MotoGP Riders, Teams Heading To The Island

Will the new world order from Sepang hold up in Australia?


Ben Bostrom
Phillip Island: the best backgrounds in racing. Here, BB155 at speed on the L&M Ducati. Thanks, all our friends at Ducati Corse

The second official preseason MotoGP test of 2017 will take place Wednesday, Feb. 15 through Friday, Feb. 17 at Phillip Island.

Phillip Island is a power track, with long straightaways and flowing curves. It’s very different from Sepang, site of the first test Jan. 30-Feb. 1, which is like most tracks created by F1 designer Hermann Tilke – long straightaways with tight corners at the end and other complexes of slower corners. Nowhere near the flow of the Island.

So it will be interesting to see if the new world order from Sepang hold up in Australia. Maverick Vinales was quickest on his Yamaha, with four different manufacturers occupying the top four spots on the time sheets. Less than one second separated the top 16 riders’ top laps of the test.

Besides looking at the time sheets, MotoGP journalists, photographers and fans also will keep their eyes and ears open for a number of technical details at the test as teams hone their machines.

One, which teams will join Yamaha in debuting their aerodynamic replacements to the protruding fairing “winglets” that were banned from MotoGP after last season.

Yamaha debuted horizontal fins, known in the car world as “ducted vanes,” covered with a smooth-radius carbon fiber piece at Sepang. MotoGP technical stewards deemed the piece to be legal, so expect to see similar solutions unveiled by other teams, possibly at Phillip Island. Suzuki and Aprilia reportedly have spent time recently in the wind tunnel on their “winglet” replacements.

Another interesting technical development to keep an eye on will be the technical direction of Honda’s engines.

Honda tried three different specifications at Sepang: Its 2016 “screamer” engine, a later 2016-spec “big bang” engine featuring an uneven firing order and a 2017 version of the “big bang” featuring a long muffler.

The common problem with all of Honda’s engines last season – managing power under acceleration – remained apparent at Sepang. So it will be interesting to see Honda’s progress.

Close attention also will be paid to the carbon-fiber “salad box” mounted under the seat of the Ducati Desmosedici GP17. Everyone in the Ducati camp was tight-lipped about the device. Speculation ranged from a gyroscope to prevent wheelies to a device to cut down on tire chatter under braking.


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