David on who is testing what post Valencia :)
the main players:
On Tuesday, November 15th, the 2017 season starts in earnest. The biannual session of bike swapping commences two days after the final MotoGP round at Valencia, as riders, crew chiefs, mechanics, press officers and many others swap garages to join their 2017 teams. It is often something of a disappointment, with only a few riders moving from team to team, but the coming season sees some big names switching bikes, as well as an important new arrival in the shape of KTM. So to help you keep track, here is who will be testing what at Valencia on Tuesday.
All eyes will of course be on the factory Ducati garage, where Jorge Lorenzo is due to get his first outing on the Desmosedici. The Bologna factory has been working flat out on getting their 2017 bike ready, Michele Pirro giving the GP17 its first test after Aragon. The test was so important that Pirro was unable to fly to Motegi to replace the still recovering Andrea Iannone.
How will Lorenzo fare? We will have some idea on Tuesday. That is, if it doesn't rain, which the (notoriously inaccurate) long-range forecasts show it might(link is external). More important, perhaps, than his first test on the bike may be the relationship he establishes with new crew chief Cristian Gabarrini. The Italian worked previously with Casey Stoner, and so is used to working with complex characters. Tuesday and Wednesday is the day Lorenzo and Gabarrini get their first chance to get a feel for one another.
Andrea Dovizioso might be a better gauge of how big a difference the GP17 itself makes. This will be the fifth iteration of the Desmosedici the Italian has ridden (a case could be made that it is actually the seventh different bike, the GP14 having undergone serious change throughout the 2014 season), so he has a good understanding of the Ducati, and its design philosophy. The GP17 will need to brake a little better and be a little smoother in the middle of the corner than the GP16.
The Ducati riders will have to be extra cautious on their first contact with the bike, however. They will only have one GP17 each at their disposal, along with a GP16 as a second bike.
If Jorge Lorenzo to Ducati is the biggest story of the 2017 season, Maverick Viñales to Yamaha runs it a close second. Viñales has made massive progress in 2016, his biggest step coming in winning a dry race at Silverstone. The Spaniard is expected to immediately be quick on the Yamaha M1, though he may find it a lot more difficult to turn than the agile and sweet-handling Suzuki GSX-RR. It will at least drive out of corners, however, which was his biggest complaint in 2016. Viñales takes over all of Lorenzo's crew, except for one mechanic who will be leaving with the five-time champion for Ducati.
Valentino Rossi remains in the Yamaha garage, of course, and one question will be how the relationship between the Italian veteran and Viñales develops. They are currently on extremely friendly terms, though that may not last once they are direct competitors in the same team. It is not yet certain whether Yamaha will run their 2017 bike at Valencia, though Valentino Rossi told reporters during the flyaways that he hoped that would be the case. If the bike isn't quite ready for Valencia, then the team will get their first taste of the bike at a private test at Sepang later in the month. There, Rossi and Viñales will also be joined by the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rookies Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger.
Suzuki is one of three factories which sees a complete change in its line up for 2017. Andrea Iannone joins the Japanese factory from Ducati, while Alex Rins moves up from Moto2 to replace the departing Maverick Viñales. Iannone is expected to be immediately quick, and the Suzuki GSX-RR is a good deal less physical to ride than the Ducati Desmosedici. The Italian should also be highly motivated, as he has been left embittered by Ducati's decision to drop him and keep Andrea Dovizioso, to make room for Jorge Lorenzo. Iannone brings his crew chief Marco Rigamonti with him from Ducati.
Alex Rins also makes his highly anticipated debut on a MotoGP bike. The Spaniard is highly regarded and highly rated, but he has had something of a disappointing Moto2 campaign. He has shown he is capable of winning races in Moto2, and did so very quickly, a key sign he is capable of adapting. But after a draining 2016 Moto2 season, he may not be immediately up to speed on a MotoGP machine.
There may be the fewest personnel changes in the Honda line up – zero, to be precise – but there is still plenty of interest in what HRC will be bringing to Valencia. Honda have a new engine, rumored to have a very different character to the current version of the RC213V. It is said to use a different firing order (or more properly, firing interval) for the cylinders, to make the bike a little easier to manage.
Will the new RC213V use a big bang firing sequence? We will only find out for sure at the test – or perhaps on Monday evening, when Repsol Honda mechanics fire up the bike in pit lane in preparation for Tuesday's test. There will be a host of journalists and rival engineers in pit lane when they do, with sound recording equipment at the ready, to analyze the sound of the new bike.
Though the Honda riders have been careful not to comment about the 2017 bike, paddock gossip suggests it is a significant improvement. The changes are said to be mainly in the engine, with only a few minor modifications to the chassis. What Honda are seeking is a big improvement in acceleration. Given that Honda have won nine of the seventeen races held so far this year with a bike that is still hard to control under acceleration, an improvement could lead to massive gains.
In past years, only the Repsol Honda team have had the latest version of the bike at the Valencia test. Given that Cal Crutchlow has played such an important part in HRC's testing program, though, the LCR Honda rider may also get a new engine to test.