Testing at Jerez in November is always a little bit of a gamble, but not a shot in the dark. The weather is usually good, but not reliably so. It can be cold in the mornings and evenings, but the sun will warm the asphalt up enough to make testing worthwhile. The real enemy is the wind, which tends to be rather blustery at this time of the year.
The weather gods are looking relatively kindly on the MotoGP test this Thursday and Friday. It was warm and sunny on Thursday, with much the same expected for Friday. Cooler morning and evening temperatures meant nobody went out until well after 11am, and there wasn't much going on after 5pm, except for the practice starts at the end of the day.
A full analysis of the test will have to wait until it is over, and all the data is in. But there was plenty to see and hear on the first day of the test.
It being the first full test ahead of the winter break, there were a lot of new parts, but they were not evenly distributed. Riders across all factories were sharing parts to test, one getting parts on Thursday while another will get the same parts on Friday. After all, there is no point making enough new parts for all of the riders, if those parts are going to be discarded if they are found wanting.
Joan Mir explained the situation with an interesting piece of sophistry. When asked if he had tried a new chassis – he had, it was clearly visible on his bike – he replied "Of course it's new, but I said that it's a different chassis but not a new chassis, because we don't know if it will be the one we will choose." So perhaps it is fair to say that what he tested was A new chassis, not THE new chassis. And the same could be said for all of the parts brought to the test.
Takaaki Nakagami ended the day as fastest, his best time set on the 2022 Honda RC213V. Whether that is enough to draw conclusions about the new bike is hard to say: Nakagami has always been fast at Jerez. He quickly took top spot in the morning on the bike he raced at Valencia, setting his time on just his fourth lap, and held on to top spot for most of the day. Enea Bastianini and Johann Zarco bested him briefly, but Nakagami took back top position in the final couple of hours. The time he set in the morning would have been good enough for sixth fastest overall.
Pol Espargaro, still beaten up from his monster highside during practice for the final round of 2021 at Valencia, spent the day understanding the tire allocation Michelin have brought for the test. His objective, he explained, was to set a baseline for himself, to give him a better idea of where the 2022 bike is different once he rides it on Friday.
The 2022 bike was in the LCR Honda garage, HRC having brought two very slightly different bikes, as tested at Misano. Alex Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami swapped bikes between them, each trying the two different versions of the 2022 RC213V. Honda had also brought a brand new aero package for the new machine, which Nakagami spent time testing. The best way to describe the aero wings is as a cross between the KTM and the Aprilia. But below is a grainy photo I took with my phone:
At Ducati, the work was being done in the Ducati Lenovo garage and on Jorge Martin's side of the Pramac Ducati garage. Even in the Ducati Lenovo garage, work was being shared between the two sides. Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller both had the new aero tested at Misano, with modified side pods and a different nose section, which Jorge Martin also tested.
The most visually arresting thing which Ducati tested was a new exhaust on Pecco Bagnaia's bike. The lower exhaust pipe, which comes from the front cylinder bank, and normally ends just after it exits the lower fairing, was extended to almost the back of the bike, adding perhaps another 60cm or so to the length of the exhaust. This was either an experiment with torque, or a slight of hand to distract from something else.
Ducati have a new engine at Jerez, based on the engine from the Misano 2 test. It is, as you might expect, a monster: with Johann Zarco and Pecco Bagnaia in the top four, and Zarco, Bagnaia, and Jack Miller three of the top four top speeds – Enea Bastianini posting the second fastest top speed on the Desmosedici GP21 he will be riding next year – the GP22 will not be short of horsepower.
Bastianini was impressively fast all day, the Gresini Ducati rider (Aprilia Gresini is no more, Aprilia are now a fully separate factory, with full factory status, while Gresini are now racing Ducatis) looking like making some real waves in 2022. The Italian was fast, and consistently so during the day.
There as little to report for Aprilia, apart from some aero updates and a new exhaust. Aleix Espargaro expressed some frustration at there not being a new engine at Jerez. He was expecting updates at Sepang, he told us.
On the other side of the garage, Maverick Viñales continues his streak of speed in the off season tests, the Spaniard ending the first day of testing in a very respectable fifth position, just over a third of a second off the pace of Nakagami.
As stated above, Suzuki were testing a new chassis and a new engine. The engine met with approval from both riders. "It looks like the power is a little bit better, a little bit more so it's something great," Joan Mir told us.
Much more work was needed, however. "Like you can imagine, it's a step, but there's work to do, talking about electronics," the 2020 world champion told us. "This is what I mean, tomorrow we have to adjust this well, to understand the real potential of this engine, especially with used and new tires, to see if it can be important. Because at the moment, it's new, there's more power, but we have to understand how to use it properly."
Yamaha had brought a new engine to the test, a revised version of the one used at the Misano test, but the restricted number of engines available meant they were being shared around frugally, to prevent riders from putting too many miles on them. It had more power, but the difference was minimal, Fabio Quartararo said. "More work needs to be done to feel an improvement you know, still some, like you imagine the bike is the first step and we hope for much better in Sepang. Here I expect a little bit more but I hope they keep the best for Sepang and have more speed. That the thing that we need. More speed."
The Yamaha riders also had a new chassis to test, though Fabio Quartararo insisted it was merely the Misano test chassis painted black instead of left blank aluminum. Eagle-eyed photographer and MotoMatters.com contributor Niki Kovács was not convinced however, seeing clear differences between the Misano test and Jerez test chassis.
The Austrian factory debuted new aerodynamics which appeared to be modeled on the Ducati aero package. New side pods were attached to the fairing of the RC16. But as the factory KTM riders did not speak to the media afterward, we do not get to hear their impressions of the bike.
The Jerez test also saw the MotoGP rookies take to the track for the first time in anger. Though both Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner had tried the KTM at the Misano test, this was the first time that they had really had a chance to spend a whole day working on the bike. They were impressed by the engine, of course, but also by the brakes. While Darryn Binder, getting his first taste of a MotoGP bike, was just in awe of the whole experience. The RNF Yamaha team – successor to the Petronas squad – had just kept the fuel tank full and putting new tires on the bike, as Binder had enough to learn about riding a MotoGP bike, before starting to think about electronics, ride-height devices, and the other paraphernalia which go along with premier class machinery.
Fernandez ended as the fastest rookie, and by an impressive margin. The Tech3 KTM rider was half a second quicker than the second Gresini Ducati rider Fabio Di Giannantonio, though both Fernandez and Diggia were capable of running multiple 1'39s. Remy Gardner was a second slower than his former and current teammate, Fernandez, while Marco Bezzecchi was two thirds of a second slower than Gardner, and 1.6 seconds slower than Fernandez. Binder, who has the biggest adaptation to make – the biggest jump in grand prix motorcycle racing is normally from Moto3 to Moto2, so going straight to MotoGP is fairly huge – was the slowest, 4.4 seconds off Takaaki Nakagami, and 2.6 seconds slower than Raul Fernandez.
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