MotoGP | Which Valencia-bound youngster fared best of the bunch in the factory?
MotoGP : In the Valencia Test on Tuesday, we finally received some answers to the questions that have been plaguing us for months, as seven top-tier drivers debuted for their new teams. The question is whether or not the grass really is greener on the other side. Finally, motogp.com has analyzed all the information gathered during the Valencia Grand Prix and the Official Test to determine which riders had the most success with their brand new MotoGP bikes.
First up is RNF Aprilia’s Raul Fernandez, who improved the most after getting a new bike. The record-setting rookie had a rough year on the KTM RC16 in Moto2, but he improved upon his previous best lap time by nearly a quarter of a second in the Valencia Test, finishing 21st overall and 1.3 seconds behind the winner, Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team). On his second day of practice for the Grand Prix, Fernandez posted a lap time of 1:31.598 on the Aprilia RS-GP. On his first day of testing on the new bike, Fernandez improved upon that time by 0.258, turning in a time of 1:31.340.
Miguel Oliveira of RNF Aprilia was perhaps the day’s biggest story despite not being able to improve upon his Grand Prix lap time in the Valencia Test. With a lap time of 1:30.367, the Portuguese rider placed fourth overall and was just 0.131 seconds away from the lap that would have placed him 14th on the grid for Sunday’s race. There is plenty for optimism over the winter for the Noale factory’s new signing as the five-time MotoGP race winner dipped below the 1:31 mark on three more times during the day.
Alex Marquez was another guy whose facial expression (a broad grin) made it clear how much he liked his first day of wearing his new uniform. The two-time World Champion, who like Espargaro was abandoned by Honda in the season’s latter half, now seems to have found a permanent home with Gresini Ducati. At the Valencia Grand Prix, he finished Q1 a quarter of a second off his fastest lap, but unbelievably, he did 35 laps quicker than his best lap from Sunday’s race.
Body language can be just as telling as the time sheets, and Pol Espargaro didn’t hide the fact that he was relieved to be back on a KTM RC16 after his stint with Honda. The new driver for Tech3 GASGAS Factory Racing exclaimed to his crew chief, Paul Trevathan, “I love it” after his first run, and it’s simple to understand why. On Tuesday, Espargaro improved upon his fastest Grand Prix lap time of 1:30.936 by 0.179 seconds. The Spaniard came within two tenths of a second of his own qualifying fastest lap time at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in 2020, clocking in at 1:30.757.
There was a lot of buzz about Joan Mir joining Marc Marquez at Repsol Honda, and the 2020 MotoGP World Champion has gotten off to a solid start with the team. During the Valencia Test, Mir only managed to improve his fastest racing lap five times, and his best time of 1:30.914 was 0.693 seconds slower than what he had accomplished in Q2 on Saturday afternoon. Alex Rins was 1.288 seconds off the lap that would have put him in the middle of the second row for the season finale, but he wasn’t alone.
Jack Miller’s first test with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing was a difficult one, as the Australian’s fastest lap time fell 0.953 seconds short of what would have landed him on the first row. On three separate instances, Thriller improved upon his previous fastest racing lap, but it is the efforts of his new teammate, Brad Binder, that will have the former Ducati rider feeling upbeat. Binder finished second in the Valencia Grand Prix on Sunday after setting the day’s best lap of 1 minute, 31.192 seconds.
Finally, let’s take a look at Augusto Fernandez (Tech3 GASGAS Factory Racing), who made a strong first impression in the top class while remaining mostly under the radar. The reigning Moto2 World Champion finished his first day of MotoGP competition with a time of 1:31.730, 1.697 seconds behind the leader. At the last Valencia test, Brad Binder, then making his MotoGP debut with KTM, finished 2.518 seconds behind the quickest rider after setting a 1:32.367 over the course of two days.
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