Two days following the 2017 MotoGP season finale at Valencia, the first pre-2018 official test got underway Tuesday at the Spanish circuit.This provided riders a chance to start work on 2018 MotoGP setup, and riders to debut on their 2018 machinery, with many riders debuting in the premier class from Moto2.
Following the first of two days, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Vinales took the top time ahead of Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Johan Zarco. As for the 2017 MotoGP title winner, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, who claimed his sixth World Title Sunday, was third quickest third.Vinales would claim the top time with a 1:30.189 at Valencia, 00.200 of a second ahead of Zarco. Vinales experimented with a new fairing as did his teammate Valentino Rossi, who finished the day in fifth.Vinales put in 80 laps, and Rossi 63; the nine-time World Champion Rossi suffered a crash at turn 10, but walked away unharmed and was able to return to action.Zarco, who completed 53 laps, worked with four new YZR-M1 chassis setups on a 2018 prototype. Regardless, the Frenchman claimed his fastest times on his 2017 YZR-M1.Marquez, meanwhile, was the last man out on track and did 70 laps as he began his campaign to defend the crown – already. His best was just over a tenth slower than Zarco, and he began the day on the 2017 bike before trying a modified version and then the 2018 bike – with a new chassis, new engine, and new exhaust – “almost everything new”.Teammate Dani Pedrosa did 52 laps, and ended the day in P11 after his Valencia GP victory on Sunday, also testing the 2018 bike. Cal Crutchlow, on the first LCR Honda machine, finished up in tenth after 55 laps.Jack Miller (Octo Pramac Racing) was the standout debutant as he rode a Ducati for the first time, going fifth fastest and almost immediately quicker than his fastest lap in the race on Sunday – and quicker than any lap put in during the race on Sunday. He was the fastest Ducati, with the Borgo Panigale factory’s Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo slotting into P7 and P8 respectively – both putting in around a half century of laps. Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) took P14 after 46 laps, just behind Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) – with the former intermediate class Champion putting in 70 laps on his first day on a Ducati.Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was sixth and fastest for the Noale factory after 51 laps, with new teammate Scott Redding settling in in P15 on Day 1. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) took ninth after 56 laps, with teammate Bradley Smith putting in a similar count of laps to end the day in P12 as the Austrian factory head into their sophomore season.Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda) was the fastest rookie in P17 after 76 laps, with reigning Moto2™ Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) incredibly close behind in P18. Xavier Simeon (Reale Avintia Racing) put in 43 laps on his first run in the premier class, returning from injury and ending the day in P20. He also suffered a lowside crash earlier in the day.Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) suffered a big crash early in the day after a mechanical problem, and went to hospital for precautionary checks. He sat out the rest of the test day, although was confirmed with no fractures. There were more issues of a different nature at Team Suzuki Ecstar as Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins were both sidelined with a virus, and are hoping to get out on track tomorrow.
Maverick Viñales, P1: “It was the same bike as the weekend, I felt much better – pushing the bike and from the first lap in the morning I felt great. During the whole day, even with 27 laps on the tyre, I could do low 31s. So we enjoyed today a lot, after a disaster weekend I was enjoying riding again. I felt strong again. We tried some things, with positives and negatives, but the laptime was there all the time. I think we did a good job, riding with the race setup and a full tank, and we worked quite good on that area. Then we did the time attack and I felt great. Nothing was different – one click in the suspension, the whole day like that. With the 2017 and 2016 bikes I was fast, both have positives and negatives. I feel more potential on the 2017 – but if the bike is working like today. The new fairing works well with some weak points on the bike, I liked it. We’ll test it again in Sepang and other tests.”Johann Zarco, P2: “I am happy and I like the new bike. I started on the 2016 bike that I rode this year in order to get some references and a feeling on the first run. Then I tried the 2017 version and overall, I have a good feeling when I am braking which is important. When you start the race, to have more control like this on the brakes means you can fight in a better way so I am pleased. I went for a fast lap on new tires and I’m not far from my qualifying time on Saturday, only one-tenth slower. However, I am using less energy on the bike so for me, testing the new bike was very positive.”Marc Marquez, P3: “Today we tried our current bike, then our current bike with a slight modification and then the prototype, I can’t say a lot because we still need to adjust many things – it’s a new chassis, new engine, new exhaust, many different things – and now it’s important to understand well and try to improve tomorrow. To understand which are the best points and what are the weak points, and find a good compromise. This morning I went out and motivation was really high, then immediately I had a big save so I said ‘ok, we’re doing it the normal way’! But since that, I felt really good on the bike, you enjoy it when you’re champion and everything is different. You approach practice in a different way, more calm and trying to understand things because you know you’ve been Champion and the most important thing is to understand the bike and not just be fastest.”
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at email@example.com and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!