Moto2 and Moto3 riders finish up three-day Jerez test
Axel Pons tops three-day Moto2 Jerez Test
Heavy fog during the morning session on Friday saw only Efren Vazquez (JPMoto Malaysia) venture out on track, the Spanish rider not setting a lap time. The second session saw the sun return, Moto2 riders able to continue their testing work.
Although it was Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) who set a 1’42.075 to lead the final day of testing, Axel Pons’ 1’41.730 from Thursday sees the AGR Team rider leave the Jerez Test as the fastest rider in the intermediate class.
It was not a perfect test for Pons who did not venture out on track after a heavy fall on Thursday after setting his fast lap.
“It’s been a fantastic day, we worked really hard in the first two days and today we managed to keep the same direction. This morning I did a long run with 15 laps all in 1’42”, the last one in 1’42”2, which is incredible. In the afternoon we tried some new parts from Kalex, then in the final stages we pushed a little bit for the lap time, but not at the maximum, still doing a good job. I’m really happy because we ended the test in second position, but I was the fastest today. For sure we have the best pace and we can fight to win, this is the target. A massive thank you to the team, I can’t wait for Qatar!”.
The fastest Moto2 lap during a Grand Prix weekend still stands at 1’42.706, set by Stefan Bradl in 2011. Pons’ time was almost a second faster, but Lowes was also under the record lap by over half a second. The final session of the test not only saw Lowes improve, but Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) also set his fastest lap of the test, a 1’42.174 again well under Bradl’s record.
Fourth fastest overall was Paginas Amarillas HP 40’s Alex Rins with a 1’42.186s set on his 17th lap of 23 in the last session of Friday. Having had very limited private testing before Jerez, Rins focused primarily on getting comfortable on his 2016 Kalex with longer runs. Tom Luthi’s (Garage Plus Interwetten) 1’42.271 from the first day stood as the Swiss rider’s best time, seeing him complete the competitive top five.
With all of the top 11 riders under Bradl’s circuit record, the 2016 Moto2 season looks set to be an exciting battle with riders already flying at the first pre-season test. The Jerez Test also allowed Dunlop to test several new tyre options for the 2016 season, include a hard tyre options for circuits such as Argentina, Australia and Sepang with newer surfaces.
Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten), Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP), Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team) formed the remainder of the top ten on combined times.
Reigning Moto2 World Champion Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) was 14th and 1.222 seconds back on Pons’ fastest time. Meanwhile Danny Kent’s (Leopard Racing) return to the middle class continues to progress well, the Moto3 Champion ending 12th on combined times.
Simone Corsi (Speed Up) led the charge of Speed Up mounted riders with a 1’42.943s, placing in 13th and as the leading non-Kalex machine. Xavi Vierge (Tech 3) racing had a vigorous testing schedule aboard the new Mistral 610, testing a variety of parts for the French team. Having only recently ensured his future in Moto2, Efren Vazquez (JPMoto Malaysia) was able to run on the Suter for the first time and made steady improvements to get within five seconds of the fastest rider.
Alex Márquez declared himself satisfied with the test, despite being hampered on the bike by the left wrist he fractured less than two weeks ago. The 19-year-old was forced to limit the number of laps each day, but still managed to exceed his target lap time and complete the full test program.
The Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider focussed mainly on refining the suspension set up in Jerez, running back to back comparisons of various front fork and rear shock settings, with positive results. Márquez now heads to the second and final official test in Qatar with a better understanding of the 2016 Kalex and confident the wrist injury will be much improved with the additional recovery time.
“To be able to ride here at Jerez with a reasonable pace just one week after the surgery on my wrist is like a win for us. In some areas the wrist was definitely an issue, but over the three days we’ve tried out many things that are so important before we head to Qatar. Now we have a clear idea of the direction we need to take with the bike. At the Qatar test I expect the wrist to be better; maybe still not 100% but at least good enough to allow me to push harder for a lap time. I’m not happy, because I wanted to go faster and be closer to the top of the timesheet, but given the injury I think we’ve done a really good job here and now I’m even more motivated for Qatar.”
Sun and warm temperatures across the final two sessions for the lightweight class saw Nicolo Bulega (SKY Racing Team VR46) on top once again. The rookie set a 1’46.539, his fastest time of the test so far. Bulega was one of just nine riders to improve their times on the final day. It has overall been an incredibly encouraging test for the Moto3 Junior World Champion who has demonstrated his high level.
Bulega’s SKY Racing Team VR46 teammate, Romano Fenati, managed to maintain his position on top of the time screens thanks to his 1’46.445 from the third session of the second day. The time was still 0.3s off Jack Miller’s best lap at the Jerez circuit, but 0.060s clear of his rivals. With all three of the SKY Racing Team VR46 riders inside the top ten, it appears the Valentino Rossi backed team have hit the ground running in 2016. Of the top ten, five were KTM machines, the Austrian manufacturer aiming to reclaim the rider’s championship in the lightweight class after losing to Honda in 2014 and 2015.
Second overall and third on the final day, Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was the leading Honda rider on combined times and 0.060s behind Romano Fenati. In all but one session Navarro completed more than 15 laps, the Spaniard focusing more on race pace than a single flying lap across the three days.
Thanks to his time on the final day, Bulega slotted into third on the combined times and finished 0.011s ahead of his fellow VR46 Academy Rider Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold). As one of the more experienced riders in the class, Antonelli has his sights set on the championship in 2016 and was towards the top of all the sessions at the Jerez test.
Along with Bulega, Brad Binder was another to improve his time on the final day. The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider led the second session on Friday, his 1’46.618 0.008s faster than his best time from Thursday and good enough for fifth on combined times. Binder is still hunting his first win in the lightweight class after coming tantalisingly close on multiple occasions in previous years.
Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3), Joan Mir (Leopard Racing), Livio Loi (RW Racing GP), Jorge Martin (Aspar Mahindra Team) and Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) rounded out the top ten as the first official test ended in Jerez.
“It was a strange day… In the morning there was no good weather to go out on track, then the sun came out, but after a few laps in the second session I decided to stop because I did’not feel very good. I have a bad cold that bothers me and I didn’t want to risk, because in the first two days we were able to do the work that we had planned. All in all I’m satisfied with these tests, although there has never been an opportunity to make a fast lap: hovewer, this is not important in testing. I’m happy with the bike and how the team is working and although we still need to improve in some areas, I’m convinced that in the final pre-season test in Qatar we will find good solutions to get ready for the first Grand Prix”.
Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) was another rookie who impressed on the final day, putting his KTM third on Friday and seventh on the combined times.
Both Mahindra and Peugeot have been experimenting with winglets throughout the three-day test. While they are a popular addition to bikes in the premiere class, Mahindra and Peugeot are the first to implement them in Moto3™. As 2016 sees Mahindra introduce a heavily revised MGP3O, it is near impossible to tell if the winglets have had a drastic effect on the bike’s performance.
The intermediate and lightweight classes will have one final test at Qatar from the 11th to 13th of March before the 2016 season begins at the same circuit just a few days later.