Two days after the MotoGP 2015 finale, riders headed back on track for the first test ahead of the 2016 season at Valencia. In the span of time since Jorge Lorenzo’s win on Sunday and the opening laps Tuesday a lot has changed. Riders are now rolling on 17 inch Michelin rubber, operating with 22 liters of fuel across the board and ironing out the spec ECU mandated by recent rule changes. Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez topped the timesheet with a 1’31.551, nearly matching the fastest lap of the race on Sunday set by Lorenzo. Ducati’s Andrea Iannone ended the day second-fastest followed by Marquez’s teammate, Dani Pedrosa, in third.
The majority of riders spent the day focused primarily on evaluating the new Michelin tires on 2015 bike set-ups, though some did wade into the new electronics waters and others conducted brief evaluations of the 2016 machines. With warm, sunny conditions there was no need for the intermediate or rain options from Michelin, so a combination of medium and soft slicks were tested throughout the day. Generally speaking, riders commended the new rear tire for its impressive levels of grip but the front proved to be a different story. There was wide consensus that the front tire will take some time and work to understand. Changes to weight distribution will need to occur to avoid overloading the front, which new Octo Pramac Ducati rider Scott Redding commented was a very easy thing to do.
This difficulty led to a number of crashes throughout the day, Marquez being one of the first to go down during his initial laps.
“We went out on track and on the opening laps I lost the front,” Marquez explained in a team press release. “I realized that the Michelin tires may have worked well for us in testing at Aragon, but they react differently on every type of asphalt. From that moment we started again, doing a run with the same bike we used during the weekend.
“At the end of the day we tried the new engine together with the Magneti Marelli software, but in order to draw any conclusions we first have to finish setting up the electronics and when we have a good base, then we will be able to evaluate the engine properly.”
Iannone had a crash, Team Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro went down twice, LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow went down, Aspar Racing’s Eugene Laverty took a spill…none were seriously injured but it was clear that everyone, regardless of the make of machine, has work to do.
Another element which will require refinement going forward is in the electronics department. Like the front tire issues, many riders were vocal about the need for ECU improvements, especially the factory riders from Yamaha and Honda.
Lorenzo described the electronics as “not quite ready” while teammate Valentino Rossi said that they would be “very difficult.”
Here’s a portion of Pedrosa’s take as well, offered by the Repsol team in its press release:
“We tried the new Magneti Marelli electronics and the first feeling we have is that they are very much in the preliminary stage and certainly a step backwards. Right now the electronics are still giving us a lot of problems and are difficult to use. We have to work hard to understand it and see what parameters we should concentrate on more. It’s also a job for the rider, because you must gain experience in order to understand what you have and what you don’t, compared with the previous version.”
There were also some machine changes for a number of riders, many leaving production Hondas aside for Ducati weaponry. Redding was one such rider, finishing 11th on the day just under one second behind the top time posted by Marquez. Overall, Redding’s initial reaction to his new team and bike were positive, going so far as to say that he enjoyed the first day of testing “more than 90% of the last season.”
Aspar Team’s Eugene Laverty got used to his new Duc as well.
“From the first few exits on the Ducati I really enjoyed it. I didn’t expect the transition to be so seamless. It’s a nice bike to ride, with plenty of power out of the corner, which is always a good thing. The power is there right through the range and that allows you to build the speed progressively. I wasn’t sure if it would suit my style because I like to pick the bike up out of the corner, whereas I noticed other Ducati riders this year using quite a lot of angle, but it was fine. This is the first time in twenty years of riding motorcycles that I have used a seamless gearbox so it was something special. Changing gear in turn 12, I had to be a little careful because the power is there right away, whereas I’m used to a slight delay.”
Tito Rabat made his first foray into the MotoGP class with Marc VDS, spending the session easing into the feeling with the new machine and working his way forward. He finished 16th overall with a 1’32.673.
Testing continues on Wednesday, with more tire, electronics and hardware evaluations planned throughout the grid.
2016 MotoGP Valencia Test Session 1 Results
1. Marc Marquez (Honda) 1’31.551
2. Andrea Iannone (Ducati) 1’31.639
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1’31.681
4. Maverick Vinales (Suzuki) 1’31.720
5. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’31.767
6. Cal Crutchlow (Honda) 1’31.911
7. Pol Espargaro (Yamaha) 1’31.937
8. Bradley Smith (Yamaha) 1’31.997
9. Aleix Espargaro (Suzuki) 1’32.005
10. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 1’32.073
11. Scott Redding (Ducati) 1’32. 214
12. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1’32.401
13. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) 1’32.442
14. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1’32.468
15. Jack Miller (Honda) 1’32.594
16. Tito Rabat (Honda) 1’32.673
17. Stefan Bradl (Aprilia) 1’32.721
18. Loris Baz (Ducati) 1’32.943
19. Yonny Hernandez (Ducati) 1’33.046
20. Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) 1’33.061
21. Eugene Laverty (Ducati) 1’33.253
22. Takuya Tsuda (Suzuki) 1’34.591
23. Nobuatsu Aoki (Suzuki) 1’36.338