What a fantastic start that Andrea Iannone got to his new career with Team Suzuki Ecstar, when he first took the reins of the GSX-RR at two days of testing at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia, Spain. Also making his MotoGP and Suzuki debut, was Moto2 rider Alex Rins who has been promoted from the 600cc class for the 2017 season. Unfortunately, although he too got a positive start, it didn’t necessarily work out like that.
As soon as Iannone took control of the GSX-RR, after piloting the Ducati previously, he immediately looked comfortable. While everyone was curious as to how Jorge Lorenzo would do on Iannone’s old bike, and how the rider he is replacing, Maverick Vinales, took to the Movistar Yamaha in place of Lorenzo, surely a sense of fear began to grow surrounding Iannone as he shot to the top of the timesheets.
Iannone pulled as many wheelies as he could on his first lap
Looking like he had ridden that bike for a while he was soon able to spend his time throughout the tests applying modifications in the setup and the electronics configuration which he found improved the performance; that is when he wasn’t trying to do a wheelie on the thing. However, he did crash on his first day midway through the session; fortunately he was OK and soon able to return. Iannone finished the first day of testing on his Suzuki as seventh quickest as his crash spoiled his momentum; he was just 0.2 seconds of the quickest time set by Vinales.
Rins began his first experience of a MotoGP bike
Rins on the first day, not only had to adapt to the Suzuki, but had to adapt to the features the MotoGP bike has compared to the other bikes. He started off without the electronics, so he could learn the behaviour of the GSX-RR, and they were slowly introduced as the day continued. As soon as he took to the tracks, he was immediately testing to see what the carbon brakes felt like.
Step-by-step he became acquainted with his new bike and finished in 21st on day one after completing a massive 71 laps; almost 1.7 seconds behind his teammate. His fastest time on day one of 1:32.811 remained the fastest lap that he set during the test as it came to an abrupt end.
Crashes for both riders on day two
Day two was a completely different story, after just completing five laps on track not long after the session started he had a massive crash at turn 12 of the circuit. He lost the front of his GSX-RR and slid into the gravel after the bike. He tried to get back up to his feet, but only made it to his knees before having to lie back down. He received medical attention at the track side, was stretchered into the back of an ambulance and taken to the medical centre before being transferred to the Hospital 9 de Octubre in Valencia to be checked further.
When he was put into the back of the ambulance that was transferring him to hospital, he was on a full back board with a neck brace and a drip, but was conscious and waving to the cameras. It turns out the Spanish rookie had lesions on his thoracic vertebra T8 and T12 and had to remain in the hospital before he was transferred to hospital in Barcelona for further treatment; he will remain out for at least a month and miss the next unofficial test in Jerez the following week.
Iannone’s crash causes red flag
Things went from bad to worse for the Suzuki team, as not long after, Iannone practically replicated his future teammate’s crash when he came off at turn 12. A very stunned and subdued looking Iannone sat on the other side of the barrier on some tyres supporting his right arm, after Marshals picked up the bits of his bike that were scattered throughout the gravel. The session had to be red-flagged while everything was sorted.
Iannone soon returned to the pits via scooter and went and got checked over; he then sat in the pits with ice on his right elbow. He did this while a new air-fence was installed in front of the barrier at turn 12 as the crashes raised concerns for the riders, and Safety Officer Loris Capirossi, who visited each rider in the pits to discuss what was happening. The session when it was restarted, was extended by 30 minutes to make up for the lost time on track.
Iannone able to continue with the test
Iannone was able to return to track determined to continue. He was able to provide his new team with important feedback for future development of the bike. He was able to improve on his time from day one by 0.566 seconds, and finished fourth quickest on his debut, afeter completing 92 laps, with a time of 1:30.599.
Iannone’s crew chief analyses Iannone’s performance
Tied by his contract with Ducati, Iannone himself was not allowed to discuss his Suzuki debut in Valencia. His crew chief however, Marco Rigamonti, felt that day one had been “positive”. He said that they “mainly intended to get the first feeling with the machine” and then to go on to “start knowing the mechanics of the new crew”, and also to “get a first feeling on the potential of the machine”. He revealed that Iannone had “reported to [him] very positive feelings” and that they “worked intensely with hard-tyre testing” as well as “how the bike reacts with the tyres dropping”. By the end of it he said that the “best time came with pretty-worn tyres”.
He spoke of how Iannone “started with winglets to have a first touch of the machine as it was”, and then they removed them as they “are forbidden in 2017”. Although he knew the “first runs were to get to know the machine” he spoke of how Iannone “could immediately appreciate the effectiveness of the project” and that he then went on to start to give “engineers come areas to work on”. He said, “The good thing is that all the improvements he saw as passible are little steps, as the base-setting made him already feel confident and comfortable”.
Rigamonti’s thoughts on Iannone’s second day
Analysing day two, Rigamonti confirmed that the pains in Iannone’s right elbow from the morning crash “prevented him pushing 100%” however he “managed to do many laps and confirm his positive impressions” from day one. He confirmed that Iannone “reported to have a very good feeling with corner speed and the general balance of the machine”, and that he “appreciated the extremely positive handling”. Looking into the future he said they will “now focus to improve the traction and acceleration, especially at the first touch of the throttle, and to further investigate the potential of the electronics”.
He spoke of how the “whole crew is very dedicated to Andrea” and that they were “all keen to listen and to fulfil his desires”. He thought that this “also contributed to making him feel at ease in the garage during these first two days and we are all eager to go testing in Jerez next week”.
Emotional MotoGP debut for Rins
Rins himself was able to discuss his findings from the two days testing. Describing day one as “very emotional” he spoke of how his “priority as agreed with Suzuki” initially was to “just get a first taste of the machine”, he knew that it is “obviously very different from any machines [he’s] ridden before”. He was most impressed by the acceleration, and spoke of how on day one they “started with the basic setup” and the plan was to “start without any electronic control so that [he] could understand the machine’s performance without any filters”.
He revealed that they then “introduced some traction control and anti-wheeling” and this meant he was able to “start to understand how the electronics settings worked”. He praised the team saying they gave him “total support” explaining that “everything is new and at a top level” and he was “really enthusiastic of this first experience”.
Rins disappointed with the outcome from the test
On day two he felt it was “a pity to crash” especially as he was “eager to improve the feeling with the bike” and that they were “following the correct work-plan with the team”. He was “disappointed” as he felt that this test was “important to find out the first impressions and to get confidence with the bike” but had to reassure himself saying, “Unfortunately we can’t change what has happened”.
He said that now is the time to “come back home, take some rest, and think about the pre-season”. He was grateful to the team again for their “kindness to [him] during these set-up days and for all the work they did to show [him the best way to kick off in the MotoGP world.”
More in-depth explanation of Rins' injuries
Clinica Mobile Medical Co-ordinator, Michele Zasa, confirmed that Rins was "conscious all the time" after his incident and that he could "move both arms and legs" and was on "complaining of back pain". When in the Valencian hospital he "underwent a few exams including a CT scan and an MRI".
Zasa said, "Specifically from the examinations it came out that there were lesions on thoracic vertebra T8 and T12 because of the injury, but fortunately the lesion didn't affect the spine". He confirmed Rins was awaiting a "neurosurgical consultation" and then they planned to "organise the transfer to Barcelona" where he will be visited by the medical team.
Manager Brivio’s thoughts on his new riders
Team Manager of Team Suzuki Ecstar, Davide Brivio felt it had been “a good start of the 2017 season with both [their] new riders”. He mentioned that they “had a different schedule and working plan” due to their experience. He knew that Iannone “wanted to see how [their] machine is performing and find a comfortable base position and base set up”, and he spoke of how they were “curious to hear his comments and first impressions”. They were “happy to hear that he liked the machine” and that he “felt at ease on it” and he confirmed that he has given them some areas to work and improve on.
He mentioned that Rins had “a very different objective”, the priority being to get his first go of the MotoGP bike with him “being a debutant in the class”; he said they were “very happy because he is learning the process needed to ride such a kind of bike”. He complimented him saying, “he’s a very smart guy, very focused” and Brivio felt at the end of day one that he “seems to be quick in learning”.
Brivio discusses day two
At the end of the test Brivio still felt that it was “quite positive” however the incidents “interrupted the working plan”. He confirmed Rins’ injuries and that he “should rest for at least three weeks” and that he “will not be at Jerez next week for the private test” and so they have to wait for his return in Sepang. He felt it was a “pity” as they have “lost a bit of time” but he knew that the “important thing now is he rests as much as possible”. He wished him “the best recovery” and plan to meet him again in Sepang.
Analysing the crashes he felt that both crashes were similar, however in Rins’ case “he took the line where it seems there was a lot of rubber and as soon as he touched the brake he crashed”. He felt that it was “even more strange with Iannone’s crash because he was riding so slow”. Although he felt the incident “complicated [their] working plan a bit” but as he was able to ride later on in the day they “were able to get information ahead of the private test in Jerez next week.”