Felice Monteleone – FMPhotoSport MotoGP News
“Why Malaysia, Australia and Qatar?”
Loris Capirossi and Juan Martinez explain the reasoning behind the selection of Sepang, Phillip Island and Losail for the MotoGP preseason..
With the northern hemisphere in the middle of winter, Monday sees the start of the 2017 preseason in warmer climes. The hot and humid Sepang International Circuit (Malaysia) hosts the MotoGP riders for three days of testing -beginning a total of nine days of track time at different venues to prepare for the upcoming campaign. “It was one of the most eagerly awaited times of the year for the riders; after two months of hard work, I was always very happy to get back on the bike,” recalls Loris Capirossi, the former 125cc and 250cc World Champion and current Dorna safety adviser, as well Race Direction representative. These are tests that Juan Martinez, a former suspensions technician in the Repsol Honda team for riders such as Mick Doohan, Tadayuki Okada and Valentino Rossi, describes as “very important for obtaining a lot of data at three different circuits, in which the performance of the bikes, tyres and riders are assessed.”
The heat of Sepang
“The decision to go to these three circuits was taken jointly between the teams, Dorna, IRTA and the tyre supplier,” elaborates Capirossi. “We were looking for tracks at which it is theoretically going to be good weather and will allow us to complete different tests with the bikes. For example, Sepang is a very varied layout, with a technical part but also a long straight and strong braking.” Martinez points out that in Malaysia “the teams can work on the setup of the chassis and the durability of the tyres in extreme conditions. The physical fitness of the riders is tested, but also the durability of the engines in situations that can then be repeated during the year at races such as those in Barcelona or Mugello.”
The speed of Phillip Island
After the first three days of testing, the main work will be passed on to the engineers, who will have to analyse the data and plan new tests on the second stop of the preseason: Phillip Island (Australia). It is one of the tracks with the highest average speed (182 km/h), and a circuit that Capirossi describes as “very demanding on tyres.” “Especially the last sector,” adds Martinez, “because as the corners are taken at great speed, the side of the rear tyre suffers a lot. This is one of the tracks where the tyre supplier provides an asymmetric compound, with different stiffness in the rubber on one side from the other.”
Qatar, last stop
The last preseason test will be held in Qatar, just two weeks before the start of the World Championship and at the same venue as the season curtain-raiser. According to Capirossi, “being able to ride at Losail is positive for the teams and the riders, because the first Grand Prix is held there and, unlike what happens in Malaysia and Australia, they can test in conditions similar to those they will experience in the race.” In addition, this track has its own peculiarities: “Being next to the desert, the test helps to clean the asphalt of sand. It also allows you to detect the latest changes needed before sealing the engines that will be used throughout the season,” comments Martinez.
After a two-month break, on Monday the MotoGP riders will be back onboard their machines. The preseason testing will have a big impact on what happens during the 18 races that will take place in 2017.