2022 Jerez Test Preview - A Lot Of Work Awaits In Andalusia

It is a slightly different run up to the start of winter testing for the 2022 season. For the past few decades, testing for the following season began a couple of days after the end of the current season, riders taking to the track on the Tuesday at Valencia after the final race. Dorna, the FIM, and IRTA had already decided to make a change before Covid-19 struck in 2020, but the global pandemic meant there was no testing at all at the end of last year.

So this year is the start of the new normal. The season ends at Valencia, everyone gets a few days off, and then the paddock heads south to Jerez for two days of testing. It's better all round for everyone: rider get a few days to recover from the final race weekend, teams get a chance to catch their breath again, and prepare for their new riders/bikes, and the factories have time to prepare the new bikes and parts to be tested ahead of the test.

Jerez is also a much better test track than Valencia. It has a bit of almost everything: slow corners, fast corners, hard acceleration in low gears, hard acceleration in high gears, etc. All that is missing is a very high speed back straight, but the Sepang test in February should soon put that right.

The only losers are the small group of fans who stayed on at Valencia for the first test of the following year. But given that those fans were the true die hards, with the will and financial means to stay on at Valencia are just as likely to travel to Jerez for a few more days of MotoGP action before the winter forces cold turkey withdrawal on them.

After two years of engine freeze and relatively limited aerodynamics, the factories have plenty to be getting on with. So here's a quick look at who is testing what at Jerez on Thursday and Friday.

Aprilia – work continues apace

Aprilia are the one factory which has not been subject to the engine freeze, as a result of still having concessions. As a result, the Noale factory has been able to bring a string of upgrades, including at least one new engine through this season. That leaves them with less pressing work to do. Aleix Espargaro and Lorenzo Savadori will continue to work on the 2022 Aprilia RS-GP, though nothing radical is expected. The focus is on refining the Aprilia to reduce or eliminate its weaknesses, and improve its strengths.

Maverick Viñales is likely to lose the crown of winter testing champion – the least significant unofficial prize in motorcycle racing, as he continues his process of adaptation to the Aprilia. Viñales has shown flashes of improving on the bike at some races, but has sunk without a trace at others. At Jerez, he has the time to work on understanding the Aprilia, and how to make it go fast. And to work on understanding the differences between riding a V4 and an inline four.

Ducati – don't ruin what you've got

How do you make a perfect bike better? The risk is that Ducati's ambition outweighs what they already have, and that they lose their way in trying to build something better. That was not a concern for Jack Miller, he said after the final race of the season. "We have tried some things in terms of parts for 2022 with the test in Misano and whatnot," the Australian told the press conference. "My honest opinion is everything is only better. So, the rest of them are all in trouble next year because it’s going to be a big one."

At Misano, the most visible change was a new fairing, and Ducati will undoubtedly bring a new aerodynamics package. There were new frames at the Misano test as well, and given Ducati's biggest weakness remains in turning, work will certainly continue here as well.

The biggest question mark is what Ducati do with their engine. Gigi Dall'Igna and his engine team have had their hands tied behind their backs for the past two years, and must have had time to develop new ideas and explore new areas. The GP22 will surely not be slower, the only question is just how much faster it will be.

Then there is the typical Ducati ingenuity. There were already rumors of Ducati breaking new ground once again at Jerez, of having found another loophole in the rules and driven a coach and horses through it. The one thing you can rely on Ducati doing is exploring new ideas.

In terms of riders, the factory and Pramac four will be hard at work with developing next year's bikes. In the Gresini and VR46 teams, Fabio Di Giannantonio and Marco Bezzecchi get their first taste of MotoGP machinery, and must start their process of adapting to a bigger, much more power MotoGP machine.

The real interest will come with the 2021 rookies. Jorge Martin has been exceptional, and no reason for him to be slow. Enea Bastianini and Luca Marini will be on much more recent machinery, and should make a big step forward. Bastianini, in particular has show flashes of brilliance on a two-year-old bike, so a greatly updated machine should make his life a little easier, and a little more interesting.

Honda – All in for the future

Honda is by far the most interesting prospect at the Jerez test. At Misano 2, we got our first glimpse of a radically revised RC213V. New engine, new airbox, new frame, revised weight distribution, new fairing, new air inlet. The tire pressure valves on the wheels might have been unchanged, but the rest was completely new. And I'm not 100% certain about the tire valves.

The problem Honda face is that they are desperately short handed for the test. Marc Marquez faces an uncertain fate after having banged his head during training and suffered what could be a career-threatening injury to the nerves in his eye. Double vision may once again leave him sidelined, for either the short or the long term. What we do know is that he will not be riding at the MotoGP test at Jerez, and his input will be sorely missed.

Pol Espargaro will not be missing from the test, but his participation will likely be limited. The Spaniard banged himself up with a cold tire highside during practice, and was forced to miss the race on Sunday. He is still having issues with damaged ribs, which will make riding difficult but not impossible. But his input is sorely needed to help determine the direction HRC's new machines.

While stalwart test rider Stefan Bradl will continue to grind out the laps, Alex Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami are also likely to get drafted in to try the 2022 Honda RC213V. HRC need all the feedback they can cet.

KTM – seeking calm

KTM usually have a veritable mountain of parts to test, and this test is likely to be no different. At least with two days of track time, the chances are that Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira will have time to sort a lot of the wheat from the chaff, and determine a direction for KTM's engineers to follow. All too often in the past, KTM have lost their way making so many changes to the bike.

Over at Tech3, the KTM satellite squad welcomes an all new line up. Newly crowned Moto2 champion Remy Gardner and his teammate and erstwhile title rival Raul Fernandez get their second ride out on the KTM RC16, after already having swung a leg over the bike at Misano 2. There are a gaggle of outstanding rookies joining MotoGP for 2022, and Fernandez and Gardner are the best of them.

Suzuki – Catching up

Alex Rins and Joan Mir face a veritable tsunami of new parts, as Suzuki push to close the deficit that has developed in recent years. The Hamamatsu factory is all too aware of the gap its competitors has opened, and has worked hard to close the gap in the second half of 2021. A new holeshot device, and different frames have helped.

At Jerez, Suzuki will continue work on the new engine, and have new aero and frames to test too. After last Sunday's race at Valencia, Joan Mir was keen to emphasize just how important this test is. "Apart from that, the most important thing is not to be fast in the test, that is important, but the most important thing is the information. We have to do a lot of laps, Suzuki will bring the two test riders they have, [Takuya] Tsuda and Sylvain [Guintoli]," Mir explained.

"They have also things to try at the beginning of the test and everything, and then we will try the things that matter more, there are a lot of things, thankfully, or hopefully," Mir told us, doing his best to be optimistic. "And we have to focus in many areas. The interesting thing about this test is that we didn't have just one or two things to try, we have plenty of things to work on the details of the bike. I think we have margin to improve this year for the next one, and we for sure will try chassis, we will try the aerodynamics side, we will try the engine, because it's not frozen any more. And this is really important. It's even more important than this race, which was super important. But to give good information and to give the correct feedback to our engineers, it will be the key for next year."

Joan Mir couldn't manage to score a single win in his title defense this year. Mir appears to have vowed never to let that happen again.

Yamaha – stability wanted

It has been quite the year for Yamaha in MotoGP. Riders world champion, departure of an icon for Yamaha and MotoGP, the split with Maverick Viñales, the arrival of Andrea Dovizioso, and that's just the big issues they have had to deal with this year. What is needed, first and foremost, is stability, and a sense that everyone has a place in the teams.

What is needed in the second place is more horsepower. As simple as that. Fabio Quartararo is the latest lead Yamaha rider to complain of not having the tools to do battle with the Ducatis, and he will no doubt not be the last. But the Yamaha riders are having to ride out of their skins to match the pace of the Desmosedicis, and having a bit of extra free speed to make their lives easier on the straights and in the corners will be welcome. Yamaha's engineers have had two years to come up with something. They will very much have to deliver.


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Comments

7 am forecast on RTVE1 said dry for the next couple of days at Jerez , Valencia however ... 

 

On The Race podcast Simon Patterson noted that it's not a nerve issue but a muscle one causing Marquez's current eye issues and should be a straightforward fix.

6 weeks ago I got double vision because a tumor busted from my sinus into my eye pressing on my eye muscle. Blindness ensued shortly thereafter as it pinched the optic nerves as well. 5 cyber knife treatments (precise x-ray, .06mm focus) later, and I can read license plates, car brands and street signs (I was literally weeping as my wife drove and I noticed this). Odd case, may not last, but real. Is a 25 Gy beam of x-ray photons surgery? I'll leave that to docs.

I don't know you but recognise the tag from many comments here.  Just wanted to say all the best for your continued recovery and future health!  Sounds like super scary stuff you've been through.

Likewise to Marc, this is very worrying.  As expressed by others, I find he brings a dynamism to the racing that was sorely missed throughout most of the last two years.  Heal up champ(s).

Can you please give us the 101 on why Marc's first trauma induced diplopia (same nerve palsy as this one) was surgically repaired?

When Mark had the first surgery my thoughts were: he's so darn lucky! This type of surgery is an art not a science. The surgeon literally puts a ruler on the extraocular muscle marks out with a pen, cuts it or pleats it, and stitches it up again.  He uses very basic formulae and educated guesswork to manually mark & shorten the muscle. Shortening the muscle takes up the slack created by the reduced signal of the damaged nerve. Too little and it doesn't work, to much and you over shoot causing diplopia the other way - permanently. The binocular vision system is extremely fine tuned and delicately balanced, so tampering with it in such a rudimentary fashion is fraught with difficulties. The diplopia pre-surgery has to be constant 24-7 to have any chance and usually traumatic nerve damage reduces over time so even if the surgeon gets it right the patient's nerve might improve after (especially if it is only months after the injury) and you get diplopia again. My guess is that Mark would have been getting intermittent diplopia (when he was tired or if his head was tiled in a strange position) after the first surgery. That first surgery probably only had a 30%chance of success so he was quite lucky. Luck is Mark's middle name. At least until recently. Also to clear up confusion-there is no surgery to repair nerves. Once a muscle is shortened, subsequent surgeries are even less successful because there is less tissue to work with. I'd say that they are going to wait this one out & perform a Hail Mary surgery if after 6 months it hasn't healed. Riders have their heads in strange positions to ride and the muscles require a fair amount of fusional reserves to maintain constant binocular vision. Mark was lucky the first time but subsequent surgeries will reduce his fusional reserve, or his ability to maintain binocular vision and the all important depth perception needed to catch a ball let alone pilot a motogp bike. He is in a precarious position. But with rest it may come right. Fingers crossed. I should add that for non athletes, this surgery wouldn't even be considered such is the low chance of success, unless just to correct the cosmetic appearance that an eye turn causes. 

So based on what you wrote above, and reading betweenn the lines, If Marc retires from racing part way through next season, it's becuase he's been trying to race a MotoGP bike with double vision or limited depth perception.

A lot of comments have been made about the difficulty of designing meaningful fitness tests for injured riders who want to return. I wonder if they have to do an eye test? Maybe they should start!

The difficulty is that his binocular vision system has less in reserve now and he is getting older. The visual system is very plastic for kids but by the late teens much less so. He has fully adult eyes now and the flexibility to cope with the tightening of an eye muscle through surgery is just not there. The latest injury may very well have been caused by a relatively small head knock. If it recovers this time, the threat of diplopia in future offs is high. It would be impossible to race with double vision, I mean it is difficult to walk with diplopia. I have never looked back to see if Mark changed his head position when riding after the first accident, but it would be interesting because there might be extreme head positons that could cause a diplopia for him instantly and other head positions that would be more comfortable i.e. less tension on the eye muscles. As for eye tests next time you go riding on the road know this there are small amount of people driving with double vision around you. They have zero depth perception and much visual confusion....

Oh that's good... That's very good.

I'm not sure if you're still camped out in this thread, but Puig commented that he will have it reassessed at about Xmas time. He specifically mentioned that they are waiting for the area around the eye to 'deflate'. That could suggest swelling from the knock, which I'm assuming could also apply the pressure that's causing his issues.

On the Twitter photo you can see his eye through the lens. Is that white patch on his LHS the sunglasses frame or a patch? Maybe that's where he's copped the blow.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FETsTKUX0AA0Q-3?format=jpg&name=4096x4096

Keen to hear your thoughts on those new insights. He has no need to get checked up between now and then so the timeframe isn't neccesarily a tell either. Rest up, chill tf out for awhile and see how things shake out.

It is either 4th nerve palsy or it isn't. A fourth nerve palsy is essentially invisible to the naked eye as an observer, except for eye movements where you can see the affected eye. There is no swelling outside. I'd say puig is filling in blanks that he is making up as he goes. Also in the photo Mark is not wearing a patch. 

Puig spinning shit is nothing new. He probably has as much of an idea of where things stand as any of us do.

The Dr said point blank it was 4th nerve palsy, so that's that.

It may have occurred spontaneously which would be troubling and if the diplopia is intermittent then it is super concerning because it makes any attempt at surgery very very difficult, even foolhardy and it might suggest career end. There is not much talk of the crash itself and considering the big crashes he's had since haven't elicited a problem, I'm kind of leaning that way. This is perhaps bigger story than it seems. He's not wearing a patch in the photo and I think he would be if he had constant diplopia. This suggests it's intermittent or happening only in certain head positions like say your chin on your chest looking forward i.e his riding head position. And if the latter is the case then I'd say he needs a miracle. Of course that photo might be old stock too, which is why speculation, even educated, is just speculation. We may have not seen the last of Iker yet... 

Makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it.

Thank you for that detailed and straightforward explanation of the challenges Marc is facing. Mr Emmett has an amazing cadre of followers!

They won't though will they. Guaranteed, come Qatar the yamaha will have the same deficit to the quickest Ducati at the end of the straight and the same bullshit about maximising exit speed electronically and not upsetting the "balance" of the bike will be trotted out and FQ will probably be sulking by Austria (which they shouldn't be going to) in a close threeway title battle having been out dragged to the line by Pecco at 2 previous rounds and he'll finish behind 6 Ducatis.

A 10% bhp deficit is part of their corporate aesthetic, why would they change now as reigning champions?

Six times Yamaha took pole position in 2021.  That is the fastest lap around the track.  I wouldn't count them out just yet.

 

Six times Yamaha took pole position in 2021.  That is the fastest lap around the track.  I wouldn't count them out just yet.

 

After reading jkplanB's informative comment re MM93's diplopia issues I'm really concerned that we may be watching another season of MotoGP in 2022 with the world's best rider missing again.  While this may sound like rampant fanboyism I'd politely disagree, MotoGp is poorer for his absence, it's not that the other riders are in any way deficient...he's just that little bit better everywhere and as a true fan of the sport and the spectacle that is this sport I want to see the best there.  Hoping as well that Honda can sort their bike out, the idea of a fully fit MM93 on a HRC weapon is tantalising indeed..

Nah it's not fanboyism, it's fact. The spectacle is far better with him on the track. Even this year when he destroyed Vinales psychologically and messed with Mir etc.. it makes for great theatre. Love him or hate him he will still get a reaction from us all and that brings in the fans and the dollars.

Stoner and Marc are 1a/1b all-time for pure speed and talent in my books and to be frank, I don't think I'm ready to see another one of them depart from the sport early. Marc still has too much left to achieve and the sport needs the very best suited up and dragging their elbow along the ground.

Strong agree.

The top 5 or 6 Ducati riders are top tier. Zarco took two Moto2 titles ferchrissakes, he's a very talented rider, if un peu bizzare.

Quatatararo is the current world champ. He's that good. His looming presence is also what put Marc in the condition he's in, so if you don't believe me, you can take Marc's word for it.

Mir won the championship last year. He's very good.

And there are other's: B. Binder = Very good, Miguel = Very good.

Marc is just a cut above. He contested just over 3/4s of the races this year and took more wins that Petrucci (Petrucci = Good) did in his entire carreer. He basically treated the first 5 rounds as practice to figure out how to WIN on a MotoGP bike with one arm. Then he did it three times. The arm injury that brought him down to 70-85% of full fitness meant that he only won 17% of the GPs (or 21% of the ones that he entered) Peco only won 22% of the GPs that he entered, and Peco has two arms!

I'm bummed, becuase I think there is a real chance that this is the end for Marc, but this has been in the mail for a while. He's been riding WELL over the edge on a GP bike for 9 years. That fact that he can still walk and speak in full sentences is actually pretty impressive!

I hope he recovers and can race again, maybe push FQ to see if he can find another gear, or keep breaking Gigi's heart, but he owes us NOTHING.