What did we learn from Phillip Island?

The penultimate MotoGP pre-season test took place at Phillip Island last week, but little was revealed about the upcoming campaign…

What did we learn at Phillip Island? Well, not much.

Pre-season testing usually throws up more questions than answers in the MotoGP paddock and last week’s Phillip Island test certainly did just that.

A quick look at the timesheets will tell you that it is impossible to decipher exactly how much progress any of the top teams have made because in reality none of them really showed their true pace.

Sure, Jorge Lorenzo was quick at one point and so was Marc Marquez, but then Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales just confused everything by setting the quickest lap of the entire three days.

Obviously, the conditions were far from ideal and bad weather wreaked havoc on the test. Although some rider’s track time was limited by the showery weather, the majority of the teams did get more laps under their belt ahead of the start of the new season in Qatar on March 20.

With two tests down and one to go before the lights go out at the Losail International Circuit, plenty of talking points have been raised ahead of the forthcoming season, and none more so than the new electronics package that has been put in place for 2016.

The end of the 2015 season saw the two-tiered system being abolished, with a new ECU system replacing the old Open Class.

The new rules state that all teams will be provided with the same spec of electronics, therefore, the gap between the teams should, in theory, be close, but from what we have seen so far, riders are struggling to adapt the new ECU specifications to the new Michelin tyres.

After Bridgestone exited the stage there has been some serious teething issues with the new French manufacturer’s tyres, but it was to be expected.

The Bridgestone front was the ever-reliable tyre while the same couldn’t be said for the rear tyre. This has now been flipped on its head with Michelin’s rear like sticky goo to the track surface and the front less so.

This is partly to do with the teams still figuring out how to gain the most out of the new electronics, but eleven crashes on the final day of testing in Australia had many of the top names in the paddock calling the front grip into question, possibly more so out of frustration than anything else.

Another major talking point from Phillip Island was yet again the progress of Suzuki. After a breakthrough 2015 season in which they claimed a pole position in Catalunya, Spaniard Vinales set the quickest lap of the test.

Of course, teams are still settling into the new regulations and differing setups so this could be all smoke and mirrors, but if the Japanese outfit can make even half the progress they did during last season we could realistically be looking at a race win at some point in 2016.

One thing that is for sure is that testing never actually answers all those lingering questions, and until the season gets underway it’s unlikely we will really know the true pace and progress teams have made throughout winter – can the season just hurry up already?

Joe Urquhart

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