What a fantastic result it turned out to be for rookie Jonas Folger as he not only finished as the quickest rookie after three days of IRTA MotoGP testing at Phillip Island, but he finished up as fourth overall and the second highest placed Yamaha on the timesheets.
New teammates Folger, and the 2016 Moto2 double champion Johann Zarco continued their new journey together with their new team in the top class with three days of testing at Phillip Island in Australia. The third test so far of the off season, and the third opportunity for both to adjust to managing a MotoGP bike, both made a positive start once again.
Folger 10th at the end of day one
The test is a chance for them to build on their experience, and on day one Folger finished up the day in 10th position after completing 62 laps on the coastal track. His fastest lap time clocked 1:30.578, which was just over half a second slower than the top three riders by the end of day one.
The German rider was left feeling “quite happy with the outcome” of the first day as he felt they “collected some important information”. He felt that it “was a bit tricky because of the wind” however he said that “fortunately the weather improved in the afternoon”.
Folger used day one to experiment with the tyres
After he managed to “set a solid lap time in the morning” he described how they “started to experiment with the bike setting and tyres”. He described how “towards the end of the session” on day one that he noticed that the “Yamaha started to feel a bit light at the front” and so they were left having to “analyse why this is happening” and had to distinguish whether it was as a result of his riding or the setting of the M1.
Still, he felt that by the end of the opening day they had managed to gain “a lot of data” which left them feeling “positive”, and that that in turn set them up well for the second day where he vowed to do his best when they return to the track.
Folger progresses three places by the end of day two
On day two Folger was able to improve his own time by almost one second; the improvements meant that he was able to finish further up the timesheets in seventh less than half a second behind the top three riders. Once again he remained the quickest rookie with his brilliant pace after completing 65 laps on track.
He felt that the tech 3 team “achieved a good amount today” and overall he was left feeling “happy”. They were able to try “a lot of settings as well as tyres” however he confirmed that his main focus was “different riding positions on both bikes”. He described how “after completing some distance on the altered version” that they were able to discover that “the original one that [they] had been was better” and so as a result they “reverted back to it”.
He felt that they “made a big step forward” on the second day, “especially”, he said, “with regards to [him] feeling more confident at this track”. He feels that this is “vital because of all of the fast corners”. He also commented how his “rhythm was also quite positive” and so he said, “Overall I am really happy and it was a successful day.”
Folger finishes fourth over all in Australia
The final day of testing must have by far been Folger’s best day as a MotoGP rider so far as his determination left him fourth on the day, and fourth quickest overall; as the second highest placed Yamaha. Completing another 63 laps on the final day, 190 in total, on lap 12 he was able to clock a time of 1:29.042 which as well as just being outside the 1:28 minute4 zone, was less than half a second off the lightening quick pace of leader Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha). His time was just 0.009 slower than that of Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) in third.
Despite experiencing a crash at turn six on the final day, he finished as the quickest out of the rookies. He felt that the final day was “another good day” and he described how he was able to “head home feeling positive for the future and happy about what [they} accomplished at Phillip Island.”
He explained how in the morning he “got straight to work” and found he was “able to cut [his] lap time further, which was a strong start.” He then went on to describe how he and and the team “tried a lot of settings on the bike” however he was “never 100% sure about which direction was the best one to take despite the rhythm being quite good”.
Folger explains the crash
After he “started a race simulation” he explained how after a few laps he “crashed at turn six”. Returning to track on his second bike “that had a different setting” and after completing over 10 laps, he found his “confidence came back” and that he “became faster and faster which was very important.”
He now feels that they know “which direction [they] have to head towards” and they plan to “try again in Qatar”. Leaving Australia however he felt they could be “fully satisfied” about what they completed there as the “rhythm was good, the lap time was strong” and also they “tried many options, and sorted a lot of things out so [they] can all be really content”.
Zarco completes 80 laps on day one of testing
It was a slower start for Zarco to the third MotoGP test as worked to gradually build up his pace. He completed 80 laps on the first day, with his fastest time coming on lap 77 with a time of 1:30.867, which was enough to leave him 15th overall by the end of the opening session. It was an indication of how close things were as despite only being less than 0.3 seconds slower than his teammate, four riders were still able to lap quicker.
Confidence building exercise for the Frenchman
Zarco felt that the “first day at Phillip Island went positively” for him and he was left “looking forward to getting back on the Yamaha YZR-M1” on day two. He described how the “conditions were really good” and that the “temperature was warm” which meant he was able to “complete a lot of laps”. He admitted that he was “not fully confident at this circuit” as he remembered he had “fallen a few times in Moto2 in the previous years”, and so he explained how the “main task” for the opening day was to “keep riding in order to feel more comfortable”.
He confirmed that they “did not adjust too many technical aspects” and instead he “just ran some distance”; and as a result he said “step by step I am improving and feeling more positive”. Although he felt overall that the first day was “encouraging", he knew that they had work to do on the following two days.
Significant improvements for Zarco on day two
Zarco was also able to improve but almost a second as he completed 88 laps, breaking through the 1:30 minute barrier also. His time of 1:29.880 was enough to secure him 11th quickest by the end of the second day.
Zarco explained that at the end of the second day of IRTA testing, he was “leaving the track smiling” as he found that the “conditions were even better” due to the reduction in win and that for him it was “more comfortable and enjoyable to ride the bike”.
He spoke of how he “completed a lot of distance in order to continue getting used to this track on a MotoGP bike” and he felt like he was “progressing” but still there were “a few corners” that he felt he needed to “understand more and gain confidence with”.
Describing his day which he felt “started well”, he spoke of how they “tested some tyres for Michelin” which he found to be positive, as he was “able to lap consistently and at a solid pace”. He said that it was “good to give them feedback”. He also described how “in the end” he went on and “produced a time that was under the 1:30 mark” which he was “pleased about” and so he knew he would “sleep well” before returning to try his best to improve on the final day.
A busy final day for Zarco in Australia
After completing a magnificent 87 laps on the final day of IRTA testing in Phillip Island, which left him having completing 255 laps in total over the three days, Frenchman Zarco’s lap time of 1:29.670, an improvement of 0.210 seconds on his own time on day two, was enough to leave him 15th in the standings.
He felt that the “third and final day went smoothly” and he was left “looking forward to the next track appearance in Qatar”. The perfect track conditions he said helped his confidence and for him it meant they could “ride uninterrupted”. After he “improved on yesterday’s best time in the morning” he described how he “kept working and completing laps”, he said, “In the end I am pleased about the distance that we covered today.”
Again mentioning how “this circuit is not one of [his] favourites”, he felt that as a result of the number of laps he rode, he is now “able to understand the bike better” and that they can “adjust and improve more setting”; something he feels is “important for the next test” as he feels he will be “stronger at other venues”.