Mamola column: What we learned about 2017 from Valencia testing

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From the hotly anticipated debut of Jorge Lorenzo with the Ducati to Maverick Vinales' move to Yamaha, our columnist Randy Mamola analyses the first two days of testing at Valencia and gives us his conclusions.

1. Lorenzo's smile at Ducati

Jorge Lorenzo's debut with Ducati was the main talking point of the test, and he didn't disappoint. From the moment the garage doors opened, we saw Jorge's face with a bigger smile than he's had all year at Yamaha.

A lot of people thought his first impressions after testing the Desmosedici would be some sort of shock. As he was not allowed to speak and we don't want to speculate, we can only talk about the impression that we got, and that was very positive.

I was at the track watching him, and it was Jorge, with his style, who was riding the bike his own way. It's true that on the second day he finished seven tenths off the pace, a gap which is significant on a short track like Valencia, but we also have to keep in mind that it was his first run.

2. Vinales: very fast, very soon

Maverick Vinales has left the Suzuki to climb aboard Lorenzo's vacated Yamaha, which is still an improved version of the bike he has been riding for the past two years. We could say that the bikes share the same DNA, but Yamaha's is a bit more fine-tuned. 

On Tuesday, his first day, Vinales was exaggerating his movements on the M1, but on Wednesday he controlled the aggressiveness that is part of his character.

To face this new challenge, Vinales will have Ramon Forcada alongside him, the Spaniard being a very experienced engineer who will help him a lot.

Maverick has not stopped growing with the GSX-RR, and as soon as he got on the Yamaha he was very fast, showing that he can adapt perfectly to it. I think I'm not wrong if I say that he will be able to challenge Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez right from the start.

3. Iannone in the spotlight at Suzuki

During the past two seasons, both Vinales and Aleix Espargaro rode the Suzuki very aggressively, but probably not as much as Andrea Iannone rode the Ducati. That's why I wasn't surprised at all that was he was immediately quick on the GSX-RR.

Iannone's arrival at the Hamamatsu manufacturer is very positive, because he is someone who knows how to win a race. Will he be able to adapt to the role of leader the team needs? Probably only Ducati can answer that question right now. I have my doubts about it, but I'm absolutely certain that Andrea is capable of taking to the limit whatever he needs to test.

Besides, he is inheriting a very good bike: I would have loved not to have had rain in Malaysia on Sunday, because I'm sure that Maverick would have fought for victory there.

Iannone is one of the most, let's say, energetic riders in the field. His battle with Rossi last Sunday was a delight and there's a reason why they call him 'The Maniac'.

4. Rossi and his new enemy

If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that Rossi knows already that he will have a lot of work to beat Vinales. However, his attitude will probably be different than a few years ago, when Lorenzo started to challenge him and ended up beating him. Now he knows what it feels like when that happens and he can prepare for it.

At the same time, he's a very smart person who dominates all the psychological scenarios, and we can't forget that Valencia was only a test. If Maverick is faster than him, Rossi will do everything in his power to turn the situation around, but he will also accept it.

But at the same time, I bet that in six months this happy relationship between him and Vinales will be broken. We have seen Rossi say in some races that he wasn't fast enough, and that means he can accept when others are quicker than him and beat him.

Having said that, I think Valentino will run up front and will win races, and now I'll take a moment to highlight once more his level of competitiveness and his hunger at 37 years of age. I think many people are not aware of how lucky we are that he is still racing and many more will only realise it when he finally decides to retire.

5. Honda's Big Bang theory

One curious thing about both Marquez and Rossi is that they are both demanding the same thing from their teams: better acceleration from their engines. At the moment, the solution Honda has come up with is not good enough for the Spaniard, and the same applies to Rossi.

During the season, Marquez had to make up for the deficit in acceleration of his bike under braking and on corner entry, and that made him lose the front end and crash sometimes. He doesn't like to race in a conservative way, but he has been forced to do it several times, showing maturity and adaptability.

That doesn't mean that he likes it, and what he wants is to be able to brake or enter the corners with that same aggressiveness, while at the same time being able to compete with the others under acceleration.

From what I could hear on track, I would say that Honda's engine is now a Big Bang (two cylinders fired at a time), and that would only mean that the manufacturer considers that this is the best way to give its star rider the best possible power unit.

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Event Valencia November testing
Track Valencia Circuit Ricardo Tormo
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Jorge Lorenzo , Marc Marquez , Andrea Iannone , Maverick Viñales
Teams Yamaha Factory Racing , Ducati Team , Repsol Honda Team , Team Suzuki MotoGP
Article type Commentary