Days of intense MotoGP pre-season testing have finally drawn to a close, and the first official round of the season will kick off at Qatar’s Losail Circuit on 23 March.
Let’s take a look at what we can expect this year:
Testing Results – Philip Island and Qatar
At testing in Philip Island, Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo finished way ahead of his rivals, securing a fastest lap time of 1m 29.068s. Honda’s Dani Pedrosa came second, followed by Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso. Last year’s champion Marc Marquez was absent from testing due to an accident during training that left him with a broken fibula. Despite this, Marquez will go on to compete in the season, though admits that he will not be “100% fit.”
Spaniard Alex Espargaro finished top in the preseason testing in Qatar, recording a fastest time of 1m 54.874s on the 19th lap. His rookie brother, Pol, secured the second fastest time of 1m 54.907s, riding for Monster Yamaha Tech3. However, Pol had a late accident which left him with a fractured collarbone, and he is set to undergo surgery on Monday.
Monster Yamaha Tech3 had two bikes finishing in the top three, with Brit Bradley Smith securing third place and setting a fastest lap time of 1m 55.027s riding a YZR-M1.
This year, MSMA models will now fall under the ‘Factory’ class, while the Claiming Rule Teams will now be categorised under the ‘Open’ class. Factory class machines have control ECU hardware, but unique software from the manufacturer. The regulations state that all engines must be the same throughout the season within the same team, meaning that there is a development freeze on the models. Each bike is allowed five engine changes for the season with a 20 litre fuel allocation.
Bikes in the Open class have a full control ECU system which includes both the hardware and software. Each machine is limited to 12 engine changes per season and 24 litres of fuel. There is no engine development freeze on bikes in the Open class, and the machines also feature a softer rear tyre.
Despite differences in engine development, tyres, fuel limits and ECU software, both classes will compete for the same championship title.
There have been several changes made to this year’s MotoGP. In regard to teams, Pramac Racing will enter their bikes in the new Open class. Cardion AB Motoracing and Aspar Racing Team will switch to Honda bikes for this year, entering the RCV1000R for the Open class. Gresini Racing will also complete in the Open class, this time with a full Honda set-up, having competed last year with a Honda engine and an FTR chassis.
There’s been a swap around in regard to riders this year as well, including Nick Hayden’s move to Aspar Racing from Ducati. Cal Crutchlow will move from Yamaha Tech 3 to take Hayden’s old spot and will race for Ducati. Hiroshi Aoyama will move to Aspar Racing, while Aleix Espargaro will leave Aspar to join the Forward Racing team.
Originally, it was hoped that one round of the MotoGP would be held at the Internacional Piquet circuit in Brazil’s capital, but the venue missed out from being included in the schedule. This marked a ten year absence for Brazil from holding a round of the GP. Due to the absence, the San Marino Grand Prix and the Aragon Grand will be a fortnight apart.
This year’s calendar will feature a new event which will take place at the Autodromo Termas de Rio Hondo in Argentina on 7 April.
MotoGP comes to England for the Hertz British Grand Prix on the 31 august at Silverstone. Tickets can be bought from the official MotoGP website.
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