MotoGP got lucky at Jerez. Not perfectly lucky – strong winds made Turn 11 treacherous, and made it hard to assess some of the aerodynamics and chassis changes being tried. But for two days, the sun shone, and temperatures were high enough to ride for most of the day. November in Jerez can be hit and miss, but it was mostly hit, with little time lost to conditions.
With so much track time, it is instructive to note that very few riders actually went for a time attack. Most years, leaving the last test of the year with the fastest time, or at least, a very fast time, is a matter of pride, and of momentum. MotoGP riders want to go into next year having shown their rivals that they have something to worry about, to intimidate them going into the long winter break.
Not 2021, however. Riders were too busy actually testing new parts to waste time on braggadocio. That factories and teams were busy testing new parts suggests a number of things, and has a few possible explanations. Firstly, there has been a dearth of testing over the past two Covid-stricken years, with little winter testing between 2020 and 2021, and limited testing during the 2021 season.
Secondly, there have been development freezes: for 2020, aerodynamics updates were banned, factories had to start the 2021 season with their 2020 aero, with only one update allowed. Engine development was frozen for the 2021 season, meaning the factories and teams were racing with their 2020 engines, the only updates allowed being electronics. So the post-season test at Jerez was the second chance to try the new 2022 engine designs, after their initial run out at Misano in September.
End of the never-ending weekend
Thirdly, and a perhaps underappreciated factor, is the lack of a Valencia test. Previous Jerez tests have taken place after two days of desultory testing at Valencia, on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the final round of the year. This was the first year that the Valencia test has been scrapped, and though that test provided only limited value – a tight track, mentally exhausted riders and teams, cold conditions – it gave enough of a head start for the factories to have already filtered out a lot of data ahead of the Jerez test later in the month. This year, the factories effectively have to cram the equivalent of three days worth of testing into two days.
This is the grand bargain Dorna has made with the teams, much to the irritation of the factories. Teams don't get paid for testing, but they do get paid for racing, so they have agreed to Dorna expanding the calendar of races in exchange for less testing. Good for the teams – less cost, more income – and good for Dorna – more races means more money from TV rights, circuits, and sponsorship. But less time for the factories to test with the official MotoGP riders. (Hence also the money being invested in really, really fast test riders capable of holding their own on a MotoGP grid.)
All this means that there was quite a lot we could learn from the Jerez tests. Not necessarily from raw lap times – there are many unknowns, not least fuel loads, tire choice (unlike race weekends, tire usage is not publicly available), bike configuration etc. But from watching what the factories were testing, and trying to read in between the lines of what the riders told us, those who spoke to the media afterwards.
So here is a look at some of the winners and losers from the Jerez test. Who was testing what, who has the most to be happy about, who has the most to fear. Why Ducati will go home feeling confident, and why Fabio Quartararo will be trying not to think about 2022 until after the Sepang tests.
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