Now the winter test ban is in place, MotoGP powerbroker and opinion former Carlo Pernat assesses the 2017 MotoGP rookies, and top men who switched teams for next season. He believes that not only is Yamaha new-boy Maverick Vinales a very real title threat while Jorge Lorenoz’s Ducati debut wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Pernat sat down with BSN to chat through his post-test thoughts:
JORGE LORENZO (Ducati)
“There was a lot of expectation and also fear ahead of the five-time world champion’s Ducati debut. The threat was the past experience of Valentino Rossi, although everyone knows that Lorenzo has found a different bike in his new Italian garage.
“The first impression was positive, but I don’t agree with the general idea that it was ‘love at first sight’. If we look at the lap times, on Saturday at Valencia Jorge Lorenzo claimed the pole position with his Yamaha M1 setting a a lap time of 1’29.401, while his best lap on Ducati was 1’30.744. This gap of 1.3s is a lot and it indicates that there is a lot of work to do for the Ducati engineers in the coming months.
“In addition, he finished three-tenths behind his team mate Andrea Dovizioso and two-tenths from Andrea Iannone.”
MAVERICK VIÑALES (Movistar Yamaha)
“The Spaniard impressed both at Valencia, topping the time sheet on both days, as well as in occasion of the Yamaha private test at Sepang. During the season, he had already proven to be fast on the Suzuki, but at Valencia he showed also his consistency and skills to improve himself every time he went on track. In my opinion he is a clone of Jorge Lorenzo. He is able to win when he starts well and take the lead, while he suffers more in the duels and the physical battles.”
ANDREA IANNONE (Ecstar Suzuki)
“The Italian adapted well to the Japanese machine that has progressed a lot throughout the 2016 season. The Suzuki GSX-RR has a good engine and a fantastic chassis. He didn’t change anything in the two days of testing at Valencia. This shows the good feeling between rider and machine. It’s early to make forecast, as we need to see how all the factory machines will develop and progress during the winter. The first three races will be more complicated because they are disputed on circuits that demands a lot of engine power, but I think that Iannone can regularly fight for top-five finishes.”
ALEIX ESPARGARO (Aprilia)
“He made a good debut and he can contribute to the progress of his Aprilia machine that has made an important development throughout the season. The Spaniard showed to adapt well to the new machine. As Jorge Lorenzo, also Espargaro switched from an inline four motor to a V4 engine.”
“If we look at the rookies, my evaluation sees Johann Zarco in first position, followed by Sam Lowes, Jonas Folger and Alex Rins.”
JOHANN ZARCO (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)
“He surprised me. Among the rookies who made their debut in the premiere class, the two-time Moto2 World Champion (2016 and 2015) is the most talented rider. In my opinion, he is the only rider to be ready for the jump in the new class. How will he do? It’s early to make a forecast, but I think he can battle for the top ten. Contrary to Alex Rins or Sam Lowes, he doesn’t have a factory machine, this means that his bike will not progress during the season.”
SAM LOWES (Aprilia)
“It’s difficult to make comparisons with the other riders as Sam Lowes is riding a bike that has progressed a lot, but still needs to close the gap to the other manufacturers. As a rider, I like Sam a lot: he is fast and ruthless, these are the characteristics of a MotoGP rider. He is riding a factory bike, this means that during the season his Aprilia has all the potential to progress as there is a factory behind at work.”
JONAS FOLGER (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)
“I think that, despite having spent three seasons in Moto2, the jump into the premiere class is a bit premature for this 23-year-old German rider. I don’t see him ready for the new adventure in the premiere class.”
ALEX RINS (Ecstar Suzuki)
“In my opinion, Rins is not ready. Also from a physical point of view, he needs to train more in order to tame a powerful MotoGP machine. Unfortunately he had a bad incident in the second day of testing at Valencia where he injured the T8 and T12 vertebras. His test program was over but even before the incident he was struggling a lot. I think that one more year in the Moto2 class could have been useful.”