear tyre and having all these races on at different times of the year than they usually are.

Development is frozen for 2021 as well. This heavily favors KTM and Aprilia of course, but also dramatically heightens the relevance of the offseason development that did or didn't happen.

Yamaha had a long way to go, being so errantly guttered for a few seasons. They made the most gains clearly. Their riders will be showcasing it well. Revolution. This is a very different bike. It will need to get Jorge'd out in front to really shine rather than follow Marc. Unless? Please don't leave us feeling blue, Marc gas-blasting right past you. Bit of power, don't be lazy. Two more seasons and we'll go crazy. Honda's left it for you to hunt; can't we have a step more grunt?!

Suzuki too slipped under the radar with a strong evolution, of course with no problems to fix other than posting a Q lap. This is largely set up, strategy and Rins wrapping his head around it. And a great problem to have, the bike such a natural conventional racer strong everywhere that it needed some sorting in this exceptional area. With just two bikes (ahem) and one rider near the front most of last season we won't know how much of this was Rins, the bike, or the garage. The bike has a bit more power AGAIN, which is lovely. Easy to see and understand, just like them.

Oh, Ducati. Must there be so much drama and mystery? From your salad box, to aero, to holeshatters, to rider signings, to offseason development. Someday, perhaps something can be done directly and simply? At Jerez, in blazing heat, with these riders now, we can't really see the work you've done. Paying close attention, it looks positive yet in process. Perhaps shift focus to your Test program now? Look at Dani and Orange go. Try to connect with Dovi more collaboratively and increase his ownership of development. Even Honda has Marc saying this is HIS shite bike. Get Dovi responsibility, let him in on it, incentivize. Let him spend time with Pirro and connect more directly, remove the triangulation and his struggling with you will lessen. Besides, you want him there now. There are structural ways to improve your program further Gigi. Betting that the bike made a big step based on the actual Winter tests. We shall see, but less clearly than elsewhere. Miller looks to continue his trajectory. Zarco sharp up is here to see. Bagnaia and Jack seem the best measure of the Red "longest Winter" gains.

The Honda? It looks bad in the same as 2019. And this means for 2021 too. The rest of the paddock has been gifted. Profit.

The heat and tire sorting is interesting. Strategy will matter Sunday, Q too. The Yamaha will want the rider to Jorge the race out front. TWO riders may, and Marc in company may provide fireworks and very revealing information for us. Cue a Suzuki or two (hooray Mir!) and a Duc. Maybe a surpise guest, esp this first race. The heat may be a factor re the Aprilia motor popping yesterday btw. Still wait and see on that infant bike's reliability.

The greasy track is masking some issues, and putting some bike gains on hold. When high grip track surface is here, watch for a big change. Honda is Illmored. The inline fours have another blessing in store. Then all eyes on Duc's question mark.

I sure wish Jorge spoke like Smith and as openly as Cal. Having just come off of both the Honda and Duc and onto this Yamaha in transition, he is the ONLY person alive that has juicy perspective. Anyone else getting a sense he is done racing full time right now?

You can tell that the KTM, these Orange riders, and the garage all like this bike. But it still demands being overridden too physically. It shimmy waggles under braking more and differently than anything else. Even the Honda. Albeit seemingly more predictably. While we can't see bikes stretching their legs in the big gears showcasing engine power here, we can see usable speed coming off corners and the package coming together. The rookies and a few others spent lots of time in tow yesterday (Aleix got to speed w Marc, Orange besides Pol were traincars) and the drive out looks good.

Remember well Marc's BIG crash chasing FabQ on Saturday last year. He is human, and has pressure. His bike is over even his limit, the margin is slim. Less is sorted now. Conditions are unique. He may react rather than call the shots. Last lap may surprise, or dice rolls may come up snake eyes for a crash. It appears increasingly likely, not less.

Mid pack can see ANYTHING and everything this weekend. Hope we get some cameras on it. No one wants to follow given heat and grip, many are bunched together on pace. There will be passes galore.

We will have a few bikes straggling off the pace, then a couple of bee swarms. A gap after about 10th. Out in front a small group will walk away and leave a gap behind. Hoping three, not two, and can imagine a 4th in tow that may crash out doing so (Rins?). Glad it doesn't look like just Marc, and believe we can add "anymore." Even with that huge motor.