Valentino Rossi might not have left the two days of MotoGP testing at Catalunya and Aragon with the fastest lap times, but he may be the one leaving with the biggest smile on his face.
Rossi worked through a number of changes on his factory Yamaha M1 and may just have found a set-up that will prove to be a breakthrough for the rest of the season. The Italian legend has been struggling with front-end feel under heavy braking and it’s hurt him most during the Saturday qualifying sessions. For this test he spent the majority of his time working on improving his setup on the M1 under hard braking. And it looks like his Jeremy Burgess-led crew might just have found something to cure his woes.
“First of all we modified a bit the setting and also the front fork and now I feel more confident in braking,” said Rossi after ending the test today with the fourth best time. “I can brake deeper and stop the bike in a better way. For me this is the biggest improvement. After this we tried the swingarm like Jorge [Lorenzo] has; it’s a little bit more stiff, which I like. We tried some other small things; at the end we made a good package that gives me a really good feeling, especially in braking.
“I’m so happy because until today I didn’t have this feeling in braking, I am always in a bit of trouble. I can’t wait for Assen to understand if this is also improved at other tracks. It is important for the qualification lap because you have to push more in braking. This result is especially important here in Aragon as this is not one of my best tracks. I have not made great races here yet, but the pace today and the lap times at the end make me very happy.”
Rossi’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo, the winner of the last two MotoGPs, ended up as the fastest rider at Aragon today, the World Champion ending up .4 of a second quicker than Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez. Lorenzo’s best lap was a 1:48.076.
“Compared to normal I’ve been stronger today,” Lorenzo said in a team release. “At this track normally I suffer many problems in setting up the bike and getting the bike to work like in other tracks. This time from the beginning I have been very competitive with a lot of confidence. Also I think I am in very good shape so I have taken profit of it. I could also test a new tire to put myself in a qualifying situation and I did a very good lap time. We are just testing very little things but it is better than nothing.”
For Marquez, this was his first time at the Aragon track on a MotoGP bike so he fared well, going faster than his teammate Dani Pedrosa but slower than Lorenzo. Marquez is staying one more day to try the 2014-model Honda prototype after Pedrosa got first shot at it today. Pedrosa, meanwhile, is headed home and won’t test tomorrow.
“I am happy with today’s test,” Marquez said. “Aragon is one of my favorite circuits and on a MotoGP bike it is a lot of fun! At the beginning it was difficult, as many of the braking points are blind, but in the end I felt comfortable. We did a good test trying to solve a problem we had in the last couple of races. We did some changes in the geometry and we found a good base set up that I believe will be useful also in the coming circuits and not only here. Tomorrow I will do some more tests on the actual bike and then I will try the 2014 prototype. It will be a busy day.”
Pedrosa ended the day with the third best time, a 1:48.928 – set on the 2013 model. He didn’t find the 2014 model attractive enough to commit to using it anytime soon.
“It’s been a positive day of testing,” Pedrosa said. “We focused more on the actual bike doing several tests with different rear shocks to find more grip especially in the exit of the corners. I am quite happy as we found something good. We also did a kind of ‘shake down’ of the 2014 prototype. I did just two exits and a total of nine laps, basically to get the first impression and give to the engineers some feedback. The bike is okay, but at the moment we need more time to understand it, so in the short term I will not use it.”