The Monday after Jerez was the first chance that the teams and factories got to work on their bikes since the entire design was homologated ahead of the MotoGP season opener at Qatar. Given the oft-discussed weird start to the 2022 season, where the teams never seemed to have more than 5 minutes of normal or consistent conditions, having a whole day with a dry track allowed everyone some badly-needed time to work on some very basic stuff.
Of course, not everything was perfect. The weather was significantly cooler than it had been on Sunday, and the wind picked up considerably. There was also a nice thick layer of Michelin rubber, laid down in Sunday's race, the with the MotoE class, also Michelin-shod, adding yet more to the track surface. If anyone had hoped to work on low grip conditions, they would have to create them themselves by running very, very old tires.
Starting first with satellite riders – real satellite riders, that is, not the factory-backed riders in junior teams like Pramac – and rookies. When you have no new parts to test, then what you work on is setup, and especially the kind of setup changes that you don't have time to try during a race weekend.
Take, for example, Marco Bezzecchi. "We tried something on the setting that we didn't have time to try during the race weekend, because in the race weekend you have to go too fast to try!" the Mooney VR46 Ducati rider said. "So we made some big changes on the bike. Just to understand…. I was working on the difference that I couldn't feel on the riding. Just the settings and something on the electronics."
Or RNF WithU Yamaha's Darryn Binder. "The plan was to try just a couple different setups to see if we can try and find something that makes me feel a bit more comfortable, to help me improve," the South African rookie said. "I feel like as the tire got more used we've started to find a good setup that really helped me maintain good speed with a used tire."
The point of trying setup changes is to see what happens when you change a given variable, and that was something Binder discovered to his detriment. "When I put in the new tire I didn't feel the same advantage with that setup. So I was a little bit disappointed. I was hoping that if I was faster with the used tires when I put in the new, I expected to make a nice big step and I wasn't able to. So that was a little bit disappointing, but at least now we know that definitely helps create more grip and works better with the used tire."
Though Enea Bastianini is what you might regard as a "true" satellite rider, equipped with a one-year-old Ducati Desmosedici GP21 in the Gresini squad, the fact that he has won two races already and led the championship for the first part of the season means he is in Gigi Dall'Igna's good graces, and that means he gets access to upgrades.
On Monday at Jerez, Bastianini got a chance to try the 2022-spec fairing, a slimmer affair and with less side resistance, making it easier to fling the bike from side to side. "The new one is more slim," the Italian noted. "At the start, it was strange for me, in the change of direction it’s really fast, but it's a little bit more unstable. But it depends, in this track was okay. In another track, I don’t know. But if the race was starting now I’d use the new fairing."
While the satellite riders were working on setup, the factories had a surprisingly large number of parts to test, in addition to working on setup of their own. A look at the number of laps posted gives you an idea of who had the most work to do. The lap leaderboard? Pol Espargaro, Repsol Honda, 85 laps; Franco Morbidelli, Monster Energy Yamaha, 83 laps; Alex Marquez, LCR Honda, 80 laps; Fabio Quartararo, Monster Energy Yamaha, 78 laps.
At Yamaha, Quartararo and Morbidelli had a couple of major things to try. The first was a new swingarm, to help with rear grip, and the other was a new front fender, aimed at reducing drag and improving the cooling of the bike.
First, the swingarm. Below is the standard swingarm fitted to the 2022 Yamaha, as spotted by MotoMatters.com contributor and photographer Niki Kovács.
Compare this with the new swingarm being tested by the factory Yamaha riders.
The rear section, where the chain disappears toward the rear wheel, has obviously been beefed up. There is more material, and the interior section is more rounded. On the old version, the gap for the chain extends further back and is much more elliptical.
The objective is fairly self-evident. Yamaha are searching for more edge grip, and one of the main ways of doing that is by changing the shape and stiffness of the swingarm, to change the way the tire is kept in contact with the asphalt when the bike is close to full lean angle.
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