Repsol Honda rider Stefan Bradl is the first rider to complete MotoGP laps in 2021, despite bad weather at Jerez. The German test rider took to the Andalusian circuit on Wednesday and Thursday.
Since it was a private test, scheduled alongside World Superbike teams, Honda declined to provide any information on Bradl’s work but images show several RCVs in all-black livery.
With engine design modifications forbidden under the Covid technical freeze, HRC will be forced to focus its efforts on chassis, electronics and aerodynamics changes, plus peripheral engine parts such as the intake and exhaust.
Bradl, who replaced injured world champion Marc Marquez at Repsol Honda for most of last season, with a best race finish of seventh place, will also ‘probably’ return to Jerez again next week hoping for better weather.
Such a comprehensive early testing effort suggests that, engine freeze or not, HRC has made significant changes as it seeks a return to winning ways in 2021.
Bradl’s Jerez efforts should help compensate for the loss of the Sepang tests and lay the groundwork for the delayed start to Official MotoGP testing at Qatar in early March, when Marquez’s new Repsol Honda team-mate Pol Espargaro will make his debut.
The race riders will have just five days to decide their technical package before the opening race (rookies and concession team Aprilia will have six days).
It is still unclear when Marquez will be fit to return, but since Bradl is also likely to be present at the Qatar tests as part of the RCV development programme, the #6 would again be the obvious choice if a replacement is needed for the opening race weekend.
Full-time MotoGP riders Johann Zarco and Maverick Vinales were also due to ride at Jerez this week, albeit doing some training on road bikes, but the bad weather prompted Vinales to cancel while Zarco only completed a handful of laps.