Monday Round - up! - Relentless, is a word that describes the lives of Moto GP fraternity at the very best. After a grinding season of travelling, adrenaline pumping racing, you would expect the Teams and riders to take some time off from the tiring pace of the events, but hey! they are not your usual kind of people, these are probably one of the finest lot of top class athletes around the world, and they are supported by equally capable and dedicated team members keeping the Moto GP circus always on move.
The entire Moto GP grid was once again out in force on Monday, turning the first laps of the 2015 preseason. The biggest attraction 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.
The smaller bike was also a disadvantage, as the elder Espargaro is one of the taller riders. There was not enough room for his feet, and his helmet was catching a lot of wind. That was easily fixable, however, and something which the factory can work on quite quickly.
The biggest problem with the Suzuki was a lack of top speed. The engine is down on power, but this is something which Suzuki knew about, team boss Davide Brivio admited, Power, engine braking, and the electronics were all areas which need work, but the basis of the bike is strong.Brivio also said Suzuki were investigating the reliability problems which had plagued the GSX-RR during the race weekend, Randy De Puniet losing two engines in practice. The engine blow ups had come as a surprise, as the GSX-RR engine had proved to be extremely reliable on the dyno, even when running race simulations.
Suzuki had a few ideas, and were exploring possible solutions, trying to track down the root cause of the issue. When an engine is reliable on the dyno but suffers problems out on track, the finger of suspicion usually points to oil supply. We will have a better idea of whether Suzuki have solved the problem at the first race in Qatar.
Aprilia was the other factory newcomer, the new bike with pneumatic valves making its first appearance. At Ducati, there was almost nothing to test. Andrea Dovizioso tried a few minor electronic changes, but the big changes for the Italian factory will come only in Sepang.The new bike, designed from the ground up, will make its first appearance in February, though whether it is at Sepang 1 or Sepang 2 is yet to be decided.
Yamaha spent their time working on reducing the weight in line with the 2015 rule package. They have dropped some 1.5kg of the 2kg they need to lose to reach the new minimum weight of 158kg, with half a kilogram coming from a new exhaust. That, more of an open megaphone than the previous version, is both louder and lighter, and changes the weight distribution of the bike. The bike uses a new chassis, which improves corner entry according to Valentino Rossi.
The changes were only small, with much of the work being down to find the right set up for the new chassis and the changed engine response caused by the exhaust. The bike was clearly strong, as Jorge Lorenzo topped the timesheets, and Rossi ending the day in fourth.
Sandwiched between the two factory Yamahas were the Tech 3 bikes of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro. They had a new package to try, most of which had come directly out of the factory Movistar Yamaha garage. It was not the entire package which the team will start 2015 on, but it was enough to make a small improvement.
Stefan Bradl was a newcomer to Yamaha, having made the switch to the Forward Yamaha team for 2015. Bradl was quick to adapt, riding two tenths quicker than Aleix Espargaro had on the bike on Sunday. He still had some learning to do, however: he could carry a lot of corner speed, Bradl said, but he was having trouble braking.
The man who took Bradl’s seat at LCR Honda had a good first day, spending the test getting used to his third bike in three seasons. He could brake late and brake deep into the corner, and then still get the bike turned. The second half of the season on the Ducati would stand him in good stead, Crutchlow having learned to brake later than on the Yamaha, which requires the opposite style, wanting to brake early.
He still had a lot to learn, Crutchlow said. The bike was very different, especially in terms of electronics. It needed the rider to work to try and find traction, rather than letting the electronics sort it out. Perhaps its strongest point was its forgiving nature, Crutchlow said.
Jack Miller made his debut in Moto GP, having what he described as the best day of his life. It was a solid debut, learning quickly and improving on every exit. So how do you break in a Moto GP rookie? Both Miller and Viñales were sent out with no traction control and no wheelie control for the first day of the test, standard procedure for new riders in Moto GP.
The pair have to understand how the bike feels before they can get any benefit from the electronics, and so they were given a softer power map and sent out to experiment. With each exit, the teams step up the power, until the riders feel they have a grip on the bike. Only then are the electronics turned back up again, with riders chasing the performance benefits the electronics can offer.
Scott Redding also made his debut with the Marc VDS team on Monday, though his times were a long way off ideal. That was hardly surprising, given that he was on a different bike, with a new crew chief, in a team that was working together for the first time. Redding had not been chasing lap times, but instead, had focused on adapting to the bike.
The factory Honda riders did little riding, Dani Pedrosa taking the 2015 bike out at the end of the day, the biggest change apparently being the size of the Red Bull branding on the bike. He was joined at the end of the day by both Marquez brothers, the Moto3 joining the Moto GP champion for what was in effect a few demonstration laps, the two riding together.The two Marquez brothers on #93 Repsol Hondas was little more than a publicity stunt. The wisdom of sending two riders out on a hot track to provide a bit of TV coverage is extremely questionable, however.
The testing is supposed to go further two more days of testing with weather permitting. At the moment, it looks like there could be rain on Tuesday morning, but the forecast continues to change quickly.