The preliminary stages of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship got underway with the first official test session of the new season at Valencia. Less than 24 hours earlier Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez made history by winning the title in his first year as a premier-class rider, defeating outgoing champion Jorge Lorenzo by four points in the season tally. The Yamaha ace wasted no time getting back on track for testing and ended as the fastest rider of the day. Marquez and his teammate Dani Pedrosa opted out of Monday testing and are expected to rejoin the grid on Tuesday.
Lorenzo’s teammate, Valentino Rossi, paced just under one-tenth of a second behind the Mallorcan in second. Both Yamaha riders set their fast laps on the 2013 M1s, though both also got to turn laps on 2014 prototypes as well. Apart from gaining feel for the new machine, it was also Rossi’s first time working in the GP garage with new Crew Chief Silvano Galbusera.
“Today was very emotional, it was something different,” explained Rossi. “We were working a long time with Jeremy so today was like a restart from the beginning but I’m happy and I’m satisfied with the day. I know Silvano already from Superbike as I did some testing in 2010 with the R1 together with him and I liked the way we worked. It’s just the first day but anyway it was a good day for me, I was faster and we worked well on the bike. The condition of the track and the weather were perfect so I enjoyed it a lot. We worked with both bikes, I liked the new one a lot, it has good power exit from the corners and the chassis gives a good feeling on the front so the first impression is very positive.”
LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl finished the day third-fastest followed by Pramac Racing’s Andrea Iannone in fourth. Iannone will once again be joined by Yonny Hernandez in 2014 as the Colombian rider has signed on to be a full-time team rider for the coming year. Hernandez started the 2013 season aboard a CRT machine with Paul Bird Motorsport, but then during the final rounds took over for the injured Ben Spies when it became clear the American would not be able to return from injury. Hernandez struggled to find a competitive pace during the final stages of 2013 owing to an injury in his right hand, but Team Manager of Pramac Racing Francesco Guidotti has expressed confidence in 25 year-old rider, saying “He has great potential but not much experience with this type of bike, and we will do everything in our power to transform his potential into good results.”
Hernandez added, “I am very happy to be here today. It’s a great opportunity for me to continue with the Pramac team, and the fact that we have confirmed our partnership for another year makes me really enthusiastic. I cannot wait to get on track and try the new ‘Open’ bike, even though that won’t happen here in Valencia, and I’m also curious to try the new tires. I am proud to be the second Latin American rider, and the first Colombian, to ride with this team in the premier class. I know that I have to work hard, but the new ‘Open’ category is very interesting. I really want to go out on track and start learning. I want to thank Pramac, Ducati and all those who have made this new adventure possible.”
Hernandez ended the first test day at Valencia in eighth position.
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso placed fifth-fastest ahead of his new teammate, Cal Crutchlow, who ended sixth on his first outing aboard the Desmosedici. The British rider logged 39 laps during the day.
“Obviously the situation is completely different to what I was used to before today, but anyway, I’m very happy to come and work with the factory Ducati team,” said Crutchlow. “I’ve done everything you should on a first day at work and I think we can safely say that we’ve had a positive day learning everything: the bike, the electronics, the team. There are so many new things to get your head around, but it’s also interesting. In the next two days, we’ll try to focus and improve. The team have been great at listening to my feedback, while I take advantage of their advice and experience. It helps to be able to count on Daniele Romagnoli, as he’s Italian like most of the Ducati technicians. I’m pleased with the way we’re working. We’re not going to change things overnight, but today was a positive first step.”
New Ducati Corse General Manager Luigi Dall’Igna joins new rider Cal Crutchlow during pre-2014 season testing.
It was also Luigi Dall’Igna’s first day at the track as General Manager of Ducati Corse.
“I’m getting to know and appreciate the working situation here,” explained Dall’Igna. “I already had an idea from the few days I spent in Borgo Panigale, because there, too, I found the technical level to be very high and the staff to have a lot of potential. Today we began the practical part that will help us to begin working on the bike and define a strategy that will enable Ducati to improve and return to a competitive level. It’s still early to say anything about time scales and preparing more detailed plans, but I think we’re starting on the right foot.”
Ducati Test Team rider Michele Pirro placed seventh while new Power Electronics Aspar rider Hiroshi Aoyama finished in ninth aboard the new Honda RCV1000R. The Japanese rider will be joined by teammate Nicky Hayden on Tuesday.
“I was very excited this morning, as it was my first day with the Power Electronics Aspar Team and with a new bike,” said Aoyama. “The feeling with the bike was great and very familiar to me. I felt similar with the machine to how I did in 2011, during my previous Honda ride. I am very happy to be able to start this new adventure with a new bike and team.”
Premier-class rookie Scott Redding gets used to his new RCV1000R and Honda Gresini team during testing.
Premier-class rookie and 2013 Moto2 champion Pol Espargaro cut his teeth on his new M1 with Monster Yamaha Tech 3, finishing 10th-fastest. In team press Espargaro explained that he spent the day primarily focused on getting used to the power and feel of the machine, not making any changes to settings or electronics. His Moto2 rival Scott Redding was also on track with the Go & Fun Honda Gresini crew, riding the new RCV1000R. Like Espargaro, Redding was struck by the stark difference between the mount he leaves behind and the new GP machine.
“It was an important day for me and I am delighted to have made my debut on the RCV1000R for GO&FUN Honda Gresini,” said Redding. “Comparing the Moto2 to the RCV1000R is easy; they are completely different! It’s another story altogether, so because of that I was trying to pick up confidence slowly but surely. It was also good to begin work with the team, who have been very professional. I’d say overall it was a positive experience.”