|Pedrosa on a slightly drying circuit…
Photo: Repsol Honda
As is becoming common-place for motorcycle racers recently, the final MotoGP test of the season got underway at Jerez de la Frontera in southern Spain today in wet and cool conditions. This weekend is the penultimate opportunity for the teams to get the best out of their riders and machines before they pack up one last time ahead of the Thursday test at Qatar preceeding the hugely-anticipated opening Grand Prix of the season in two weeks time.
After a slow start to the proceedings due to the adverse weather conditions riders finally ventured out on to one of the shortest tracks on the calender, which was held as one session to maximise track time for the premier class bikes. First to brave the conditions were Avintia Blusens new-boy Hiroshi Aoyama and the Ducati Corse test rider Michele Pirro while the remainder of the teams took more time to decide when was right for them to go out.
After successful tests in Sepang, Malaysia and the new addition to the series, Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, the Repsol Honda team looked to work on both suspension settings and electronics for Pedrosa and Marquez while over at Tech3 Yamaha Cal Crutchlow had no new parts to run despite media reporting otherwise and Bradley Smith was hoping to get some long runs in to get more on-bike time as neither rider was present at the Austin test.
It was halfway through the session before the main championship protagonists ventured out, only completing a handful of laps each, feeling their way around the wet-but-drying track before the heavens opened, once again drenching the tight and twisty circuit and with only four sets of wet tyres per rider for the weekend it was difficult for teams to understand how many laps were worth completeing. When the rain finally cleared all but the Aspar riders of Espagaro and de Puniet made it out to try and put together some meaningful runs in the time left available and get through as much work as possible.
The prize for most laps today goes to Hiroshi Aoyama for completing a dizzying 56 laps in all conditions, but as the chequered flag dropped on the session at 6pm local time it was reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo and his Yamaha M1 that posted the fastest time of 1.47.423s. That time put him ahead of the two Repsol Hondas of Pedrosa some 1.015s back and Marquez just 0.050s behind his team-mate with Iannone taking advantage of the inclement conditions to post the fourth fastest time for Energy T.I. Pramac Racing Team. Ducati test rider Pirro was fifth fastest after an impressive 48 laps with nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi in sixth. The rest of the top ten was rounded out by American Nicky Hayden, the first of the non-test team Factory Ducatis with Crutchlow in eighth, Bradl ninth after falling, uninjured, from his LCR Honda late in the session and birthday boy Andrea Dovizioso rounding out the top ten.
As for the CRTs it was PBM’s Yonny Hernandez who lead home the third tier bikes with the usually fastest CRTs of Aspar team sitting out the session, not wanting to damage a brand new engine in Espagaro’s Aprilia. The weather hampered the progress of the other PBM rider Michael Laverty, who was looking forwards to getting some more firm development mileage on his in-house built machine but only completed 12 laps, propping up the timesheets with a time of 1.56.931s, an unfair representation of the potential shown in the Sepang tests. Other notables outside of the top ten were Ben Spies in eleventh and a weather-hit Bradley Smith in 16th.
PaddockChatter isn’t reading too much in to the times as the weather played a big part in proceedings today, but as with any test, the fast riders are still fastest and it’s clear that the rest of the field will have to ride harder than ever to compete with the Spanish Holy Trinity of Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Marquez. Day two starts at 10.00am local time for another full day of testing with the weather for tomorrow looking slightly better, only a light shower or two possible but with highs of 17C the track should dry quite quickly from any precipitation.