How did Honda do at the MotoGP IRTA test in Valencia?

With no major changes to the line-up of the riders for Honda ahead of the 2017 MotoGP season, the three teams running with the Japanese manufacturer worked towards preparing the RC213V ahead of next year, when they will continue testing in Sepang in January. Repsol Honda teammates Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, LCR Honda rider Cal Cruthclow, and Estrella Galicica 0,0 Marc VDS riders Jack Miller and Tito Rabat analyse the final test of the year for them.

How did Honda do at the MotoGP IRTA test in Valencia?
(photo: Getty Images / Pacific Press)

Being the only manufacturer not making any changes from the 2016 MotoGP line up, ahead of the 2017 MotoGP season, Honda were present at two days of testing in Valencia, after winning the 2016 constructors’ championship,  to begin work on preparation ahead of next season, just two days after the Gran Premio Motul de la Communitant Valencianca.

Same riders and slightly different crews for some

They will remain with the same riders split between the three teams that run with the manufacturer in the top class. The 2016 MotoGP champion Marc Marquez and his teammate Dani Pedrosa have renewed their contract for two years with Repsol Honda, Cal Crutchlow is hoping to again finish as the top independent team rider, and possibly more, with LCR Honda, and teammates Jack Miller and Tito Rabat will remain with Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS, all were present at the IRTA test In Valencia.

Straight after picking the FIM award for his 2016 MotoGP championship, Marc Marquez got the 2017 season underway; after completing several laps on the 2016 RC213V when the two day session began, he soon went to the top of the timesheets after familiarising himself. He then split the remainder of his time, as did his teammate Pedrosa, testing the 2017 model, and switching between the two as they tested modifications to the setup of both.

Change of plan for the Repsol Honda riders

Initially the plan was to begin a programme of testing focused around the 2017 model, comparing it to the 2016 model, and eventually begin to test the tyres. Instead, both ended up not testing the new samples provided by French manufacturer Michelin who have completed their first year with the class, but instead worked on the engine, and continued making comparisons of the characteristics of the two models.

Everything went to plan as it seems, all but a small spill that Marquez had during the meeting. When he approached turn two he got things wrong and was forced to run on at the turn and managed to brake before he hit the gravel. He remained upright as he began to recover and make his way onto the track, but after he had made the turn, he hit the throttle a little too hard causing the back end to spin and he was thrown off the side of the bike.; he was unhurt but the bike needed work.

Otherwise, he was strong; he was able to dominate after matching his pace from the weekend of the season finale in Valencia. Completing 131 laps over the two days, he finished day one fourth overall, and the two days testing second overall; Maverick Vinales made his debut on the Movistar Yamaha and stole the show which caused Marquez to retaliate but he could not quite match his pace.

Marquez second overall by the end of the test

Marquez’s fastest lap of the two day test ended up being 1:30.171, which was 0.196 seconds of Vinales by the end of the test. It was an improvement of 0.931 seconds on his own quickest time on day one. Pedrosa on the other hand was able to complete the test without incident. He completed just 83 laps over the two days which was understandable as he is still carrying several injuries. He managed to improve from 10th by the end of day one after completing 42 laps, up to fifth by the end of the test finishing with a quickest time of 1:30.686 (approximately 0,7 seconds quicker than day one).

Marquez felt that they “started the pre-season better” than in 2015 and now he hopes to “continue to constantly progress from now on”. He confirmed that at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, they “found a good base setup and a good rhythm” and from now on will “see how it goes”; he is hoping to continue as things are. He spoke of how they didn’t “do a time attack” and also didn’t test the “new Michelin front”; instead they “used the track time available to make long exits” and they also completed a “couple of 10 lap mini long runs”.

Pedrosa analyses the two day test

Pedrosa confirmed they were “able to ride with the new bike a little more” and also were able to “further compare the characteristics”. He spoke of how they “continued to take thing fairly easily physically,” as he is still very much in the recovery process, and they did this by not completing too many laps. However, he said that they “tried to understand more about the new bike”, working to understand how the “tyres, suspension and mapping work with it”.

Pedrosa came to the conclusion that there are “things that are positive and other details that [they’ll] need to continue working on”. He plans to “take the data” they have gathered, and “carefully analyse it in order to understand what step to take next with the bike”. Pedrosa also said, “It has been interesting to see the changes of riders and manufacturers, and surprising to see that they have adapted so quickly”.

Crutchlow tests new evolution of the RC213V

For the top independent team rider of 2016 Crutchlow, he worked on the evolution of the 2017 version of the RC213V that he had previously used at Aragon. Some sort of issue with his bike, a suspected leak, forced him to return to the pits earl after he got his test underway .Unfortunately he too had a small crash later on on day one of the test when he came off at turn 14 on the 2016 model; he was unhurt but he will still have to undergo surgery during the winter on his hand.

It was a busy test for the Brit as he completed 132 laps over the duration; 69 on day one finishing sixth overall and 63 on day two remaining sixth overall and the top independent team rider. His quickest time of 1:30.709 was 0.734 seconds off the amazing quick lap from Vinales, and just 0.538 seconds off that of Marquez (and just 0,.023 seconds off Pedrosa).

Crutchlow confirmed that he was “testing a new engine” which was an “evolution of what [he] tested in Aragon”. He said that “as always” they found “some positives and some negatives”, but they also “ran the bikes back-to-back” and also tried “some different settings with each of the bikes”; this included some “suspension and mapping changes”. In the end he said that it was a “positive enough day”.

Big changes in the EG 0,0 Marc VDS camp

Miller made his presence felt during the 2016 season when he won the wet round in Assen after the perfect strategy paid off, and gained some positive results at the Valencia test. His teammate Rabat, who has now completed his rookie season, was able to build his confidence throughout the test. The duo spent the time revising the new chassis on the Honda RC213V and looking at the configuration of the unified software.

For Rabat in particular, they were able to work on restoring the feeling in the front end and he used the time on track to adapt and hopefully relax in that situation. Both riders have new team members, Miller has a new Chief Engineer, Ramon Aurin, and Rabat has several members including new Chief Engineer Diego Gubellini.

Miller finished with an impressive result, after completing 121 laps over the two days he finished 11th on day one, and dropped to 12th by the end of the test but improved his lapt times by 0.408 seconds by the end of the test finishing on a fastest lap time of 1:31.069. Rabat was 18th at the end of day one  and remained there by the end of the test finishing with a time of 1:31.918 having improved from day one by 0.660 seconds.

Miller overcome confidence issues

Miller spoke of how “during both days” of the Valencia test that he “was enjoying riding the bike more and more” each time he went out on it; something that he said has not “always been the case this season” as he admitted to the fact that they have been “struggling to overcome problems and to build confidence”.

He came away from “such a positive test at Valencia” which he thinks has allowed them to “start rebuilding some of the confidence lost”; he also felt it was a “positive way to end the season and head into the winter break”. He thinks that is also “provides a good base from which to world from” when they “return to testing in Sepang early next year”.

Rabat happy after the two days testing

Rabat spoke of how he was “really happy” after the two day test “with the new chassis” which he said brought “some big improvements” for him. He also complimented his new crew saying that they are “really working well together to get the bike working better” for him. Referring to lap times he made his “best time alone” and found he was able to “repeat it consistently”; this was something he claimed he hasn’t been able to do before this season.

Still, he feels there is “a lot of work to do” when they resume testing in 2017, but he said that the “importance of going into the winter break with confidence cannot be underestimated” and that the test has “restored a lot fo confidence that a difficult season had robbed [him] of”. He said, “Overall I couldn’t be happier with the significant step forward made here in Valencia”.

Bartholemy summarises the test for the EG 0,0 Marc VDS gang

Team Principal, Michael Bartholemy, shared his thoughts that the “Valencia test was the best way to end what at times has been a very difficult season”. He explained that the “new chassis and the revised electronics package brought big improvements” for Rabat and Miller, “not just in lap times” that he noticed were “significantly quicker and more consistent than the race weekend”, but it also brought improvements to “the team morale”.

He explained that ”Tuesday was the first time this season that [he’s] walked into the pit box and seen both riders happy”, he felt that this was “an important step forward”, and that it was “equal to steps made with the bike”. He felt that it was “a perfect way for riders to head into the winter break”, he thinks that it will mean that they will “focus on the positive from now” until they resume testing. He said, “The test also saw many new people join the team” and that after just two days he “can say that [he] believes” that they have “made the right choices in terms of [their] technical staff too”.