Extra Test Sessions For MotoGP Rookies Possible

The 2010 MotoGP season is set to be a bumper year for rookies, with a grand total of 6 newcomers entering the class. Hiroshi Aoyama, Hector Barbera, Alvaro Bautista, Aleix Espargaro and Marco Simoncelli are all moving up to MotoGP from the 250cc class, while Ben Spies is parachuting in from World Superbikes. The influx of new blood into the class - including some of the most eagerly-awaited names for a couple of years - should add an extra level of excitement to MotoGP, with the new riders rated very highly indeed.

But this influx of fresh talent also faces the biggest challenge ever to confront MotoGP rookies: The cost-cutting measures put in place at the beginning of the year including huge reductions in testing, cutting the number of test days by half. This leaves the 6 rookies entering the class facing a new season, on a new bike and new tires, with just 8 days of testing behind them.

To remedy this situation, the MSMA, the association of manufacturers, is lobbying the Grand Prix Commission to schedule a special test just for the rookies at Sepang in November. The idea is to allow the newcomers a couple of extra days on the bike to allow them to start the year on a slightly more equal footing with the regular riders.

Opinions among the teams are divided, according to GPOne.com. Suzuki is very keen to put in an extra session with their new signing Alvaro Bautista, but Herve Poncharal, head of the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team which will be fielding Ben Spies, objects to the tests on the grounds of costs, according to GPOne.com. The factories may have extra funds they can spend on the extra testing, but for private teams such as Poncharal's Tech 3 outfit, the situation is considerably more difficult. As Poncharal is also the head of IRTA, his voice carries some weight, both in the paddock and in the Grand Prix Commission.

The attempts to save money by limiting engine mileage were always going to cause problems. The unusually large influx of rookies into the class next season merely highlights the problem with limiting testing.

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One of the great things about the Yamaha Italia WSBK team is the sheer force of will that is Massimo 'Maio' Meregalli. You always had the feeling that he did absolutely everything he could to put his riders in a position to win, expected 100% in return and lived and died with the success of his riders.

So it's a very bad sign that Herve Poncharal is lobbying against giving Ben Spies a chance at an extra test on the M1. Spies has shown that he can adapt quickly, but he did have a full preseason of testing on the R1.

On a related note: is Ben's ride still considered a "factory bike in a satellite team?" There was some talk before he announced the MotoGP move that he was promised a factory-level bike.

Why is that "a bad sign"? Herve is not "lobbying against" Spies only, don't forget that this would affect all rookies. Yes, there are actually more rookies than just Spies around next season.
And Herve wouldn't be very stressed out about his rookie having not enough testing anyway. After all Spies has been riding in MotoGP twice last year (even if it was with another bike) and will have an extra test option at the race in Valencia as well.
So, Spies and Espargaro's teams would probably be the ones the least interested in this proposal as both already have experience in the class, compared to zero experience for the other rookies.

What I don't quite understand though is why they would schedule the test for Malaysia. Of course the objection of finances is absolutely justified in this case. Why not schedule a European test some time early next year instead or simply let them stay one or two days longer after a regular test?

Herve is using the leverage of his more experienced "rookie" (though it is thrice, not twice). 

But it also seems weird to schedule a test then and there.  The 2010 bikes will not be complete (probably not even developed in the short time after testing in Valencia), so what would be ridden for that test? 

It certainly makes more sense for the rookies to be allowed to show up a day early for a Spring test when their new bikes are finished and the teams will be headed there anyway.

..."rookie" bikes?!

They need to get this settled if they want to attract new entries.  It is not only the new riders, but new bikes and new teams that will need this additional practice...  unless Dorna and the FIM want to continue to doom the prospect of new entrants before they even have a chance to develop.

I don't think there is much in saying that a rider is or is not getting a "factory" bike anymore. It seems that the line between customer and factory bikes has blurred quite a bit it the past few years, especially since there is often a disparity between factory teammates' bikes. Elias was riding a "factory" bike this year, yet he repeated, ad-naseum, that he hasn't received any updates (probably because his factory status was results-based). So what is a factory bike today, might not be tomorrow.
The only true customer bike appeared to be the Scot Honda, and I suppose the Hayate, but who really knows? (well, we can be sure about the Hayate)

Mr. Poncharal's pockets only run so deep, so I don't fault him for his position, and I think a rookie's season is supposed to be just that, a rookie season. Every rider had one, every rider suffered for a year, and year two is do or die. That is why most contracts are made for just that length. I think it actually shows Herve's confidence in his rider, not that he wishes to do him a disservice.

The Malasian test is held there because the factories believe that its data can be tailored across the spectrum to work at most tracks.

In my opinion, give all riders more time, or none. All of the data goes to the same hard drive in the end, and the rookies shouldn't be given a comfort zone just for that sake.

Rossi himself stated that he will be riding the 2010 Yamaha at Valencia.

All good points, all well-stated, especially kdubb's "a rookie's season is supposed to be just that, a rookie season."

why not just arrange a test somewhere in europe for the rookies...like in barcelona somewhere...or portimao

or is that just too logical?

The biggest expense here is shipping the bikes and the equipment about, much of which is due to be flown back to Japan. Flying it (and the Japanese technicians) back again is more expensive than flying the riders and the crew members over to Sepang. Then there's the weather: Anywhere in Europe in November - including Jerez, or even Almeria, in the driest corner of Europe - has a good chance of being cold and potentially wet.

I'm not a fan of Herve Poncharal and his ideas of socialist racing. Bringing everyone down to the lowest common denominator. Isn't Spies already racing for 'free' (paid by Yamaha) as far as he is concerned?

Maybe I'm having a fantasy, but I'd like to see just about all the artificial limits removed (that Herve Poncharal aways seems to be spearheading) and let the boys go at it. In the end there is only one winner anyway. Let the strong survive!

How is a rookie supposed to get up to speed with such limited practice? Should they really have to throw a year away to get used to the bikes?

Maybe Herve should focus on increasing his income instead of trying to kneecap those with more resources down to his level.

Of course I'm a total outsider who watches the races from afar, but all these artificial limits are depressing to see. Sealed motors, the stuff about running 1000cc stock motors, hand me down rookie racers from the factories, limited test laps...it's all backasswards imo.

Rookie season: Isn't that the semi-throw-away first season where a new rider learns the bike, the tracks, and an intelligent sponsor harbors limited expectations for his results? Where is it written that a rookie has a right to go into the opening race of the new season feeling just as comfortable about his bike as a veteran?

No, we don't need extra practice time for rookies. They can learn as they ride, just like their predecessors from decades before have done.

And that'll cut down the crap about the "instant aliens" who are going to join the grid.

Well, I think the point of those advancing this idea is to place the current rookies on a level playing field of rookies of old, just as you mention. That is, rookies in the past had much more testing time (both in terms of pre-season and pre-race set up time allowed on track) because the testing wasn't as curtailed then as it is now.

Of course your notion is well taken that, basically a rookie is a rookie and has to roll with the punches as they step up to *the* big league. I must admit, however, that I have mixed feelings over the extra testing idea whatever they decide to do with it.