Ten riders in the 1m29s as MotoGP men get down to business at Phillip Island
With the rain having abated, the MotoGP World Championship was back in action in Australia as Maverick Viñales led a tight top ten.
After an initially slow start, the second day of the Phillip Island MotoGP test proved to be a productive one with weather conditions allowing riders to run in the dry.
There was limited morning action with just the Ducati Team duo of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone heading out on track alongside Jorge Lorenzo and Takuya Tsuda. Lorenzo spent the early stages on wet weather tyres while Iannone tested the new Michelin intermediate tyres as the track continued to dry out.
Fortunately for riders the track condition continued to improve and soon the majority of the field were out lapping on slick tyres. With the unique demands of Phillip Island, the left hand side of the tyre generating incredible heat in the final corners, Michelin had produced a new dual compound rear and were eager to assess its performance.
As riders became more comfortable and conditions slowly improved, Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales and Marc Marquez began to trade lap times at the top of the time sheets.
There was a brief interruption to proceedings as a small rain shower appeared, but riders and teams were able to get back to work soon after. Improvements continued to come and Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Maverick Viñales became the first rider under the 1’30 barrier as the second half of the day got underway. Clear conditions allowed all riders to work their own programme, most choosing to do runs of five laps before returning to the pits.
The afternoon saw all of the top ten riders inside the 1’29 mark with Maverick Viñales setting the fastest lap of the day, and of the test so far, with a 1’29.131 as he continued to assert himself as one of the hottest young properties in MotoGP. 2015 saw the Team Suzuki Ecstar rider end the race a credible sixth, the young Spaniard able to set a 1’29.131 on his 63rd lap on Thursday, half a second faster than his best lap from the race. Suzuki are continuing to work hard on development, test rider Tsuda running extensive assessments of the fully seamless gearbox in Phillip Island.
“Today I felt very good with my GSX-RR, confirming the positive feeling I had already yesterday even though it was in mixed conditions. Today we worked well in two ways; the first is the fastest lap, which gave me the first place, and the second is the approach we had with the development, improving little-by-little but consistently in every run, applying little improvements to the machine without any major change. This consistency gave me not only the fastest lap but also a very comfortable feeling with the pace.
“Of course the track was a contribution, let’s say. Here in Phillip Island I feel always confident, I like the track and I can express myself as I want, in any conditions. I’m happy to see that the machine is supporting me in this enjoyment, allowing me to be so competitive, I’m improving a lot in my capability to transfer my feelings to the team and they on their side are doing a great job supporting me and giving me good solutions for what I ask for. It’s a learning process for all of us and today’s result gives us an injection of enthusiasm.”
The final five minutes saw Viñales and Marc Marquez swap fast laps, each taking a turn at leading before the flag came out. On his penultimate lap Marquez managed to set a 1’29.292, 0.161s behind Viñales with a total of 79 laps completed throughout the day. Both the Repsol Honda Team riders are continuing to assess two chassis variants, with the 2016 ‘evo’ engine, debuted at a private test in Jerez, fitted.
“Today we were able to ride in the dry for the entire day, and I think we can draw good conclusions from the testing we did because it seems that here we have found a base setup that can work well. It’s true that this is a special track, in which you have to be careful about what you test because it might confuse you at other circuits, but I am happy with how the day went overall.
“We’ll see if we can continue improving tomorrow, because I still think we can make a lot of progress with the balance of the bike; I still don’t feel fully comfortable with it. The team, Honda and I are pushing our hardest and we are getting closer ever day”.
Jorge Lorenzo made it a Spanish lockout in the top three with a 1’29.357, this came on the Movistar Yamaha rider’s 65th lap out of 80, only Andrea Dovizioso and Tito Rabat completing more laps than the 2015 MotoGP World Champion on Thursday. None of Lorenzo’s runs were longer than six consecutive flying laps, the factory Yamaha rider yet to do a full race simulation but did complete ten laps in the 1’29 range. Magneti Marelli are keen for riders to do a full race run, including sighting lap and race start from pit lane, to assess the new electronics over race distance. One of the biggest changes to the ECU in 2016 is a removal of adaptive strategies over race distance; now requiring more input from the rider themselves.
“I was concentrating on trying many things and when I had the good tyre on the front, the rear wasn’t new so I couldn’t improve and do a time attack. Our rivals are fast, especially Maverick, as he likes the track and he is riding very well. Today we have experienced some issues on the front with the stability to ride confidently with open throttle. I think it was a combination of the type of track, the type of tarmac and the type of corners, which are faster than Sepang and are inducing these problems. If we can solve the problem we can be much quicker, let’s see if it’s possible.
“Looking at what happened today, it looks like the new electronics are going to change the performance of the bikes a lot on other tracks. Someone can have an advantage at one track and maybe they have more problems at another. We have to understand how to be more competitive.”
With Valentino Rossi in fourth, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP continued their great form from the Sepang test as the Italian was just 0.047 shy of Lorenzo’s time and 0.273s down on Viñales in first. Both Rossi and Lorenzo were within a quarter of a second of the fastest lap of the incredible 2015 Phillip Island race. Throughout the day Rossi was able to complete eleven laps in the 1’29 range, with five in a row ending his second day of testing.
“We’re lucky and happy, because the summer arrived today and we could work on the bikes and understand more, especially about the tyres. Sincerely, I’m very satisfied about today because from the morning until the end I was always fast and competitive and in one of the first positions. I also had a good feeling with the bike and I was able to improve, from the morning to the afternoon, the pace and the lap times. The only thing we haven’t had time for was to compare the two bikes, we will do it tomorrow, hoping we have good weather like today.
“About all other things I’m satisfied, because I have a good pace and also my best lap is good. I got fourth position, but the first four are the four riders that were more competitive today and are close in times, so we are there at the front. For sure, keeping up the pace in the race will be harder, simply because you get less help from the electronics, you have to do more work with your body and the throttle, so that will be a bit more demanding.”
Cal Crutchlow put on a late charge to put himself and his LCR Honda machine in fifth. While both the factory Honda riders are testing the 2016 ‘evo’ engine, Crutchlow continued to work on the 2015 engine and the 2016 engine debuted at the post-season Valencia test.
“It was a bit of a difficult day as laps were limited again, but the team did a good job in the end because we had to manage the situation and get as much done as possible. I tried a few things to ensure that we were doing ‘average’ laps, knowing that we could be fast when we needed to be. This was good because we never pushed so hard. We’ll have to investigate a lot of the things we’ve found out today, and I’m sure tomorrow too, because when we leave the Phillip Island test it’s all going to be important information for Qatar – where we have the next test and the first race.
“We need to look at things quite closely at the moment because electronically we are still really struggling to find the best balance with the bike. We were, however, using the 2015 engine today, so maybe in Qatar things will be a little bit better for us anyway when we should be using a more updated version.”
In sixth, Hector Barbera continued to impress on the GP14.2 with a 1’29.857. The Avintia Racing rider has only a single bike in Phillip Island and elected not to leave the pits on Wednesday during the wet weather. This put him as the top Ducati rider with Andrea Iannone ending the day seventh on the 2016 Ducati Desmosedici and 0.003s off Barbera’s time. Although not testing, Casey Stoner was talking with many of the Ducati riders, including Iannone, about their feelings with the bike and the circuit.
“I’m happy because today we were able to get on track. I was immediately inside the top 5 at the beginning of the day. I’ve been there during the whole day and although I was eventually sixth, I had really good feeling with the bike at this track. More than my fastest lap time I’m happy with the pace of my final run because I was lapping consistently in low 1’30s.
“I also tested some tyres like the hard front, but for my riding style the softer works better. And about the rear, I also choose the soft one. We only could do 15 laps with each tyre and, although this test wont be a good reference for the race in October because of the different temperature, I’m satisfied because we did it well at Jerez, again at Sepang and here we are close to the top one more time. So I think we are doing a good job.”
“All in all, today was a positive day because we were able to do a lot of laps, which was essential for us to get a better idea of the way the new Desmosedici GP behaves. As a result I am satisfied with the work we did and in the end we also tested some interesting solutions: with the data we gathered we’ll decide which direction to go in on the final day of the test, hoping that tomorrow the weather will allow us to work all day.”
With an hour and a half remaining there was another brief interruption as Dani Pedrosa fell from his Repsol Honda Team machine at Turn 4, brining out the red flag. The accident occurred soon after Pedrosa had improved to seventh with a 1’29.917, the Spaniard unhurt in the fall and the halt to proceedings lasting less than ten minutes. Pedrosa would end the test in eighth 0.786s back on Viñales’ best time.
“Today I had a crash at Turn 4, but luckily I’m fine. I was setting good times and improving on that run, but when I was trying to brake a little harder, I lost the front and crashed. I changed bikes to continue tyre testing and, although it had a different setup, I think the positive thing is that we gathered data that will be useful for our engineers in terms of chassis and engine information.
“We still don’t have a clear setup, but we understand many aspects of the behaviour of the bike that will help us find a good base for every circuit. Despite the gap on the timesheets, it’s been a positive day, because we know that this is a track where I struggle a bit compared with others and we have worked hard, which has allowed us to obtain a lot of data”.
Both Scott Redding and Bradley Smith put in a late run to break under the 1’30 barrier and into the top ten. All of the top ten riders present were within a second of the top time, Phillip Island again producing tight times.
“It was a long and thorough testing programme today, but I feel we did what we had to and we achieved a lot. There were a few things that I wanted to follow up from Sepang and I’m pleased to say that the outcome is positive and they seem to work here. Therefore, heading in that direction with the bike setup will be key for us. We focused on the front end setting as well in order to make the bike more stable in high speed corners. Phillip Island has a lot of fast corners and we tried to find a bit more safety and balance so I could commit further and ride a quicker lap time.
“Michelin brought two different spec front tyres which the factory guys already tested in Malaysia and I finally assessed these. To be honest, I definitely felt that they allowed me to cut my lap time. Yet unfortunately there aren’t many of those tyres available here, therefore I don’t think there will be many to use tomorrow. Still, it was useful to sample them in order to confirm our direction and we will have more of those tyres in Qatar. It was a shame that some of the track time was cut due to the red flag and the rain in the morning because I was hoping to run a race simulation. These are vital to our testing programme because it allows us to be clear about my feeling with the bike at the end of a GP.
“Of course, the Yamaha handles differently as the race distance progresses so by testing this factor here, we gain experience and knowledge, which we can use when the season kicks off. However, I’m happy with what we achieved, even though I think 17:45 came around too quickly! Lets see what happens with the weather tomorrow and we’ll continue to try and progress a bit more with the front end setting.”
Just outside the top ten and 1.003s off Viñales’ best time was Loris Baz. The French rider is debuting a new seat unit at the Phillip Island to improve his position on the Ducati GP14.2 due to his height.
“The day didn’t start very well, and it was raining as yesterday. But finally the sun came out and we could spend some time on the bike when the track was dry. Today our main focus was to work in my riding position with the new seat and foot pegs. We lost too much track time working on this, but we made a big step forward. The team has done a great job and I feel more comfortable than ever on a race bike.
“During the whole day I didn’t push to make a lap time, and when I made my first try, I had a problem with the exhaust, so I thought that today I would not be able to do a fast lap. But finally I could get out with a new tyre and thanks to Rossi’s reference I did a good lap. I have to work to do it by my self, but I have to improve my confidence to get more corner speed. Anyway I improved my lap time from last season and this is always positive.”
Having completed 88 laps, Andrea Dovizioso put in the most distance of any rider on track after a disappointing opening day. The factory Ducati Team rider was 12th fastest and three tenths back on his teammate in seventh. Behind the Ducati was Pol Espargaro in 13th.
“Luckily today we had good weather conditions that allowed us to work, and my feeling is positive. I am happy because in the first tests of the year in Malaysia we didn’t put in many laps and also yesterday we were disturbed by the bad weather. Today we did a lot of laps and now I feel comfortable with the Michelin tyres, which is our main objective at this moment. I am able to be constantly fast, but I didn’t go for a really quick one-lap time and that’s why I’m a bit down in the standings. It was in any case a positive day in which we achieved the right feeling and did some tests to better set up the bike and some components. Now we can start on detail work, tomorrow’s weather permitting.”
“Overall, I believe that today has been positive for us and even though the result is not at the top of the timesheet, our rhythm with the bike is encouraging . We are much closer to the front than we were in Sepang and in addition, my feeling with the bike has improved significantly, so we’ve taken a big step forward. I was able to repeat my fastest time on numerous occasions and on different runs, which is definitely promising and it shows that we are heading in the right direction.
“The only thing missing from today is that we weren’t able to post a single lap time as it would have been nice to find ourselves a bit higher up in the standings. It was completely our fault because for different reasons we were unable to improve at the end. Still, this wasn’t the main aim of today’s testing schedule, so the overall feeling is really positive and I can leave the track satisfied and with a lot of confidence for tomorrow.”
Wednesday’s leader, Danilo Petrucci, was down in 14th position but able to improve his time by over a second and a half in the better conditions.
1.254 seconds behind his teammate and session leader, Aleix Espargaro will no doubt be looking for improvements on the third and final day of the test in Australia. The Team Suzuki Ecstar rider completed just two laps on Wednesday after leaving the Sepang test somewhat frustrated.
“Today was not a good day for me, we tried a lot of different things to improve the feeling, especially working to be more effective in the entrance into the corners, where I felt totally uncomfortable, but probably it was a matter of myself. The bike improved a little since the morning, but today I felt too rigid in my movements over the machine and not able to ride as smoothly as I wanted. I will have a good rest tonight and then analyse things with my team to understand what and how we can improve, although I can’t blame them for today.
“The engine has improved a lot and the new tyres and seamless gearbox gave me much more stability in many corners. For sure Suzuki did a good job, we saw today Maverick’s performance which certifies that the potential is higher than what I did, therefore I’m really keen to recover my performance and get back to riding.”
A second red flag was brought out with ten minutes remaining, Yonny Hernandez falling at Turn 4 as Pedrosa did. The Colombian was uninjured and soon returned to the pits but was unable to return to track with limited time remaining.
“At the start of the day we weren’t able to get to work because of the rain. Then after midday and into the afternoon we were quite competitive, finding a good pace which meant we could make improvements. Then we had an issue with an exhaust valve, which meant that we couldn’t control the engine braking. Thankfully, we solved the problem relatively quickly.
“Towards the end of the day when we were about to put on new tyres to try and lower our lap time, I had a small crash. Luckily there was no lasting damage and I can focus on the positive thing which is that we had a really good feeling with the bike. For much of today we were competitive and that’s what I’ll take out of the day, Tomorrow, we’ll be aiming to improve the bike’s response, and I hope that it all goes well and we can end the test in form.”
Continuing his recovery from a broken right leg, local Jack Miller was 17th with a 1’30.514 on the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda ahead of Eugene Laverty who is also returning from injury. The Irish rider suffered a heavily bruised hand after a fast fall in Sepang.
“Today was good. The beginning of the day was wet so we had to wait a little bit but once it dried out I was able to make fifty laps, so we were able to adjust the bike and make it a little bit more comfortable for me. First of all the most important thing for me was to get some confidence with the front because that is what caused my crash in November. At the start it didn’t feel so good and I felt I was going to crash again but we made some progress and as my feeling with the front improved so did the pace. The lap time is coming but we have a lot more potential than this so we have a lot of work to do.”
Miller may have undergone surgery on a fractured tibia and fibula just one month ago, but the injury hasn’t been an issue for the 21-year-old Australian, who ended today 17th with a time of 1’30.514.
Rabat ended the second day of testing two places further back in 19th, but managed to close to within a tenth of his more experienced Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS teammate. The former Moto2 World Champion is still getting to grips with the Honda RC213V, but was happy to see a significant improvement in his lap time today.
“I can be happy today. The weather improved and we got a lot of laps in on the bike, which is good, and the leg was no problem. The bike is working well, we’re missing a little bit in turn 10, which we need to work on, but we have some ideas as to how we can improve tomorrow.
“I’m really happy with the direction that Michelin have taken with the tyres as they’re working really well here at Phillip Island. I’m looking forward to riding the bike again tomorrow and, hopefully, the weather will stay good for us.”
In 19th, Tito Rabat completed a staggering 81 laps to end 1.519s back on former Moto2 rival Maverick Viñales and almost two seconds clear of Suzuki test rider Tsuda.
“Today we’re closer to the front guys. This morning the gap was too big but we’ve managed to close it a little and we will look to close it some more tomorrow. Today has been another day of learning; learning the bike, learning the tyres and learning the track on a bike that has far more power than I’m used to. Tomorrow I want to continue to work on my riding style as I adapt to the Honda RC213V, so hopefully we’ll have similar weather to today.”
MotoGP 2016 – Phillip Island Test – Day Two Times
1. Maverick Viñales, ESP, Team Suzuki Ecstar, 1’29.131s [Lap 63/64]
2. Marc Marquez, ESP, Repsol Honda Team, 1’29.292s, +0.161s [78/79]
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