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motogp testing

Testing in MotoGP is an important yet often overlooked aspect of the season.

With the 2024 Jerez Test approaching fast let’s take a look at what this mostly secretive affair is all about.

What is testing in MotoGP?

Testing refers to official track days which give manufacturers a chance to test any new bike developments, for riders to get used to a new bike, and for any kinks in performance to be ironed out.

Testing occurs before the season officially starts to ensure the current bike is ready for the season ahead.

Testing is scheduled during the season for continued development.

If a team is doing well and they do not feel the need to do any testing on the current bike they will begin look at the following year’s machine and components.

Test days are usually a very private affair and are strictly limited to the team’s test riders.

For 2024 the updated regulations state teams who rank accordingly can access extra days of testing,

D Ranked manufacturers can also utilise both their test riders and official team riders at the scheduled tests.

Currently this applies to Yamaha and Honda. More on this below.

Testing is not about winning so the pressure is mostly off on that level.

This does not mean they are not still working hard but rather than going for speed and a podium they are able to look at different aspects of performance.

Testing days can also include the use of simulation racing for that track.

What are the regulations for testing?

Regulations for testing govern who can participate in testing, how often manufacturers are allowed to test and where.

They also limit how many tyres the manufacturers can use for testing across all tests for that season.

With the new concession rules in place since the close of the 2023 season, there are now allowances for the teams’ official riders to participate in those tests.

For the 2024 season the current rankings and testing allowances look like this:

  • Rank A Ducati: The 9 official test days listed above plus 3 additional tests at a GP track of their choosing. Track selection is subject to approval.
  • Rank B: no teams
  • Rank C KTM and Aprilia: The 9 official test days listed above plus 3 additional tests at a GP track of their choice. Again the track selection must be approved.
  • Rank D Honda and Yamaha: The 9 official test days plus free private testing at any GP track of their choosing throughout the season using both test and official riders. Limited only to their tyre allocation for testing.

What are the tyre allocations for testing?

Regulations for tyre allocation for each rank are as follows:

  • Manufacturers in Rank A: 170 tyres per manufacturer per season
  • Manufacturers in Rank B: 190 tyres per manufacturer per season
  • Manufacturers in Rank C: 220 tyres per manufacturer per season
  • Manufacturers in Rank D: 260 tyres per manufacturer per season for use by test riders or contracted riders

Tyre allocations for ranks A,B and C are only for test riders.

When is testing held?

Testing is held on the Tuesday following the final race of the season at Valencia.

This is considered the start of the season officially. And the end is the end of the final race the following year.

Essentially this means they never really have a break, and it is just one continuous cycle.

There are some testing ban periods throughout the year enforcing the small breaks they do give riders.

Testing is banned in the rules during the winter and summer breaks these are referred to as the testing ban periods.

This is as follows in the regulations:

No testing is permitted by contracted riders between 1 December and 31 January (Winter Test Ban) and between 8 July 2024 and 30 July 2024 (Summer Break), in both cases dates being inclusive (note that the exact dates of the Summer Break may be updated in line with calendar changes).

There are some other regulations around when testing can be done by teams in Ranking D.

Manufacturers in Ranking D are allowed to schedule additional tests at tracks of their choosing.

Under the regulations a manufacturer cannot select a track where a race is scheduled within 14 days.

They can use either the test riders or official riders and are limited by the tyre allocation given for testing.

Official testing for the MotoGP season is outlined in the regulations as follows:

  • A One 1-Day official test following the final event of the 2023 season held at Valencia
  • One 3-Day “Shakedown” test prior to the first official test after the winter test ban period known as the Sepang Shakedown
  • 3-Day official test, after the winter test ban period, and before the first event of the season also held in Malaysia usually the following week
  • A 2-Day official test, after the winter test ban period and before the first event of the season which is usually in Qatar
  • Three 1-Day official tests on the Monday or Tuesday after a GP event, at circuits to be agreed by the MotoGP teams and Dorna/IRTA.

For 2024 the in-season tests are listed for:

  • Jerez April 29th
  • Mugello June 3rd
  • Misano September 9th
qatar testing

Stefan Bradl Qatar testing. Image courtesy of Box Repsol on Flickr

What is the Sepang Shakedown?

In Motorsport the term shakedown indicates a test where the teams will check everything on a new bike or car, the crew procedures and everything will be checked before the new bike or car is determined suitable for racing.

The Sepang Shakedown in MotoGP is the name given to the first official test after the winter break. The test is held in Malaysia and runs for 3 days usually in early February.

This is for test riders only. However from this season the manufacturers with D ranking will also be permitted use their official riders to take part in the tests.

Rookies are also included in the official test days. In 2024 the only rookie is Pedro Acosta on the GASGAS KTM.

What are teams looking to achieve at a MotoGP test?

At any test teams are looking to collect data across many different areas including but not limited to: engines, gearboxes, electronics, lubricants, oils and tyres.

In addition, experimental components for which they cannot afford to use official riders or track time such as aerodynamics.

Not only are teams and riders testing out the bike or getting used to a new team and crew, manufacturers such as Michelin are also looking for data and testing their products.

Riders will provide a lot of feedback to the manufacturers including Michelin to help ensure the best performance across all aspects of MotoGP.

Riders will also use this time to make sure their fitness is up to par.

Once teams and manufacturers have the data at the end of the test it is analysed and put to use.

For things like electronics, it is possible to implement the change almost right away other types of data and changes may not happen until the following season.

What is the format of a day of testing?

Typically, there is a morning and afternoon session on each day.

It works out to around 8 hours of available track time each day.

There is no format outlined as there is for race weekends.

Teams are free to set their own schedule across the 3 days and there is no limit on how much time they spend on the track.

The only restriction they face is the number of tyres provided for testing.

Usually, teams will have a checklist of what need to be tested and assessed.

It is not possible to test absolutely everything at once so teams need to prioritise what will be tested on each given day.

However, if the weather is bad and prevents the sessions going ahead, they are not replaced. It is simply bad luck.

Testing at Valencia in 2023 was cut short due to rain. Inclement is not always bad news though for it gives riders a chance to test and practice in wet weather.

What are test riders?

Each manufacturer has a test rider or what they call a test team they can use for the official tests.

Test riders must have a similar skill level as the official riders, understand competition elements and race conditions.

They have a very important role to play for the team and riders they work with.

Test riders are an integral part of every team that works with each manufacturer ensuring the official riders have a bike capable of winning.

It may come as a surprise but many test riders are names we are used to seeing on the MotoGP grid such as Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow.

Who are the test riders?

The listed test riders for 2024 are as follows:

  • Ducati Factory Lenovo: Michele Pirro
  • Yamaha: Cal Crutchlow
  • Aprilia: Lorenzo Savadori
  • KTM: Pol Espargaro and Dani Pedrosa
  • Honda: Stefan Bradl
Stefan Bradl Qatar testing

Stefan Bradl Qatar testing. Image courtesy Box Repsol on Flickr

Honda are seeking a second test rider for the 2024 season with a plan to complete a mammoth 22 tests across the season due to their D ranking in the regulations.

Honda have stated with this many tests scheduled and normal racing weekends having the additional test rider is the only way to get the most out of the extra track time.

Are test riders the same as wildcards?

Usually test riders will also be the wild card rider for that manufacturer.

While there is no rule that says the two must be the same, they often are.

Due to the changes to concession points and the rankings issued to manufacturers the wild card allowance of teams has been impacted.

For 2024 this will mean Ducati has no wild card allowance while Yamaha and Honda are allowed 6 for the season.

A maximum of three can be used prior to the summer break and a maximum of three in the second half of the season

It is also important to note Wildcard riders are in addition to the normal riders on the grid.

This is different to a replacement rider who takes the place of a rider who cannot participate.

Wildcard riders need to be approved by Dorna ahead of time as there can be no more than 3 wildcard riders on the grid at any time, this is up from two in previous seasons.

This is just another aspect of planning that needs to be carefully monitored by the organisers.

What is the difference between practice and testing?

Practice is referred to as Rider Training or Track Familiarisation and is allowed at any time on any track as long as no GP race is scheduled within 14 days.

Rider training is regulated like all other aspects of premier class racing. However, teams have a little more freedom when it comes to rider training.

The rules state that for rider training MotoGP class bikes are not permitted. Essentially, they use a standard production road-homologated motorcycle.

For safety reasons they are allowed to make some small changes but the technical director must be notified of all changes and approve them.

This could include removing the indicators, mirrors etc.

They can change the front and rear suspension.

They are not allowed to use carbon fibre brakes or championship specification tyres for these sessions.

They can also use other bikes of other capacities or disciplines.

For example, they may ride an Enduro or SuperMoto bike.

An interesting point to note about the rider training is when they use a road racing bike it may count as a test day for that manufacturer.

This rule means official riders have access to their MotoGP Class race bike on race weekends for practice, warmups, qualifying and racing only!

When you really think about it that is not a lot of time on those bikes outside of actual racing.

Just another reason to admire the talent the riders have!

Is testing broadcast?

Much of MotoGP is kept confidential and data is one of those things not made publicly available, but they do allow us to see the testing sessions and they are open to spectators.

It is not broadcast in the same way the race is. However if you have a MotoGP Videopass you can watch the testing sessions on the official MotoGP platform.

And finally….

So there you have it, the rundown on MotoGP testing.

With one final reason to check out MotoGP testing being it gives us a chance to see some very famous names back on the track.

If you haven’t had a chance to follow testing check out the upcoming in-season tests.

 

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