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As Aleix Espargaro Proves Open Class Potential With Stunning Sepang Lap, Ducati Looks Closely At Switch Away From Factory Status

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Three days of MotoGP testing at Sepang ended today with one big surprise … Aleix Espargaro (pictured above). The elder Espargaro brother (Pol is also in MotoGP now) was one of only four riders to dip under 2 minutes for a lap, joining factory luminaries and past champions Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. The difference is Espargaro was on an Open machine (Yamaha), while the others were on Factory bikes. As we have pointed out in the past, Open class status brings many benefits, including more fuel per race, the ability to continue engine development throughout the year (Factory engines must remain unchanged from the start of the series), an available softer rear tire, and a total of 12 engine changes (Factory bikes only get 5 for the year).

Speaking to reporters after the test, new Ducati MotoGP boss Gigi Dall’Igna indicated that he might switch more of his four riders to Open status (only one of the four Ducatis is currently an Open bike), because it is so difficult to develop the Ducati under the factory rules. Dall’Igna specifically mentioned the need to change the engine/frame mounting points to play with chassis stiffness (effectively prohibited with Factory status). The only real difference between the Factory bikes and the Open bikes is the requirement that Open machines run Dorna’s spec software. With the added fuel, if the Dorna software gets close to the quality of the Factory software (which runs on the same physical ECU), the Open bikes could even see a performance advantage. Perhaps, Aleix Espargaro proves the Dorna software is already pretty close.

Here are the full results of the final day of testing at Sepang – note that Marquez broke Casey Stoner’s circuit lap record set in 2012, and Nicky Hayden is struggling aboard his Open Honda.

Session 3 as of 06/02/2014

Pos Rider Team Fastest lap Lead. Gap Prev. Gap Laps Last lap
1 MARQUEZ, Marc Repsol Honda Team 1:59.533 10 / 40
2 ROSSI, Valentino Yamaha Factory Racing 1:59.727 0.194 0.194 11 / 55
3 LORENZO, Jorge Yamaha Factory Racing 1:59.866 0.333 0.139 2 / 65
4 ESPARGARO, Aleix NGM Mobile Forward Racing 1:59.998 0.465 0.132 7 / 43
5 BRADL, Stefan LCR Honda MotoGP 2:00.112 0.579 0.114 11 / 38
6 PEDROSA, Dani Repsol Honda Team 2:00.223 0.690 0.111 29 / 55
7 DOVIZIOSO, Andrea Ducati Team 2:00.370 0.837 0.147 10 / 40
8 ESPARGARO, Pol Monster Yamaha Tech 3 2:00.655 1.122 0.285 8 / 65
9 IANNONE, Andrea Pramac Racing 2:00.725 1.192 0.070 13 / 57
10 BAUTISTA, Alvaro GO&FUN Honda Gresini 2:00.788 1.255 0.063 3 / 63
11 SMITH, Bradley Monster Yamaha Tech 3 2:00.896 1.363 0.108 10 / 65
12 CRUTCHLOW, Cal Ducati Team 2:01.057 1.524 0.161 58 / 58
13 HAYDEN, Nicky Drive M7 Aspar 2:01.514 1.981 0.457 21 / 59
14 EDWARDS, Colin NGM Mobile Forward Racing 2:01.731 2.198 0.217 41 / 47
15 PIRRO, Michele Ducati Test Team 2:01.782 2.249 0.051 12 / 67
16 AOYAMA, Hiroshi Drive M7 Aspar 2:02.383 2.850 0.601 61 / 66
17 DE PUNIET, Randy Suzuki Test Team 2:02.486 2.953 0.103 17 / 67
18 HERNANDEZ, Yonny Energy T.I. Pramac Racing 2:02.556 3.023 0.070 31 / 65
19 AKIYOSHI, Kosuke HRC Test Team 2:02.619 3.086 0.063 3 / 58
20 NAKASUGA, Katsuyuki Yamaha Factory Test Team 2:02.788 3.255 0.169 13 / 38
21 REDDING, Scott GO&FUN Honda Gresini 2:02.833 3.300 0.045 42 / 60
22 LAVERTY, Michael Paul Bird Motorsport 2:03.187 3.654 0.354 12 / 41
23 BARBERA, Hector Avintia Racing 2:03.204 3.671 0.017 49 / 54
24 PARKES, Broc Paul Bird Motorport 2:03.402 3.869 0.198 40 / 43
25 DI MEGLIO, Mike Avintia Racing 2:04.516 4.983 1.114 28 / 58
26 AOKI, Nobuatsu Suzuki Test Team 2:05.686 6.153 1.170 10 / 12
27 ABRAHAM, Karel Cardion AB Motoracing 2:05.974 6.441 0.288 6 / 12

29 Comments

  1. ze says:

    “Perhaps Aleix Espargaro proves the Dorna software is already pretty close.”

    Perhaps he’s much better than most think.

    Report this comment

  2. Craig says:

    As far as watching the races… it’s getting more and more difficult for sure… I keep having to by $10 dollar packages from cable to add a channel… Thinking of trying the MotoGP site and now that WSB is doing the same… just buy the package there and enjoy vids, timing, qualifying and the racing…

    I think you can do that in BC… right?

    Report this comment

  3. Crim says:

    Dave said: “I thought the idea behind “open class” was to stop factories leasing bikes.”

    The “Open Class” is intended to get more bikes (competitive ones at that) on the grid. By pushing the factories to lease competitive bikes, the sport benefits by having more riders near the top. In 2015 I believe all bikes will be running the Marelli spec software and “Factory Bikes” will be a thing of the past.

    Report this comment

  4. Dave says:

    I hope this continues. Pol was Marquez’ closest rival in Moto 2, right?

    Report this comment

  5. Karlsbad says:

    I just hope it isn’t the Jorge & Marc show this year, it would be nice to see a very tight season with 4-6 guys right in the mix from start to finish. Marc,Aleix,Val,Jorge,Dani,Nicky,Stefan,Pol,Cal it would be awesome to see a little change of scenery on the podium once in a while. Yamaha & Honda will duke it out once again for the overall title while Ducati with it’s head up it’s arse looks at riders instead of the machine they put on the track. Unless Ducati can talk Casey out of retirement I would not be surprised if they don’t make a single podium.

    Report this comment

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “it would be nice to see a very tight season with 4-6 guys right in the mix from start to finish.”

      karl, you’ve been sucked into watching the wrong series. gotta watch WSBK if you want any chance of seeing that. it’s been ’round 25 years…? maybe you missed it.

      Report this comment

      • Karlsbad says:

        Oops I must have written a bad word, no postey my reply
        Just said we no longer get WSBK here on Vancouver Island it’s a shame because it was always good racing
        TV coverage for MC racing is lame at best here in BC (Canada for that matter) but we still get Moto GP some AMA stuff and of course the Jumpy bikes(SuperX)

        Report this comment

  6. Vrooom says:

    Surprised to see Dovi on the Ducati less than a second off the pace, and also smoking teammate Crutchlow by 7/10ths of a second. That could be promising for them finally, though the aliens appear unchanged.

    Report this comment

  7. mickey says:

    One can say this is early testing and first time rides getting settings etc, but there are really no surprises here. The fast guys are fast. Top 10 in testing will most likely be ( barring crashes and injury) the top 10 at the end of the year. Nobody is going to come from mid pack in testing to challenge the top riders during the season. It doesn’t happen, and has never happened that I can recall. Biggest change in positioning will be in positions 6-12. The top 5 will remain top 5 the bottom 5 will remain bottom 5. Nature of the beast.

    Report this comment

  8. Norm G. says:

    re: “new Ducati MotoGP boss Gigi Dall’Igna indicated that he might switch more of his four riders to Open status (only one of the four Ducatis is currently an Open bike)”

    heads up guys, this is what’s going to happen. good news, Louie and the bosses will switch Iannone’s bike to Open thereby they have 2 bikes. bad news, those 2 bikes have to be in the hands of a satellite/privateer team so they can reap the benefits of any development FIRST.

    anybody remember the old rookie rule that everybody thought went away…? right then, meet it’s new and improved cousin. he’s been drinking milk…! :)

    Report this comment

  9. Norm G. says:

    re: “Ducati Looks Closely At Switch Away From Factory Status”

    if I were them I’d look LESS at the switch…? and look MORE at the daggers shooting from Jorge Martinez’s eyes.

    but hey, that’s just me.

    Report this comment

  10. VLJ says:

    Aleix going so well is certainly interesting, but I think the far more compelling takeaway from this test is Rossi finishing ahead of Lorenzo in every session. That never happened last year. As in, not a single time. I almost can’t recall Rossi testing faster than Jorge in any session in 2013, never mind all of them. That’s simply not who is. He races well; he doesn’t test or qualify well.

    Clearly Espargaro is not going to mount any sort of serious challenge to win the championship. He may threaten the podium every so often, but what if Rossi has found something within himself this year? If #46 can show well early in the season, basic muscle memory and the heart of a champion might see him remain there for the duration, and wouldn’t it be tremendous if he could turn this three-horse race into a full-fledged Yamaha vs Honda two-against-two Battle Royale.

    And just imagine, should he actually scrape together an eighth MotoGP world championship. If that guy pokes his head up after a third of the season is complete and finds himself still in with a solid chance, knowing the GOAT legacy is surely within reach, I wouldn’t bet against him. The guy has enormous will, and a bottomless well of race-savvy. All he needs is a real sniff.

    I know it’s only one test and I’m getting way ahead of myself, but what is being a fan all about if not to dream?

    Report this comment

    • Jabe says:

      I have watched Rossi race since he was on a 125. I have missed only a few televised GP,s since that time and have been lucky enough to see a small handful in person. I don’t try to get hung up on cheering for only one person, but I must confess that it has been easy to cheer for the ‘Doctor’ .

      Val’s time with Ducati was precious time wasted and the 2013 season was certainly not his best, but reading VLJ’s comments has inspired me to dare to wish. Go Rossi!

      Report this comment

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “knowing the GOAT legacy is surely within reach, I wouldn’t bet against him.”

      on day 3, Marcus not only broke stoner’s circuit record, but put in a 19 lap race simulation (theoretically with less fuel) with all 19 laps being under the race record. so…

      is that your final answer…? (Regis voice)

      Report this comment

      • VLJ says:

        Lorenzo was competitive with Marquez last year. He even won more races. So, if Rossi can somehow become competitive with Lorenzo this year then it stands to reason that he’ll be in with a chance against Marquez.

        Like I said, it depends on how the first third of the season goes. If Rossi has won a race or two and prove to be consistently as fast as the others, it’ll be game on.

        Of course that’s an enormous ‘if.’

        Report this comment

  11. bikerrandy says:

    This is results of the 1st preparation trials before actual races. I doubt Nicky has ridden this Honda open bike before this week. It’s way too early to come to conclusions this or that bike/rider is going to be competitive in the future races. This trial was not really about how fast the bikes/riders are. It’s merely a time to get used to your new ride and adjust things as needed to be competitive. And even then it’s only the 1st time these bikes/riders get familiar.

    Report this comment

  12. Dave says:

    Aleix is impressive indeed.
    But, I feel a bit iffy about the “open class” Yamahas.
    Aren’t they like 2013 satellite M1s except with FTR bodywork, spec ECU, and more fuel?
    I thought the idea behind “open class” was to stop factories leasing bikes.

    I feel sorry for Nicky getting screwed by DORNA’s arbitrary implementation of “open class” rules.
    Perhaps this is DORNA’s idea of providing entertainment.
    The spectacle of the big red getting screwed over works every time. Cos’ there is a huge crowd of passionate Honda haters out there.
    Anyway, Nicky deserves better than this. HRC should take Yamaha’s lead and get some 2013 RCV engines from their warehouse and stuff it into the proddy Honda’s chassis.
    I’d say that’ll make the 2014 season more entertaining.

    Report this comment

    • MGNorge says:

      “Honda Haters” huh? That can only be because they’ve been very successful in most that they do. Hard to hate a company that does seem to get it right most of the time.

      Report this comment

      • Dave says:

        FYI I’m not a Honda fan-boy. Them haters seems to be the majority on most forums these days.

        I just hate arbitrary implementation of rules is all. Makes having them meaningless.
        I wish DORNA would leave the pile of cowdung politics out and let the racing roll. Yeah, I know it’s not gonna happen.

        Report this comment

      • Provologna says:

        Apparently AMA RR is a joke now. But when Mladin was winning AMA Superbike, and later Spies, I don’t know if Honda ever won a race much less the Championship.

        At least that’s one class they couldn’t win!

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