Vinales goes top of the MotoGP class of 2017 on his Movistar Yamaha debut

Vinales goes top of the MotoGP class of 2017 on his Movistar Yamaha debut

Less than 48 hours after the season finale in Valencia, the MotoGP class of 2017, including rookies and test riders, returned to the track for day one of two days of off-season testing at the Spanish circuit. On his debut for the Movistar Yamaha team, Maverick Vinales impressively set the fastest time ahead of his teammate Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo finished third on his Ducati debut. A round up of the first day of the 2017 season. Happy new MotoGP year!

Danielle Overend

Just two days after the 2016 MotoGP season finale at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, in Valencia, Spain, the riders had returned for day one out of two days testing at the Spanish circuit.

Less than 48 hours after the Gran Premio Motul de la Communitant Valenciana, the 2017 season was underway and it was the first opportunity for the riders who have made a change since ‘last year’ to debut on their new machinery; the provisional entry lists for the 2017 were recently released also.

Contract agreements still to be adhered to

The riders are still actually contracted to their 2016 season teams, for a lot of them this means that they are not yet able to sport their new team livery or colours, and they are not allowed to speak to the media about anything from the tests.

They had all made a sort of mutual agreements if you like to test their new machinery at the bike; there were 25 different riders that took to the track to the day. The riders will still be required to attend promotional events for their 2016 teams up until the end of their contracts.

Lorenzo made his debut aboard the Ducati Desmosedici

It was a cool start to the test day (8 degrees Celsius) Jorge Lorenzo was the first out on track keen to have a go aboard the Ducati. A lot of riders contracts were coming to the end at the end of the 2016, and it was the Spanish rider’s decision to move to the Italian team that sparked a whole wave of movement throughout the paddock.

He first took to the Spanish track, that he had just claimed the last win of the season at, and smashed all the lap records in the process aboard the Yamaha M1, piloting the Ducati Desmosedici GP16 that Andrea Iannone used to ride. When he returned from his first ride he was trying to play it cool, but when he knew the cameras were not on him, he wore a big smile.

Relaxed start for Dovizioso

His new teammate Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) remained in the pits having a relaxed start to the session allowing the team to focus on helping the newbie to settle in, and prepare him for his first ride.

Very much involved in guiding Lorenzo on the Ducati, was former MotoGP champion Casey Stoner. He was one of the crew who would wait patiently for Lorenzo to remove his helmet and bits when he returned from s session on track, and they sat very content in the garage, discussing how to handle the Desmo.

Both riders experienced the Desmosedici GP17

They had spent a lot of time throughout the day adjusting the seat position of the Ducati for Lorenzo; he wanted to sit further back on the bike. In the later stages of the day however, after many of the riders who are remaining with their same teams lapped quicker than him. He was able to set a quick time that placed him in third; out of the 60 laps he completed, it was later on in lap 53 when he was quickest proving that the practice, and the adjustments to the seat, paid off.

Lorenzo teases with one lap on the GP17

Then with just over five minutes remaining, he was finally united with his bike that he will be competing aboard in 2017. Lorenzo made his way out onto the Ricardo Tormo Circuit aboard the Ducati Desmosedici GP 17 for the very first time, but teasing, he just completed one lap.  Dovizioso had already been out on his for a while previous, putting in many laps and switching between the Ducati Desmosedici GP16 and GP17; the Italian finished fifth overall.

Aleix Espargaro makes his debut on the Aprilia

Aleix Espargaro was the next to make his debut aboard the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini RS-GP 20 minutes in to the session. The bike still was carrying the winglets that have been used by riders this year, and that have also been banned for the 2017 season. It turned out to be quite a promising start for Aleix who ended up finishing 14th quickest overall, his fastest lap coming on lap 33 out of the 61 he completed.

Bagnaia claims the reward from his bet with his Moto3 bosses

After 30 minutes of the session, there was a special appearance on track. After winning a bet with his team bosses, Moto3 Pull & Bear Aspar Mahindra rider Francesco Bagnaia was rewarded a go on the Aspar Ducati MotoGP bike. They had bet that if he won two Moto3 races, he could have a go, and that is what he did. With a big smile on his face he got his first experience of the bike, carefully guided it round the track for nine laps and then returned to the pits.

He actually did well on the Ducati, his fastest lap time was not far off the pace of other much experienced riders who spent all day at it. He set a fastest time of 1:36.940 during his experience that he won’t be forgetting in a while.

Lowes gets another go of his Aprilia

Sam Lowes, who raced in the Moto2 in 2016, again took to the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini RS-GP for the test. It was not his first time on the bike, as he has tested during the season. But this was his first opportunity to run alongside his new colleagues, and to compare the data he collected against them. Lowes was 24th quickest at the end of the day having completed 63 laps, his fastest time coming on the last lap he did.

As they began the final hour, Lowes was one of several riders who were caught out at turn 10 of the track. The track was beginning to cool, and when he approached the right hander, the front tucked and he slid out, causing quite a bit of damage to the side of the Aprilia. He was OK, and received a lift back to his pits, his bike was eventually returned too; but it was an early end to the first day of testing for him.

The future Team Suzuki Ecstar team take to the track

Iannone immediately tried to pull a wheelie

Iannone took to it straight away, he immediately looked comfortable and relaxed. He spent most of his first lap trying to lift the first wheel. He was able to prove how competitive that bike has become due to the hard work of Vinales and Aleix Espargaro and the team. The Italian remained near the top of the timesheets throughout the whole day.

The ‘Maniac’ finished the day in seventh overall after completing just 41 laps. His fastest time of 1:31.165 came on lap 29, and was just 0.009 seconds slower than Cal Crutchlow on the 2016 LCR Honda.

For Rins it was another story understandably as he took longer to adjust to the MotoGP bike on his debut in the class. Having been promoted from the Paginas Amarillas HP 40 team in the Moto2 class, he began his first session by pumping the brakes in order to try and heat them up. He set off with no winglets from the start; if he wasn’t able to use them next year, then he didn’t need to learn anything about them.

Rins was amongst the riders who spent most of the time on track on day one. Completing 71 laps, his fastest time came towards the end on lap 69 of 1:32.811; it was a great pace on his debut as he definitely improved as time went on.

Pol Espargaro puts the begins work with the new factory  KTM

Pol Espargaro was the next rider to take his first ride on the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing bike that recently made its debut at the Valencia GP ridden by Mika Kallio, and will be completing its first MotoGP season in 20117. Pol was able to reduce his lap times throughout the day during the 57 laps he completed by approximately five seconds; his fastest lap was on lap 39.

Unfortunately for the Spaniard, with less than two hours of the first day remaining he came off at turn 10 also, the front end tucked and he slid out on his first flying lap off that run, and they slid into the gravel. He was unhurt and able to return to the pits where he waited for his bike; he made it out again later on.

Folger the fastest rookie at the Valencia test

Jonas Folger was next to make his MotoGP debut having moved up from the Moto2 class where he rode for Dynavolt Intact GP. He took to the Monster Yamaha Tech3 very well and actually finished the end of day one as the fastest rookie in 16th. He completed 52 laps, his fastest time of 1:32.450 he set on lap 51.

Double Moto2 champion Zarco joins Folger on their Tech 3 Yamaha debut

His teammate for next season, Johann Zarco, who moves up to the MotoGP class after becoming the double Moto2 champion with the Ajo Motorsport team, was the next to take to take to the track for his debut. He completed 61 laps, also looking comfortable on the French team’s bike; his fastest lap of 1:32.462 (just 0.012 seconds slower than Folger) came on his penultimate lap of the day.

Bautista bonded well with the Ducati

After 90 minutes into the session, Alvaro Bautista made his first run out on his new bike, the Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati. He completed his fastest lap on lap 56 out of 58 aboard the Desmosedici GP15 and finished the day as the third highest placed Ducati; the fastest out of the independent team Ducati riders on what turned out to be a very important start for the Spaniard.

Joining him at the Aspar team, Karol Abraham, ventured out soon after him. Returning to the class after a while he finished 23rd overall on the day after running 59 laps over the duration, and on lap 49 he was able to set his quickest time on his return.

Smith tests the KTM with Pol

British rider Bradley Smith, who is still carrying injuries sustained during an endurance event in between rounds during the 2016 season, (that led to him missing some more ) also made a late start to the day of testing. Smith has made the movfe with his teammate from the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team, Pol Espargaro, to the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team, also joining them in the new adventure. Keen to secure a factory ride he revealed early into the season that he had signed the contract.

Smith seemed to struggle on day one of testing, possibly due to a mixture of his injury, adapting to the new bike, and kinks in the bike that did not manage to complete its MotoGP race debut. On lap 36 of 52, Smith set his quickest time which was 0.193 seconds slower than that of Pol’s; he finished day one in 20th.

Vinales goes top of the class on his Movistar Yamaha debut

The rider who stunned on the day however, was Maverick Vinales who made his debut on the Movistar Yamaha. It was as if he had ridden that bike for years the way the two appeared to bond immediately and straight away he put in a good lap time, and remained competitive throughout the day. He looked so relaxed and content when he returned to the pits amongst his new team.

Vinales fast lap came at the end of the day

Vinales completed 137 laps throughout the two days; it was his 55th lap out of 61 with a time of 1:30.930 helped him to become the man to beat at the end of day one. It was an incredible start to his journey with the M1, of course there are things to work on for the Spaniard.

Although he was comfortable, at one point his foot was off the peg and he almost fell off the side of the bike, sometimes he looked to be wrestling with the M1, but if they got on so well on their first meeting, then just imagine how well a collaboration it is going to be when the new season gets underway.

A first look at the 2017 MotoGP factory bikes

With no further changes to the MotoGP line up expected to the MotoGP class in the 2017 season, the rest of the future class of 2017 were also present at the first day of testing in Valencia along with test riders for certain times.

Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa were present testing both the 2016 and 2017 Repsol Honda. Like a lot of the factory riders who will be receiving the 2017 machinery, they first appeared to warm up and re-adjust and re-familiarise with the track on their familiar bike, and then switched between the two as they tested various settings, parts and modifications.

Marquez initally fastest

The 2016 MotoGP champion, Marquez, initially set the fastest time on the track during the morning of the test. He switched to the 2017 machine with less than two hours to go, and soon made his way back up to second in the timesheets aboard the bike. He completed 53 laps and finished fourth overall after his lap time of 1:31.102 on lap 33 on the new machinery.

Pedrosa, who is still carrying injuries from his big off in Motegi during Free Practice (a high side left him with a broken collarbone, fractured vertebrae and a broken toe), and he ended up finishing 20th overall after completing just 42 laps.

Rossi crashes on day one of testing but dominated most of the day

Nine times world champion Valentino Rossi made a very late start to the first day of testing in Valencia. He was the last of the bunch to make an appearance over 95 minutes into the day. He first went out on the 2016 M1 to complete a few laps and within the first half an hour he ended up setting the fastest lap that ended up being the time to beat for the majority of the day; he completed his lap on an empty track with a new tyre.

Rossi crashes out

Later on, he made his way out on track for the first time on the 2017 M1, a noticeable difference on it being the higher air vent that will allow more air into the engine which may help to increase the speed. Unfortunately for the Italian though, he crashed out midway through the session. He too came off at turn 10 of the track, and was taken to the medical centre via scooter.

He turned out to be OK and able to continue on with the day. He next ventured out with the M1 that consisted of the 2017 engine within the 2016 chassis. Throughout the day he completed 47 laps, his fastest being lap 11 on the 2016 bike. He ended up finishing 0.02 seconds behind his future teammate Vinales in second with a time of 1:30.950.

Troublesome day for Crutchlow as the top independent

Crutchlow was given the opportunity to run the 2016 and 2017 Honda in LCR Honda colours; the team with who he competed with in the 2016 season and finished as the top independents in fifth in the championship standings. It was a troublesome day for Crutchlow who appeared to first have some sort of leakage that forced him to retreat to the pits, he was annoyed for some reason by someone or something track side, and he crashed out with 25 minutes to go.

It was turn 14 that caught the Brit out, the same corner that ended his season early when he came off during the race in Valencia. He was unhurt after both he and his bike slid into the gravel; he was on the 20116 bike when he came off. Still, Crutchlow finished sixth overall, again as the top satellite bike and as the second highest Honda; his lap time of 1:31.156 came on lap 42 out of 69, and he was competitive throughout the day.

Petrucci unable to attend test

Octo Pramac Yakhnich rider Scott Redding continued on his Desmosedici GP16, possibly spending the day trying to overcome the tyre grip issues that spoiled his final race of the season, He was 8th quickest after spending 71 laps on track. He looked threatening on some laps as he completed the first three sectors with the fastest times, but it seemed to be the final sector that he struggled with and where he lost the most time.

Rabat spent the most time on track

Redding’s Italian teammate, who won the battle between them to get the Desmosedici GP17, had to return to Italy for family reasons. In his place, Ducati test rider Michele Pirro took the reins instead for him and finished 13th overall after completing 47 laps.

The Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS teammates, 2016 Assen GP race winner  Jack Miller, and ‘Rookie of the Year’ Tito Rabat were out testing the Honda. Both spent a lot of time on track, Miller completed 62 laps and finished 1th, and the former rookie of the class spent the most time on track out of anyone with 72 laps; he was 18th at the end of day one.

Barbera experience of the factory Ducati paying off

Hector Barbera was once again impressive for Avintia Racing. Out of he and his teammate continuing into 2017, Loris Baz, he was awarded the Desmocsedici GP15 for the 2017 season, Baz will remain on the GP14.2.

The Spaniard completed just 43 laps, but his time on lap 25 allowed him to finish ninth overall on day one as the third highest Ducati and the top independent team rider; the time spent over two rounds replacing Iannone on the factory Ducati clearly paid off. Baz, who is still carrying injuries from throughout the 2016 was able to complete 42 laps, his fastest time occurred on his last lap; he was 15th.

Laverty tests for Aprilia despite his return to the Superbikes

Present In Valencia as a test rider for Aprilia, Eugene Laverty, who is leaving the MotoGP class after spending two years with the Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati team, to return to the World Superbikes for Aprilia, was present testing the MotoGP Ducati. He completed 45 laps on his new manufacturer’s bike finishing 22nd on the day. It ended with a bang however as with just three minutes remaining he crashed out at turn 10. The front end had again tucked like the others, they slid out, his airbags went pff and his bike was buried in the gravel, but most importantly he was not hurt.

Tsuda the Suzuki test rider present

Also present for the Suzuki Test Team was Takuya Tsuda, he completed 41 laps throughout the day finishing at the bottom (ahead of Bagnaia, but technically his times did not count), in 25th. Within the final hour, as the track began to cool as the temperature dropped, his day also came to an early end when he crashed out of turn 10 also. The bike binned itself and ended up in bits in the gravel; Tsuda was also OK after the incident.

One more day of testing remains

The MotoGP class of 2017 and the test riders will complete one more day of testing in Valencia. After that they will get a much deserved break, a chance to celebrate, relax, reflect and recuperate before they will participate in further test events in the future. Before they get to that though, as riders, they will all want to leave Valencia on top, to ensure that everyone is aware of their potential going into 2017. Happy new MotoGP year!