There have been recent additions to the MotoGP field as new teams have entered which has allowed other manufacturers to be welcomed into the pack dominated by Yamaha, Honda and Ducati.
Suzuki is evolving and proving to be competitive
Team Suzuki Ecstar reintroduced the Suzuki at the beginning of the 2015 season, and the GSX-RR has been ridden by Spaniards Maverick Vinales (who completed his rookie season when Suzuki joined) and Aleix Espargaro. Suzuki already confirmed that the bike is still very much ‘evolving’ and already it has made strides and has proved to be competitive on the track against the other factory bikes.
Aprilia also returned to the MotoGP field in 2015 in collaboration with Gresini to become Aprilia Racing Team Gresini. Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl ride the RS-GP which has looked impressive towards the beginning of the 2016 season. Both teams were present at the recent test at the Circuito de Jerez following the fourth round of the season in Spain.
Suzuki riders are not big fans of wings
The main objectives during the test for Team Suzuki Ecstar were to find better traction, to prevent rear wheel spin, and to test the new winglets; they were tested intensely to understand feeling, test the aerodynamics and the overall performance. Neither of the riders were overly impressed with the effects the winglets had on the performance.
Espargaro has improved massively since season start
Aleix Espargaro finished fifth after the race after something had seemed to click with the Spaniard who has struggled since the start of the season. Although he was able to reduce his fastest lap time set on race day by over a second, he finished sixth fastest overall on test day as his teammate Vinales significantly approved.
Espargaro insisted on debuting the winglets on Friday to see if there was a significant benefit ahead of the race; they were initially only planning to introduce the wings on test day. He said, “We had the chance to make a back-to-back test with the winglets.” Evaluating them he was not overly impressed saying, “They are not a huge improvement, but they help a little.” Thinking of future rounds he said, “If we can get even a small advantage out of them for sure it was worthy to try them.”
Traction has improved on the GSX-RR
Espargaro said, “The electronics are another issue we explored more” on test day as he felt during the race that he “had some trouble with traction” and so they worked to “find a solution for it”. He seemed happy by saying, “We had the objective to find a better traction from the rear and it looks like we achieved this result.”
Speaking of tyres Espargaro was happy with being able to complete over seventy laps using just three rear tyres, he felt they “needed to further investigate the potential of the GSX-RR when the tyres got really worn.” He said, “The timesheets confirmed that we can be performing even in those conditions and with a twenty-five lap rear tyre.”
Michelin brought three new tyres for riders to test
Michelin brought three new front tyres to the test at Jerez for the riders to try. Espargaro tested each of these and said, “I’m not feeling so good with the new intermediate tyre.” He feels the tyre he used in the race has “bigger potential and feeling”. Overall the test left him feeling “happy and confident” ahead of Le Mans where he said “traction will be much important”.
Vinales not convinced by effects of wings
Vinales completed the same tests as his teammate at Jerez. He also felt that the winglets are not really effective saying “their help is not a huge improvement” and that they “may help in certain situations”. Although he said they “do not cut tenths in the time attack” he confirmed that they allow him to “ride a little more comfortably” and he thinks that this will be a “very big help over race distance”.
Vinales seems nervous ahead of Le Mans
Vinales said their main priority was to “work on the setup” and that he needs to “reduce the spinning and to find better traction” just like his teammate. He feels that the next round at Le Mans “will be a very demanding track in terms of hard braking and acceleration”.
When focusing on tyres, Vinales claimed that he “mainly liked the soft front”. Before the race Vinales felt that they “couldn’t find the best efficiency with them” and so refrained from using them. During the test, combining the tyres with a new setup was successful and he said, “We will try to adopt it more consistently.”
Vinales significantly improved, after finishing sixth overall on race day, he finished third fastest by the end of the test. His fastest lap time of the whole weekend was 1:39.526 which he was able to improve by 1.46 seconds; Vinales completed ninety-one laps during the test.
Brivio happy for extra test day at Jerez
Team Manager Davide Brivio spoke positively about the test as he was happy to stay the extra day after the race, he said, “It helps us a lot in building our knowledge about all the technical aspects.” He felt that on Vinales’ bike they were able to find some setups that would benefit him at tracks like Jerez and had a chance to work with a front tyre they avoided over the weekend that they feel will be of use in future rounds.
Brivio claims test regained confidence for Espargaro
He felt the test was important for Espargaro “to give him back the confidence with the machine” as he has struggled so far this season. Brivio feels he is “now consistently close to the top riders” and said, “He with his crew are working intensely to recover from the difficulties he suffered pre-season and I’m happy to see him competitive again, as he can be.”
He felt that the test was a “positive” day and that it was “helpful” to report their feedback to Michelin for future development. Overall he feels the team “gained more confidence” and said “It’s easier for us to look towards Le Mans with renewed enthusiasm.”
Aprilia’s consistency is paying off
The consistency shown from the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini riders and crew has meant that the riders are currently thirteenth (Bradl) and fifteenth (Bautista) in the championship. Bradl finished thirteenth fastest on test day after improving his fastest race lap time by 1.122 seconds, Bautista improved his time by 0.688 seconds.
A lot on Bradl’s plate during test
Bradl said, “We had a lot on our plate today”, he completed sixty-six laps in order to test a “lot of different component that Aprilia brought and a few tyre solutions.” Speaking positively about the results from their work on the day he said, “We found some good signs from the frame and swingarm, and although it was only our first contact, the initial impression is that we are moving in the right direction.”
However, Bradl feels that the team “need to do a bit more testing” which will allow them to “follow up and gather more information”. He hopes to reanalyse some of the components tested at Jerez, at Mugello again in the future.
Bautista not wuick to draw final conclusions
Bautista’s main priority for the test was to “test a new frame and a swingarm with different stiffness”. Bautista felt he found “particular advantages with the frame”, however he feels that the swingarm “needs to be tested a bit more” before the team “draw any final conclusions”.
When referring to the tyres Bautista expressed how he likes the standard solutions “better than the new ones”. He feels that the tests they completed on the chassis of the Aprilia “suggests which direction we [the team] need to go for upcoming developments”. He finished by saying, “Working in order was important given the number of tests.”
Albesiano says both riders have different needs
Aprilia Racing Manager Romano Albesiano revealed that they also tested “new forks that are not as stiff and a fuel feed system with different pressure”. They were able to gather a “large amount of information” after focusing on “a few particular setups, solutions that are usually not tested during the race weekend”.
He said that the team are “moving in different development directions for the two riders who are proving to have different needs.” He also said, “We will keep working in the coming days at Mugello” where Mike Di Meglio will also participate, “to see which combinations can be used already in the next race at Le Mans.”
Gresini pleased with entire team efforts
Team Manager Fausto Gresini described the day as “very profitable” and felt that “Being on the track after the race allowed us [the team] to make some very accurate comparisons and that helpsline development.” He feels that the results are “positive” and hopes the testing in Mugello will allow them to see “which upgrades to implement” ready for Le Mans. He finished by saying, “Aprilia is doing a great job and I am very pleased with the efforts of the entire team.”