November 12th, 2014
Jorge Lorenzo tops the timesheets at 2pm on the final day of testing at Valencia, leading a very close group consisting of the two Repsol Hondas, the two Movistar Yamahas and the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha of Pol Espargaro. Both Honda and Yamaha are giving their 2015 bikes a run out, Nicky Hayden is out on the RC213V-RS, while the rest of the field are growing accustomed to their new mounts. Stefan Bradl and Loris Baz are testing Kayaba suspension, and evaluating them for use next season.
Testing started in silence, the track still far too wet from yesterday's rain. But the sun came out and the wind picked up, and riders hit the track shortly before twelve. Michele Pirro was the first rider out, the Ducati test rider testing conditions and helping to create a dry line. Conditions are now good, the track getting warmer as it goes on.
Times at 2pm:
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Hunting the Honda
As you read this, the wheels are probably still turning and the spanners still twirling at Valencia’s first off-season tests where the game is the same as it’s been for years: hunt the Honda.
We all know the RC213V is the best bike on the MotoGP grid right now (it’s won three riders’ titles and four constructors’ crowns over the last four years) and we all know why: because while Yamaha’s YZR-M1 carves the line of beauty – nicely arced all the way through the corner – the Honda is in and out, front tyre tucked on entry and a flurry of wheelspin (not too much, not too little) on the exit.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the rained-out second day of testing at Valencia:
It is a good job the post-race test at Valencia is three days long. The weather in Valencia in November is usually very good, but it can turn, and you can lose track time to rain. That was certainly the case on Tuesday, rain starting early in the morning, and coming in waves all day. It meant the track was wet throughout Tuesday, only the depth of water on the track varying. The heavy rain meant that most rider decided to sit out the day, only ten riders putting in any laps.
With the track the way it was, the finishing order was not really relevant. What was more important was gaining time on the track, and for several riders, getting to grips with Bridgestone's wet tires. Eugene Laverty, Loris Baz, and Marco Melandri, all of whom have moved over from World Superbikes, needed to adjust their minds to the Bridgestones. Even Melandri, who rode on Bridgestones the last time he was in MotoGP in 2010, said the feeling had changed a lot. The rear tire got up to temperature much faster than before, Melandri said.
Only ten riders ventured out on the wet track at Valencia, the rain coming and going all day long leaving the track soaked. Danilo Petrucci ended the day as fastest, posting a quick time when conditions let up a fraction. Scott Redding and Alvaro Bautista did a lot of laps, Redding wanting the time in the wet, Bautista familiarizing himself with a new bike in the wet.
The weather forecast is much better for Wednesday, with all of the riders hoping for a full day of testing to complete their test plan.
Times at the end of the day:
The Grand Prix Commission meeting at Valencia tied up a number of loose ends in the 2015 regulations, most to do with safety, some to do with basic practicalities of racing.
The most significant changes are to the rule for jump starts and for exceeding track limits. Currently, the penalty for exceeding the track limit is a mandatory loss of position, but the races at Misano showed the impracticality of such a rule. Jonas Folger ran straight on at Turn 1, and had to drop back several seconds into the middle of a group battling for position. Race Direction now has the option of imposing other penalties based on their perception of advantage gained. The decision will allow the imposition of a time penalty, or any other penalty they wish.
The jump start procedure has also been changed, allowing a ride to move before the lights are out, and then stop again, and Race Direction once again decide whether they gained an advantage or not.
One change improving safety is forcing riders to wear helmets while riding the track on scooters. Given the speed which some riders reach on their familiarization laps, it is a much needed rule change. To save costs, riders will now also be allowed to rent dirt bikes or other machinery to use to get to know the track, rather than being forced to ship scooters around the world in team containers.
Heavy rain falling since this morning has made for a very wet track at Valencia. Though the track opened at 10am for the second full day of testing, it remained silent for the first two hours, riders only venturing out shortly after noon. By 2pm, nine men had put in laps, though lap times were a very long way off being fast. Yonny Hernandez led the way, ahead of his new Pramac Ducati teammate Danilo Petrucci, while Scott Redding was third.
The riders who are out are focusing more on getting to understand the bikes in the wet, rather than chasing lap times. The weather is starting to lift, but it is still cold, and the track will take a long time to dry. There are several riders who are unlikely to go out at all in the wet.
Times at 2pm:
Press releases from the teams after the first day of testing at Valencia:
Despite being exhausted from a full weekend (make that a complete season) of racing, the entire MotoGP grid was once again out in force on Monday, turning the first laps of the 2015 preseason (full times here). All except Nicky Hayden, that is, as Honda have brought only one RC213V-RS to Valencia, and there was no point for Hayden to spend more time on the RCV1000R, as that bike will be replaced by the new RS for next season. Hayden gets his turn on the bike tomorrow, weather permitting.
There was both old and new on display at the test, some things virtually unchanged, others radically different. New riders joined the grid, as well as two new factories, and a reshuffling of riders and crew between the garages.
The biggest change was at Suzuki, which saw Aleix Espargaro move from the Forward Yamaha team into the new Suzuki squad, where he was joined by Maverick Viñales, fresh from Moto2. Both riders were very impressed with the GSX-RR, praising its handling and the bike. "It was much better than I expected," Aleix told us. The chassis was "fantastic" he said, allowing him to lap within nine tenths of his qualifying lap on Saturday. The bike was very easy to turn, and he could carry a lot more corner speed as the bike was more compact, allowing him to hang off the bike more.
Marco Melandri is to complete Aprilia's MotoGP line up for 2015. The Italian had been widely expected to switch back to MotoGP from World Superbikes, but confirmation came only on Monday at the Valencia test. Melandri will line up alongside Alvaro Bautista in the Gresini Aprilia team for next year.
The signing of Marco Melandri was not a surprise. The Italian still had another year to run on his contract to race in World Superbikes with Aprilia, but with the factory's decision to withdraw their factory team from WSBK, his options were less clear. Aprilia were keen for Melandri to move to MotoGP with the factory, but Melandri appeared to be reluctant to make the jump. After his options ran out in World Superbikes, he was left with nowhere else to go.
Below is the press release issued by Aprilia on Melandri's signing:
MARCO MELANDRI TO RACE WITH APRILIA IN MOTOGP
THE RIDER FROM RAVENNA WILL RACE UNDER THE ITALIAN TEAM'S COLOURS IN 2015
ROMANO ALBESIANO: "AN ITALIAN DUO TO TAKE ON APRILIA'S NEW CHALLENGE"
MARCO MELANDRI: "A VERY AMBITIOUS GOAL, BUT WE'RE READY"
Jorge Lorenzo topped the first day of the test at Valencia, leading a Yamaha clean sweep of the timesheets. Lorenzo ended the day just ahead of the two Monster Tech 3 Yamahas, with his Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi bringing up the rear.
Andrea Iannone was the fastest Ducati, making his debut in the factory Ducati team, but the Ducati riders had nothing new to test, the new bike coming only at Sepang in February. Both Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso leave Valencia tonight, and will not ride tomorrow.
Cal Crutchlow led the riders who swapped bikes, ending two tenths quicker than his fastest lap of the race on Sunday, and ahead of Michele Pirro on the test Ducati, and Yonny Hernandez on the Pramac bike. Stefan Bradl tried the Forward Yamaha for the first time, also beating his race time from Sunday by three tenths of a second.
The test saw the debut of two new manufacturers, both Suzuki and Aprilia taking to the track. The Suzukis were immediately impressive, Aleix Espargaro setting the 14th fastest time, but just 1.3 seconds off the pace of Lorenzo, and over a second quicker than Randy De Puniet had been in the test. The Aprilia factory riders Marco Melandri and Alvaro Bautista only took to the track at the very end of the test, after Aprilia test rider Alex Hofmann had given the bikes a shakedown.
Times at 4pm:
Motorcycle racing is expanding further into Asia. The World Superbike series has agreed a three-year deal with the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to stage a round of WSBK at the track.
The track at Buriram was completed earlier this year, and had already staged several rounds of car racing, as well as a round of the FIM Asia Road Racing championship. After an inspection by Dorna and the FIM, the track was homologated earlier this year, and will now see a visit from World Superbikes. The WSBK round is seen by Dorna as a test for MotoGP, with a chance of the premier class visiting the circuit from 2016 onwards.
Though the facilities at Buriram appear to be first rate, the only concern about the track is it is in the middle of nowhere. Bangkok is four hours away, and the town of Buriram is home to 15,000. Accommodation, just for the teams, could be difficult, let alone the crowds they hope to have.
Thailand is one of three extra rounds expected to be added to the World Superbike schedule for 2015. The 12 races held this year will also feature on the calendar, with Thailand added and Dorna hoping to add two more races. The World Superbike schedule is expected to be published next Tuesday, 18th November.
Below is the official press release issued by Dorna:
The 2015 season has kicked off at Valencia with the first day of the test. Riders took to the track shortly after noon, with Aleix Espargaro the first man out on track on the Suzuki.
Jorge Lorenzo currently leads a trio of Yamahas, with a brace of Ducatis following. Cal Crutchlow is 0.3 slower on the LCR Honda than he was on the Ducati during the race, but is picking up speed quickly. The man whose place he took, Stefan Bradl, is a tenth slower on the Forward Yamaha than he was on the Honda. Maverick Vinales is adapting to MotoGP quickly, three seconds off the pace of Lorenzo, but still a good time for his first run on a MotoGP bike. Jack Miller is four seconds slower than Lorenzo, but has a lot more to learn.
The test finishes at 5pm on Monday.
Times at 2:55pm: