The Valencia test has concluded, rounding out the 2018 season while simultaneously kicking off 2019 with riders on new bikes and rookies coming through. Here’s what we learned.
1. The rookies are strong.
The rookies coming through from Moto2 this season are arguably the strongest as a group since the MotoGP era began. Pecco Bagnaia, Miguel Oliviera, Joan Mir and Fabio Quartararo are all extremely talented riders, and Pecco took the honours of fastest rookie, ending up 11th and only 0.6 seconds from the fastest time. Mir was also within a second of the fastest time, and Quartararo was only 1.3 off. Oliviera had a more difficult time of it, ending up 3 seconds off the pace, but was certainly not poor, as he seemed to be getting comfortable and familiarising himself with his new KTM.
2. Franco Morbidelli enjoys the Yamaha.
2018’s Rookie Of The Year Morbidelli has already gotten on with the Petronas SRT Yamaha like a house on fire. He set a lap time that was only 0.2 off the fastest time (which we’ll come to shortly) and it was over one second fastest than his qualifying time on the Marc VDS Honda at the final round. (A 1.30.9 lap aboard the Yamaha vs a 1.32.3 on the Honda) and he’ll only get faster, as he said its ‘like riding on butter, and is easier to understand’. Podiums beckon in 2019!
3. Johann Zarco had a big shock.
‘I would say that it was worse than I expected’ would not have been what KTM wanted to hear at the end of this. Ending up 20th and 1.7 off the best time will have hurt the Frenchman on his first taste of the RC16. ‘I tried to go faster but could not, we improved the feeling and got better control of the bike’ will be a silver lining in Mattighoffen, but they have a lot of work to do over the winter.
4. Danilo Petrucci deserved his promotion.
Petrux was deemed by many as a lucky man to have been promoted to the full factory setup ahead of Jack Miller, but today he looked like a man who has been there for years. He ended up fifth, 0.2 off the fastest time and only 0.1 off his team mate Dovizioso. He looked extremely comfortable in the red leathers and seemed happy. He could be a real danger in 2019 as the factory bike could be worth the extra 1% he needs to be a top rider.
5. Maverick Vinales is a man transformed.
MV25… No wait, MV12 as he’ll be known now, has changed almost everything about his setup for 2019. The only thing that has stayed the same is the name of the bike he’ll ride (and even that’ll change slightly with Yamaha dropping the Movistar sponsorship). He’s changed most of his backroom staff, including his crew chief (sending Ramon Forcada packing and bringing in Esteban Garcia from KTM) and the number change shows how desperate he became after, in his words, ‘the worst season of my life’. A happy Maverick is a ridiculously fast Maverick, and if he gets it right between the eyes he could be a title contender. Yamaha’s 2019 engine plan seems to be a real step forward, the second variation of the engine receiving positive reviews from both the factory riders, could 2019 be the year Vinales takes the title?