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Old 02-11-2016, 11:10 PM   #1
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MotoGP: Aleix Espargaró not happy with Michelin/Sepang incident

Photo courtesy of Suzuki Racing

Although he was down in 12th spot on the timesheets at the end of the three-day MotoGP test at Sepang last week, Suzuki Ecstar rider Aleix Espargaró was only able to ride on the hard compound tires for the majority of the test. The one time he did mount soft compound tires to try and set a time, the new engine on his 2016 GSX-RR unfortunately blew up.

Factory Suzuki rider Aleix Espargaró had a few things on his wish list for the 2016 GSX-RR MotoGP racebike: more power, a seamless gearbox, to name a few. So when he and teammate Maverick Viñales got to turn their first laps on the new machine at the official Sepang MotoGP test last week, they were pleasantly surprised at how well the new bike worked and the improvements made. Although Espargaró finished 12th and Viñales 10th on the timesheets, both riders were unable to use the soft tire to turn a quick lap time because various issues cropping up during the test.

Espargaró was also the rider behind Avintia Racing Ducati rider Loris Baz when the Frenchman’s rear tire exploded at 180 mph on the front straight, causing him to crash and forcing Michelin to withdraw the soft compound rear tire for the remainder of the test. The Suzuki rider wasn’t happy at how the incident was initially handled, and felt that the rider safety commission needs to be more involved with incidents like this.

Photo courtesy of Suzuki Racing

Espargaró was not happy with how Michelin initially handled the tire failure incident of Loris Baz at Sepang during the MotoGP test. "I didn’t like that before they analyze the tire, the light (for the circuit) was green and everybody was let out again. It cannot be like this because it’s a very dangerous situation."

“Yeah, I saw what happened, and I’m not really happy how they managed it,” Espargaró said about Baz’s crash and the ensuing aftermath. “I’m really angry because, even Loris (Baz), I don’t think he realizes how lucky he was. I talked with him in the Clinica (Mobile), he was so happy, but I think he (didn’t realize the seriousness of the situation). The most difficult thing after one crash like this is to find out exactly what happened. This was impossible and it happened, so we need to understand why.

“These things can happen obviously, in racing it can happen, but I didn’t like that before they analyze the tire, the light (for the circuit) was green and everybody was let out again. It cannot be like this because it’s a very dangerous situation. Yes, this is racing, it can happen, one engine can explode, something can happen. But before you let everyone go out again, to me, the safety commission needs to be stronger.

Photo courtesy of Suzuki Racing

Both Espargaró and Viñales were happy with the improvements made to the new Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP bike. The 2016 bike's engine has more top-end power, and the seamless transmission was reported to be working well, in fact smoother than some of the other factory bikes according to the riders and trackside observers.

“When Michelin came to my pitbox and they say, ‘no problem, you can go out, we are working on it,’ I was really angry and I say to Michelin that I was completely not in agreement. For me, they were making a really bad decision. Then I saw the green light for the circuit, I was really angry. Actually, Tom said to me, ‘Don’t go out, don’t worry, take your leathers off.’ And then they turn on the red light. (Eventually) I understood they said Ducati was not a problem, was a tire fault. And they say to us to use the hard tire with more pressure. It was clear the soft tire was too hot and explode, so…I mean, it’s racing, it’s dangerous, but for me, we need to be a little bit more careful.”

Outside of his disagreement with the initial handling of the tire incident, Espargaró was reasonably happy with the performance of the 2016 Suzuki GSX-RR, Espargaró blowing the engine on the morning of the third day and being forced to run last year’s engine for the remainder of the test.

“(On the second day of the test) when we used the new engine, I felt an improvement,” Espargaró said. “It was a good improvement, also in top speed we gain something. But today after I broke the engine, and I had to run all day with last year’s engine, the difference was higher than I expect. I’m positive because the new engine is a lot better. The new chassis, the bike is more agile, but we lose a little bit of stability, especially in the fast corners, the bike is unstable. But with this bike, from 4:00(pm) to 4:35(pm), I was not able to do two consecutive laps because of an issue with the electronics, so we need to do more laps to find out what we can do with it.

Photo courtesy of Suzuki Racing

Suzuki not only made improvements to the engine for 2016, but they also made the chassis quicker in the handling department. Although there was a tradeoff; "The new chassis, the bike is more agile, but we lose a little bit of stability, especially in the fast corners, the bike is unstable," said Espargaró.

“Everything happen today; electronic issues, engine problem. I was the only rider on the grid to not be able to use the soft tire for any laps. Doesn’t matter, this can happen. In the afternoon I was able to manage to not be really, really slow with the hard tire with a respectable time. It was a shame, because obviously with the new engine I felt really good, we had a good setting. With the soft tire today in the morning, if we finish three corners more I think we get a good time, but unfortunately I broke the engine. The lap that I broke the engine I was coming faster than one second of my time in the afternoon and it was just my first lap.”

Other than the engine failure with Espargaró, both he and Viñales were very happy with the new Suzuki, especially the new seamless transmission that reportedly was working very well. Not only did it improve drives off the corners, but the riders and trackside observers noted that it seemed to perform much smoother than the Honda and Ducati seamless gearboxes. With the improved top end speed, the riders and team are hoping for even more improvements when they join the rest of the MotoGP paddock for the upcoming IRTA tests next week at Phillip Island.

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