The weather cooperated for the second and final day of the Misano MotoGP test. It stayed dry and warm all day, which meant everyone got the track time they were looking for. In the case of Maverick Viñales, that was a lot of track time: the Aprilia rider racked up 109 laps, a grand total of 460.6 kilometers. Equivalent to Misano to Turin, London to Paris, Dallas, Texas to San Antonio, Texas.
The problem with all that track time, of course, is that a lot of rubber gets laid down. That adds oodles of grip, making conditions ideal for MotoGP machines. That is all very well, but MotoGP races never take place in such ideal conditions, and so testing can be deceptive. "It's true that everybody says the same in the tests, because there is a lot of grip everybody is fast, everybody is happy!" Marc Marquez noted.
Conditions are totally different between a race and a test, Marquez pointed out. "It changes a lot, a race weekend or test day. It changes a lot the risk of the way to ride also, with a lot of rubber on the track, a lot of grip and you can open a lot of gas," the Repsol Honda rider said.
Marquez' comment that "everybody says the same in the tests" is also because riders are under a much tighter PR constraint as well. And so you get an endless cycle of vacuous statements: "We tried some things with the chassis, with the electronics, with the engine. There were some positives and some negatives." Fans and followers are left to read between the lines, and use their imaginations.
Conditions mean speed
Aleix Espargaro was fastest on the second day of the test, with a 1'31.584. That is a decent clip: it would have qualified him fourth on the grid, and was four tenths of a second faster than his own qualifying time on Saturday. It was no single-dash, however: it was set on the last lap of a 5-lap run, before he headed back into the pits.
Espargaro's time was still six hundredths slower than Pecco Bagnaia's time from Tuesday, the Ducati Lenovo rider ending the test as fastest overall. But there was too much work to do for the riders to waste too much time chasing an outright lap time. You can find Wednesday's times here, and the combined times from both days here.
The riders and factories shifted focus for the second day of the test. If the first day was focused on 2022, Wednesday was mostly aimed at finding improvements for the remainder of 2021, and especially for the Misano 2 race, which sees the paddock return here at the end of October. There was some work on 2022 in the morning, but the afternoon was dedicated to 2021.
It was also a chance for the 2021 KTM Ajo Moto2 riders to get their first chance to ride their 2022 machines. Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner move up to MotoGP next season with the KTM Tech3 squad, and the Misano test was an opportunity to get their first feel for a MotoGP machine, for the carbon brakes and the Michelin tires. It was also a clever way of getting around MotoGP's testing restrictions, giving them an extra day on the bike ahead of the start of the 2022 preseason.
"Mind-blowing" was how Remy Gardner described it. And a little hard to handle: unused to the power, the Australian gave it a little too much gas out of Quercia, wheelying the KTM RC16 then grabbed the brakes a little too hard at Turn 10, running off track and falling just before he hit the dirt.
Raul Fernandez had spoken at length to KTM test rider Dani Pedrosa, who had given him tips on how to avoid crashing. The Spaniard had been impressed by the seemingly endless power of a MotoGP bike. And even though it was the fastest thing he had ever ridden, he still felt like he was standing still as the other bikes passed him by.
But back to the riders doing the hard grind of testing. Here's a quick look at what each factory was doing.
While Maverick Viñales was grinding out the laps trying to get a better handle on the Aprilia RS-GP, working on setup and riding style, teammate Aleix Espargaro spent some time on the first prototype of the 2022 RS-GP, before returning to work on setup for 2021.
The major area for Aprilia was aerodynamics. Next year, manufacturers get a choice of two different fairings again, as the development restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic ease. Aprilia got caught out in 2020, stuck with a low-drag fairing which didn't provide enough downforce at high-speed circuits. For 2022, Aprilia are aiming to have an aero package which will work at high-speed tracks, and another that will work at low speed tracks.
It wasn't just fairings. Aprilia were also working on various other bits and pieces of aero, including covers for the front wheel and forks, to reduce drag and channel cooling air at brake calipers.
Ducati had relatively little to test as well. Both Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller continued work on the new fairing which Ducati have brought. That fairing is much steeper and smaller than the current version on the bike.
Jack Miller contested that the fairing was too small. "It's no smaller than bikes I've ridden in the past, in terms of the Hondas and stuff like that," the Australian said. "Fairing's initial thing was a good feeling with it. For sure there'll be some more steps to be made, but I think we've found a decent direction on which way to go, and there'll be evolutions of those to come in the future, hopefully."
Ducati were also working on parts for 2021. Some of those could turn up quite quickly. "We've got a couple of pieces that will be on the bike in Texas, I think, you'll see that appear. They're not hard to miss," Miller said. "But that's how it goes with testing, you get some stuff works, some stuff just doesn't."
Unlike most of the other manufacturers, Ducati did not have a complete 2022 prototype for the riders to test. That was not much of a concern, however. "About the other manufacturers with new bikes, I'm not worried because I know how much work Ducati are doing and I'm sure that when it will be ready our bike will be very competitive and strong," Pecco Bagnaia said. Given that the Ducati is currently looking like the best bike on the grid, based on results, Bagnaia's confidence is not misplaced.
One absentee at the test was Johann Zarco. After spending one day on the bike at Misano, he had surgery for arm pump on Wednesday. That was a success, and he should be fit in time for Austin.
All eyes were on Honda and their new prototype for 2022. MotoMatters.com contributor Niki Kovács has made a series of shots of the bike, and I will be writing much more in depth about the visible changes on the RC213V tomorrow. The fact that team principal Alberto Puig referred to it in passing as a new concept is a sign of how different it is.
Marc Marquez spent a few laps on the 2022 prototype in the morning, before turning his attention to the 2021 bike for the rest of the test. He spent his time evaluating the parade of frames which HRC has brought to races in recent months, and finding what worked best.
"In the first part of the afternoon I focused more on this year's bike," Marquez said. "Because we still tried different frames and different concepts also."
Pol Espargaro was working the other way around – inevitable, given that there were not enough of the 2022 prototypes to go around. "We were focusing yesterday on trying to take the best package possible [for this year] and today we were focusing a little bit more on the future, on 2022," the Repsol Honda rider said.
Espargaro was broadly positive about the new Honda. "The bike feels good, but it's a brand new bike. It needs to keep developing until the preseason of next year. Still a lot of time so there is margin to improve."
Espargaro's feed back was different to that of Marc Marquez, however. Alberto Puig viewed that as a positive, however. "When something is new, it's very difficult that you get exactly the same feedback from all the riders," the Repsol Honda team manager said. "But this is the good point, that you can get some from one, different from another one, in different topics or aspects of the machine. But finally, out of all the info you collect, you can make like a base map of the bike on what riders are saying. So it's too early to make a clear statement about the situation, because we are still testing."
At KTM, there was a new fairing, aimed at improving downforce. Brad Binder did not get a chane to test the fairing, as it spent most of the day in Miguel Oliveira's garage. Oliveira was happy after the test, as he had found some of the feeling with the RC16 which he had been missing in the last few races.
That recent slump in form was a major focus for KTM. After a poor start, which was put down to the asymmetric Michelin front, the Austrian factory bounced back with podiums at Mugello and the Sachsenring, and wins at Barcelona and Spielberg. But since then, the KTM has started to go backward again.
"We had a very strong period already where we have really been podium contenders, and the last races it was not like that," team manager Mike Leitner explained. "So it was really important to confirm some roads we took, and hopefully this will help us in the last four races to make another step."
The work for the Suzuki riders was also split between 2021 and 2022. Both Alex Rins and Joan Mir spent time working with Suzuki's ride-height device, finding the right setting. "Good conclusions with the rear device," Rins said. "I did two long runs this morning and it was quite good."
In addition to testing the new engine again – not yet the final version, according to Suzuki boss Ken Kawauchi – the riders also tested a new frame.
Both riders were happy with the engine, praising the extra power, but Joan Mir was particularly impressed by the new chassis. It gave more stability in braking, and though it sacrificed some agility, the trade-off was worth it, he believed. "The direction is quite good of the chassis, looks like it's stopping better, but also there are some negative things," Mir said. "Normally when you gain something you lose a little bit of agility or something. Now we have to work on the bike, the geometry and all of this, to make it better on turning."
That chassis could be used in 2021, though more testing is required. Mir was impressed that he had been able to set a fast time on a soft tire on the new frame, something Suzuki has struggled with for the past couple of years.
Finally, to Yamaha. Much of the development is currently resting on the shoulders of Fabio Quartararo: Franco Morbidelli is still recovering from injury, and Valentino Rossi is retiring at the end of the year. Not having to test is one of the perks of ending his career, he said. "Sincerely speaking I will not miss the tests in the future! Because it's always hard, hard work physically and mentally. And it's difficult. It's the hard part of our job. I prefer the race weekends!" Rossi remains a Sunday rider to the end. Wednesday tests never have been his thing.
Quartararo was happy to be shouldering the burden of testing. "It's the first time I'm the first rider to try the first prototype," the Frenchman said. "But I feel good in this position, to be a kind of test rider. And I think it was positive, I could give some really great comments about the bike and my feeling, and I think it's one of my strong points, to say what is happening on the bike, and we can see clearly on the data."
Quartararo spent some time on the 2022 bike in the morning, before switching back to concentrate on the remaining season. He still has a championship to win, and seized the opportunity of a test to try some changes in suspension and the swingarm they hadn't had a chance to give a go on a race weekend. But those changes did not bring any improvement. Hardly surprising, given that the Frenchman has been on the podium in 8 of the 14 races so far.
Franco Morbidelli spent some time on the 2021 prototype Yamaha M1 on Tuesday, but the Italian has only just returned from knee surgery and has little experience on the 2021 bike. Despite that, he rated the 2022 bike a success, as far as he could tell. "Yesterday I've been trying the new specification, and I felt quite good, I'm quite happy with it," Morbidelli said. "And today I was just trying to increase the feeling with the 21 bike, and try to get better with it, and try to understand what I need to improve."
His testing was restricted a little by his knee. "I'm a bit tired, especially the leg. The leg is very tired and a bit swollen. But it's OK," Morbidelli said. "For sure my physical condition is not ideal to test, but I try to give some feedback if I'm asked. I try to make my contribution to Yamaha if I'm asked. Of course, I tell them to take into consideration my physical condition and my kilometers on both bikes, the '21 and '22 and on bikes in general."
With testing done, the teams have packed up their gear and shipped part off to Austin for the Grand Prix of the Americas, and the rest back to factories in Europe or workshops ready for the Jerez test in November. The first test of the 2022 preseason is in the books.
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