Analyzing the Valencia Moto3 Preseason Test: The Threat of a Spanish Fairy Tale, The New Engine Manufacturer, And Real Hopes for a Shy Girl
A new Moto3 season is about to start and, even if it is obviously too soon to talk about favourite contenders for the final crown, watching the fastest riders on the track and examining lap times can give an idea of how 2013 may play out in the smallest class. After three days of testing at the Ricardo Tormo racetrack -with nicer weather everyday- it is clear that KTM is a step ahead again. But lap times are not everything and these test sessions brought some other interesting facts. Preseason is always a time for hopes, wishes and nice words, as you can conclude from the quotes of riders and teams. Spanish riders have finished as the three fastest on lap times, but we cannot forget, as many of the Spanish sports newspapers do –fortunately not the motorcycle magazines-, Valencia is a home track for them, and things may turn out quite differently at a track outside of Spain. As experience has proved in the past, the start of a season may be quite different to its end.
As many expected, Maverick Viñales looks like being the strongest rider for the upcoming season. The Spaniard was the fastest rider in almost every session and his compatriots Alex Rins and Luis Salom followed him in the final standings. However, does this mean the season will be doomed to be a Spanish fairytale? Of course, it won't be necessarily that way. There are some other quick riders, such as German Jonas Folger, new Aussie hero Jack Miller, last season's biggest Italian surprise Romano Fenati or Great Britain's youngest hope John McPhee. If we talk about technical surprises, the newborn Mahindra-Suter project has showed a great potential on its first serious outing.
Press releases from some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the three-day test at Valencia:
Pol Espargaro has stamped his authority on the Moto2 class at Valencia, leading the overall standings after all three days. Espargaro is two tenths quicker than Mapfre Aspar's Nico Terol, and four tenths faster than Julian Simon. The Moto2 class, like the Moto3 class, sees a trio of Spaniard leading, but the question is whether this will still be the case at the next test at Jerez. Terol has always excelled at Valencia, his home track, and he may not find it as easy at Jerez.
With fewer rookies in the class, the riders did not make the kind of progress which the Moto3 boys and girl did. Standout rider on the list of improved times is Johann Zarco, the Frenchman taking two-and-three-quarters of a second off his best time from Tuesday, and moving well up the order to get into the top 10. Sandro Cortese was the most improved of the rookies, taking nearly two seconds off his best time, with Tech 3's Danny Kent improving by over 1.8 seconds. Louis Rossi's progress was stymied by a crash he had on Friday morning, leaving the Frenchman unable to post a faster time.
Below are the overall standings after all three days of testing, as well as a list showing the improvement made by each of the riders:
Maverick Viñales has dominated all three days of testing for the Moto3 class at Valencia, at the head of a trio of Spaniards consisting of himself, Alex Rins and Luis Salom. These three head to the Jerez test next week as the hot favorites for the Moto3 championship, though there is still a lot of testing to be done.
The list of times showing the improvements made by all of the riders over the course of the three-day test shows that much progress has been made, both by the teams and especially by the rookies coming into the class. Notable among the riders who have improved the most is John McPhee, the young Scotsman taking over four seconds off his time from the first day, and improving by two seconds every day. The rookies are also making good progress: Livio Loi is the fastest of the lot, and also made a big step forward, nearly three-and-a-half seconds quicker from the first day to the last. Ana Carrasco made steady improvement, but promises to be genuinely competitive. While Italian riders Francesco Bagnaia, Lorenzo Baldassarri and Matteo Ferrari also made positive progress.
Below are the overall times for the three days of the test, and a comparison list, showing the amount each rider has improved by.
Pol Espargaro has topped the final day of testing for the Moto2 class at Valencia, taking advantage of a day of excellent weather to destroy his existing pole record by over half a second. The Tuenti HP 40 rider ended two tenths ahead of Nico Terol, the local man who always has something extra at Valencia, while Julian Simon took 3rd, some four tenths of a second behind Espargaro. Jordi Torres, Mapfre Aspar teammate to Terol, set an excellent 4th fastest time, while Thomas Luthi was 5th fastest.
Luthi's day ended unhappily, despite his good lap time. The Interwetten Paddock rider collided with Ratthapark Wilairot during the afternoon session, both men falling heavily and being taken to hospital in Valencia for further check ups. Wilairot was being treated for pain in the head, but Luthi suffered a broken arm and collarbone. Luthi is being flow to Bern in Switzerland tonight, to have surgery on the arm. The injury would be very bad news for the Interwetten Paddock team, as the worst case scenario would leave Luthi out with injury for several months.
Maverick Viñales has topped the Moto3 timesheets for the third day in a row, the Spaniard taking two seconds off the Moto3 lap record, and getting very close to the lap records posted by the 125cc bikes which Moto3 replaces. Viñales once again leads a Spanish trio, with Alex Rins impressing again in 2nd and Luis Salom just a third of a second behind Viñales.
The Caretta Technology RTG team were also impressive, with John McPhee setting the 4th fastest time, and teammate Jack Miller blasting to 6th, ahead of Romano Fenati. The three FTR Hondas made inroads into the dominance which the KTMs had displayed on the first few days. Miller was the last rider to get within a second of Viñales, however.
Elsewhere, the Mahindra project - a Suter-designed and built engine, with help from Mahindra's Indian engineers, in a modified version of the Suter chassis built for the Honda - put on a strong showing, grabbing 9th and 10th places on their first foray to the circuit. Livio Loi was the fastest of the rookies, the young Belgian securing 14th spot, under a second and a half from the leaders, while Ana Carrasco also had a very good day, ending just over 1.6 seconds behind her JHK T-Shirt LaGlisse teammate Viñales.
The teams now pack up and head down to Jerez, where testing will resume again next week.
Pol Espargaro has taken charge of the second day of testing for the Moto2 class at Valencia, the Tuenti HP 40 riders upping the pace and closing in on the pole record. Local boy Nico Terol was demoted to 2nd, two tenths off the pace of the Espargaro, and spent time on Wednesday testing the 2013 version of the Suter chassis, which he pronounced an improvement. Thomas Luthi secured 3rd spot, though only just, with both Julian Simon and Johan Zarco posting very strong challenges. Zarco, in particular, had a very strong second day of testing, improving his time from Tuesday by over two seconds. Scott Redding, 4th fastest on the Marc VDS Racing Kalex on Tuesday, could not make the same kind of step forward, and dropped down the order.
Danny Kent won the battle of the rookies, the Tech 3 rider getting the better of 2012 Moto3 champion Sandro Cortese by over half a second. Cortese once again found himself wrapped up in a battle with Kent's teammate Louis Rossi, the Frenchman five thousandths slower than Cortese, ceding an extra one thousandth of a second to the German on Wednesday.
Maverick Viñales remains the man to beat in the Moto3 class, the JHK T-Shirt LaGlisse rider topping the timesheets on the second day, just as he had done on the first. The Spaniard was fast, beating the Moto3 race lap record by over a second on Wednesday, helped in no small part by the wind having dropped off since yesterday.
Alex Rins leads the chase for Viñales, the Spaniard just under a quarter of a second off the pace of his compatriot, while yesterday's 2nd fastest man Luis Salom has dropped to 3rd, though only a couple of hundredths slower than Rins. Romano Fenati managed to disrupt the KTM party, the Italian finding one and a half seconds from his FTR Honda, to leap up to 4th place, three quarters of a second behind Viñales, and just ahead of Malaysian rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin on the AirAsia KTM. Khairuddin was the last rider to get within a second of fastest man Viñales, the rest still some way off the pace.
Press releases from some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of testing at Valencia:
Nico Terol got his 2013 season off to a good start at Valencia, the Mapfre Aspar rider ending the first day of testing on top of the timesheets. Local boy Terol, who has a corner named after him at the Valencia circuit, is always fast at the track, and Tuesday was no exception, the Spaniard ending in the top three in all three Moto2 sessions.
Terol leads a group of Kalexes, Julian Simon's good form on the Italtrans bike continuing, ending ahead of 2012 Moto2 runner up Pol Espargaro. Espargaro, hotly tipped for the 2013 title, took his time getting up to speed, ending the first two sessions in 5th and 10th respectively, before pulling out a blistering lap at the end of the day to top the final session, and take 3rd overall. Scott Redding had a solid first day of testing at Valencia, the Marc VDS rider benefiting from the combined rider/weight limit, as it brings the lighter riders much closer to the combined weight of Redding and his Kalex Moto2 machine. Times among the Moto2 class are tight: under two tenths separate the top three, while the top ten are all within a second of Terol's best lap.
Maverick Viñales topped the timesheets on the first day of testing for the Moto3 class at Valencia, leading a KTM charge which saw Austrian-powered bikes take eight of the top ten slots, with only Romano Fenati on the FTR Honda in 6th, and Efren Vazquez in 8th on the Suter-built Mahindra.
The first day of testing has already seen the title favorites put a gap between themselves and the chasing group. Viñales was fastest, with Luis Salom just fifteen hundredths behind him, and both men well under the Moto3 pole record for the Valencia circuit, which stands at 1:41.263. Alex Rins is the 3rd fastest man, the Spanish youngster just under six tenths behind his compatriots, and the last man within a second of Viñales. Malaysian rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin leads the chasing group, just over a second behind the JHK T-Shirt LaGlisse rider, and three tenths ahead of Aspar's Jonas Folger.
After the MotoGP class kicked off the 2013 preseason at Sepang, testing season is now well and truly opened. From Tuesday, the Moto2 and Moto3 teams assemble at Valencia for their first group test of the year, a test which should provide a few clues to the way the 2013 might develop, while raising more questions to be answered at the following test next week at Jerez.
It is not the first time on the track for everyone, however. A gaggle of KTM-mounted Moto3 teams have already posted laps at Almeria, joined there by the reigning Moto3 champion Sandro Cortese on his Kalex Moto2 machine, while another group of Moto3 boys had a shakedown test at Cartagena. As neither Almeria nor Cartagena, both located in Southern Spain, appear on the Grand Prix calendar, the lessons learned will be useful, but limited, the bikes still needing work once the teams arrive at Valencia for the three-day test, from 12th to 14th of February.
Marc Marquez was heaped with praise in the media after his first laps on the Repsol Honda at Valencia on Wednesday. So much praise that some MotoGP fans grew sceptical, questioning whether ending the test over a second behind his new teammate and fastest man Dani Pedrosa was the great result that was being touted by the press. After all, Marquez had finished just 7th, behind all of the prototype riders from last year, and that was without the presence of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi on the factory Yamahas.
So who is right? Are the media right to be excited about the times Marquez posted on Wednesday, or are they still blinded by his performance on Sunday, winning the Moto2 race from the back of the grid? Are the fans correct to point to his position, behind the satellite bikes despite being on a factory Honda? One answer may lie in the times.
A press release from Bridgestone discussing the Valencia MotoGP test: