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MotoGP, Evolutions and revolutions: chasing Ducati in the Valencia tests

ANALYSIS - Honda has changed everything, Yamaha not yet, Aprilia is working on the details and KTM goes camo. What we should expect from 2024, manufacturer by manufacturer

MotoGP: Evolutions and revolutions: chasing Ducati in the Valencia tests

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2023 ended on 26 November and 2024 began on 28 November: a day of testing to prepare for the new season, set up work for the winter, and be careful not to reveal too much of your cards with your rivals. The goal for everyone is to beat Ducati; for the Borgo Panigale engineers, not to get caught. The riders made their last effort before taking a well-deserved rest and counting the days that separate them from the Sepang tests. At Valencia we had the first indications of what 2024 could be like for the manufacturers involved in MotoGP: here's how it went.

Aprilia: the best is yet to come

It was Lorenzo Savadori who brought the most important innovation to the track: the carbon frame that the men from Noale have been developing and testing for some time. From an aesthetic point of view it passes with flying colours and promises a lot in terms of performance and lightness, but we will have to wait a little longer to see it in the hands of the riders. In fact, its introduction into racing competition is not expected in 2024 and the plans are to complete development perhaps by 2025, testing it on various circuits to continue its evolution.

As for what's new for next year, at Valencia Aprilia was only able to count on Maverick Vinales, with Aleix Espargarò abandoning the tests after a few laps due to his physical problems. The RS-GP has been able to win 2 races this year, but has also suffered from problems on several circuits and a tendency to run hot in the hottest GPs. Romano Albesiano and his men are therefore working on different areas, aware that they must not revolutionize the project but smooth out the last imperfections, as always the most complicated job.

Ducati: looking to the past to improve the future

When you win 4 consecutive constructors' titles and 3 riders finish ahead of everyone in the championship, it is clear that there is no need for a revolution. On the other hand, as Gigi Dall'Igna knows very well, those who stop are lost and resting on their laurels is a mistake that Borgo Panigale doesn't want to make. The lesson of two years ago (when far too many new features were introduced in the winter) has certainly been learned, so for the GP24 they proceed step by step, trying not to ruin the balance achieved.

Apart from the beautiful black livery, at Valencia there were no innovations that immediately caught the eye, but it is a well-established strategy not to reveal aerodynamic innovations until the last moment. The changes were under the fairing and both Bagnaia and Bastianini liked them. In a certain sense they took a step back, trying to 'add' the best qualities of the GP22 to the GP23. Starting from the engine's delivery ("now you can again feel a boost of power" was Pecco's comment) which had become too 'sweet' and the riders wanted a better connection with the throttle control. Then they worked to improve corner entry, a quality that had been somewhat lost on the 2023 bike in order to have greater traction, which suggests that some experiments are being done on weight balance and engine position. They are working hard, in short, waiting to find out if some interesting improvements will emerge from Dall'Igna's drawers.

Honda: desire for revolution

The RC213V needed something more than a refresh because the project was no longer at the level of the best competition and at Valencia the Japanese engineers showed that they still remember how to make (hopefully winning) bikes. The new Honda seen in the tests is radically different from the bike that preceded it, more 'European' if we wish to define it that way. At first glance you can see how the 2024 prototype is longer than the bike that preceded it, conforming to the new MotoGP standard which requires them to be low and long.

What you can't see, but which Joan Mir pointed out, is a decrease in overall weight, a sign that until now the Honda wasn't in perfect shape on the scales. The Spaniard, however, said that there is still work to be done on the engine, but it shouldn't be a problem to do so also due to the new concessions that allow HRC to develop the engine during the season. Overall, it seems that Honda has finally managed to start a new direction and the new prototype represents a solid foundation on which to build its future.

KTM: camouflaged innovations

ìThe feeling is that this year the RC16 picked up a lot less than it could have and, while it did finish in 2nd place in the constructors' standings behind the unattainable Ducati, it failed to win a single race. The most important innovation had already been introduced this season, with the arrival of the carbon frame ridden on its race debut by Pedrosa and then also used by Binder and Miller. At the moment, the Austrian manufacturer is the only one that can boast this in MotoGP and it is a step forward.

At Valencia what caught the eye the most was the new aerodynamic package, painted for the occasion with camouflage graphics that prevent its shapes from being precisely identified. The livery 'is very much prototype', but when tested in practice the new fairing did not completely convince Brad, nor did the new exhausts. A bit like Aprilia, KTM must find in the details the last tenths it is missing and in this sense the work of the engineers during the winter break will be fundamental to present itself at Sepang with the right evolutions. The plus is the arrival of Pol Espargarò as test rider, who joins Dani Pedrosa and Jonas Folger in the test team.

Yamaha: the long wait

Iwata engineers have been experimenting on the aerodynamics of the M1 for years now, only to then always backtrack. At Valencia there was no shortage of a new fairing (with Aprilia-style 'moustaches'), a last-minute innovation, so much so that it wasn't even made of carbon. Quartararo liked it anyway, even though when it comes to Yamaha the question is always the same: does the new engine have more horsepower? For the answer, however, we will have to wait for Sepang, when it will be discovered whether engineer Luca Marmorini has managed to find more power in the Japanese inline 4.

All in all, Fabio didn't have the long face shown in other tests at Valencia, but he was still aware that the improvements made to the bike were still not enough. Yamaha, however, seems to have finally changed its mentality, moving closer to the European one. The arrival of concessions is a fundamental help in getting back on top, but the Japanese will have to demonstrate that they know how to make the best of them. Easy said than done.

 

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