News 7 Mar 2016

Moto2 and Moto3 riders fly at official Jerez test

Pons and Fenati set testing pace in Spain.

Source: Supplied.

Source: Supplied.

Axel Pons and Romano Fenati led the way as their first official Moto2 and Moto3 test of the year finished in Jerez, times tight in both classes.

Heavy fog during the morning session on Friday saw only Efren Vazquez (JPMoto Malaysia) venture out on track, the Spanish rider not setting a lap time. The second session saw the sun return, Moto2 riders able to continue their testing work.

Although it was Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) who set a 1m42.075s to lead the final day of testing, Axel Pons’ 1m41.730s from Thursday sees the AGR Team rider leave the Jerez Test as the fastest rider in the intermediate class. It was not a perfect test for Pons who did not venture out on track after a heavy fall on Thursday after setting his fast lap.

The fastest Moto2 lap during a grand prix weekend still stands at 1m42.706s, set by Stefan Bradl in 2011. Pons’ time was almost a second faster, but Lowes was also under the record lap by over half a second. The final session of the test not only saw Lowes improve, but Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) also set his fastest lap of the test, a 1m42.174s again well under Bradl’s record.

Fourth fastest overall was Paginas Amarillas HP 40’s Alex Rins with a 1m42.186s set on his 17th lap of 23 in the last session of Friday. Having had very limited private testing before Jerez, Rins focused primarily on getting comfortable on his 2016 Kalex with longer runs. Tom Luthi’s (Garage Plus Interwetten) 1m42.271s from the first day stood as the Swiss rider’s best time, seeing him complete the competitive top five.

With all of the top 11 riders under Bradl’s circuit record, the 2016 Moto2 season looks set to be an exciting battle with riders already flying at the first pre-season test. The Jerez Test also allowed Dunlop to test several new tyre options for the 2016 season, include a hard tyre options for circuits such as Argentina, Australia and Sepang with newer surfaces.

Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten), Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP), Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team) formed the remainder of the top 10 on combined times.

Reigning Moto2 World Champion Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) was 14th and 1.222 seconds back on Pons’ fastest time. Meanwhile Danny Kent’s (Leopard Racing) return to the middle class continues to progress well, the Moto3™ Champion ending 12th on combined times.

Simone Corsi (Speed Up) led the charge of Speed Up mounted riders with a 1m42.943s, placing in 13th and as the leading non-Kalex machine. Xavi Vierge (Tech 3) racing had a vigorous testing schedule aboard the new Mistral 610, testing a variety of parts for the French team.

Having only recently ensured his future in Moto2, Efren Vazquez (JPMoto Malaysia) was able to run on the Suter for the first time and made steady improvements to get within five seconds of the fastest rider.

Sun and warm temperatures across the final two sessions for the lightweight class saw Nicolo Bulega (SKY Racing Team VR46) on top once again. The rookie set a 1m46.539s, his fastest time of the test so far.

Bulega was one of just nine riders to improve their times on the final day. It has overall been an incredibly encouraging test for the Moto3 Junior World Champion who has demonstrated his high level.

Bulega’s SKY Racing Team VR46 teammate, Romano Fenati, managed to maintain his position on top of the time screens thanks to his 1m46.445s from the third session of the second day. The time was still 0.3s off Jack Miller’s best lap at the Jerez circuit, but 0.060s clear of his rivals.

With all three of the SKY Racing Team VR46 riders inside the top 10, it appears the Valentino Rossi backed team have hit the ground running in 2016. Of the top ten, five were KTM machines, the Austrian manufacturer aiming to reclaim the rider’s championship in the lightweight class after losing to Honda in 2014 and 2015.

Second overall and third on the final day, Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was the leading Honda rider on combined times and 0.060s behind Romano Fenati. In all but one session Navarro completed more than 15 laps, the Spaniard focusing more on race pace than a single flying lap across the three days.

Thanks to his time on the final day, Bulega slotted into third on the combined times and finished 0.011s ahead of his fellow VR46 Academy Rider Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold). As one of the more experienced riders in the class, Antonelli has his sights set on the championship in 2016 and was towards the top of all the sessions at the Jerez test.

Along with Bulega, Brad Binder was another to improve his time on the final day. The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider led the second session on Friday, his 1’46.618 0.008s faster than his best time from Thursday and good enough for fifth on combined times. Binder is still hunting his first win in the lightweight class after coming tantalisingly close on multiple occasions in previous years.

Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3), Joan Mir (Leopard Racing), Livio Loi (RW Racing GP), Jorge Martin (Aspar Mahindra Team) and Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) rounded out the top ten as the first official test ended in Jerez.

Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) was another rookie who impressed on the final day, putting his KTM third on Friday and seventh on the combined times.

Both Mahindra and Peugeot have been experimenting with winglets throughout the three-day test. While they are a popular addition to bikes in the premiere class, Mahindra and Peugeot are the first to implement them in Moto3. As 2016 sees Mahindra introduce a heavily revised MGP3O, it is near impossible to tell if the winglets have had a drastic effect on the bike’s performance.

The intermediate and lightweight classes will have one final test at Qatar from the 11 to 13 March before the 2016 season begins at the same circuit just a few days later.