Could the Valencia-hosted finale of the 2016 MotoGP™ season have produced a more captivating result? Of course, we already knew that Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) was the world champion, and a return to the podium after successive crashes at Phillip Island and Sepang was entirely appropriate, but the way that outgoing world champion Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha) led from the front to secure victory was stirring.
It was not only a fairytale swansong from his long-time Japanese employer, but for those with their minds on 2017 the result had far more significance as the three-time world champion makes the switch to Ducati. Everyone knows it: a confident Lorenzo is still one of the hardest nuts to crack in MotoGP racing, and if he's hanging tough on a Ducati in 2017 against Marquez, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) and Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) the prospect is beyond exciting.
Two days after his valedictory dance with Yamaha, Lorenzo was the first rider out on track at the traditional post-season test at Valencia – in freezing cold conditions. However, his enthusiasm was palpable – he even hugged Ducati test rider Casey Stoner at one stage as they exchanged goodbyes! He had a permanent grin on his face during the two-day test after a best lap of 1:30.744 aboard the firm’s new GP17 machine. Not bad for a bloke who had spent his entire nine-year MotoGP™ career on a Yamaha.
Here are some of the other observations drawn from the Valencia test:
Vinales is the real deal – now
The Spanish sensation confirmed all his rivals’ fears when he was fast and relaxed right from the outset on the factory Yamaha, obliterating the times he had set on the Ecstar Suzuki the previous weekend. Vinales was aboard Lorenzo's 2016-spec machine, while teammate Rossi evaluated new engine and chassis packages destined for the 2017-spec bikes. Viñales topped the timesheets on both days – the only rider to go under the 1:30 mark –and in the process served notice that he will be battling for wins from 2017's opening round in Qatar.
Andrea Iannone loves wheelies!
The nickname 'Maniac' is certainly an apt one! While other riders on new bikes approached their first laps in a cautious and methodical fashion, Iannone tried to test the wheelie-ing capacity of his Ecstar Suzuki GSX-RR from the outset! It wasn't all fun and games though and he settled quickly to complete the test in fourth position behind Vinales, Marquez and erstwhile teammate Andrea Dovizioso. He did go down the road, though, as did his new teammate Alex Rins.
Folger the leading rookie
Tech3 Yamaha’s Jonas Folger was the fastest rookie – 1.5s behind Viñales on day one and then just 0.973s adrift on day two as he climbed up to 10th overall. His teammate and double Moto2 world champion Johann Zarco was just one spot behind in 11th.
The Aprilia RS-GP isn't far off the mark
Aprilia’s new recruit Aleix Espargaro said he was surprised by just how well the RS-GP machine performed, and at the end of the test the former Suzuki rider was two seconds a lap faster than former incumbents Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista at the race a few days prior. And the bike was identical to the one which finished the 2016 season…
Bring on 2017!