A 500cc/MotoGP title being decided at the final round is rare. But until this season, team-mates hadn't fought for the championship at the last race since 1957.

That underlines just how unique the year was for Movistar Yamaha.

The downside to having Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi locked in a championship duel is that neither naturally wanted to switch their focus to next year's technical changes until the season was over.

Throw in some big accidents during occasional tests on the prototype Michelin tyres, which replace Bridgestone, and the reluctance is even easier to understand.

After last month's Valencia test, the final track action of the year for Movistar Yamaha, Lorenzo's team manager Wilco Zeelenberg stated that the tyre and ECU changes were probably costing Yamaha "half a second or more" relative to their 2015 pace.

Their rivals appeared to have lost less, Zeelenberg added, "especially the Ducatis". That observation was underlined when Desmosedici riders filled four of the top five places during a subsequent private test in Jerez, not attended by Yamaha.

"Both our riders were in a championship battle and it is difficult to just throw everything overboard and test other things for next year [during the season]. We were not really interested at that time," Zeelenberg told Crash.net.

"Okay the risk is, are you running behind? At a certain point I think we did because we missed some [Michelin] tests and the riders were a little bit scared to try them because they were thinking about this year's championship.

"So I think that in our case, for the new tyres, it was a little bit of a disadvantage that we were challenging for the championship. The other manufacturers could think 'we don't care, we'll just try whatever we want'."

Such caution is unsurprising given that Lorenzo suffered big falls during both his previous Michelin outings at Sepang (February) and Mugello (July). Rossi fell at Mugello and Aragon (Septembers), which Lorenzo skipped.

However Lorenzo, like Rossi, was one of the few not to fall at the Valencia test, which he finished as the top Yamaha in fifth position.

"He took a lot of care," Zeelenberg said. "It's a very important to go safe and step-by-step, because basically these guys are used to such defined and prepared material, let's say, and suddenly they get something new that they don't know but have to push on the limit.

"The other difficulty for these guys is as we saw during the season - when every time Jorge put the Michelin on, he was on the floor, but that was always straight after using Bridgestones.

"You think that you can ride the same as with the Bridgestone. We found out quickly it doesn't work like that, not only for Jorge but also basically for all the riders. So it was clear that we had to proceed in a different way.

"First of all, after the [Valencia] race there was one day with no testing so that riders could clear their head from the 'Bridgestone rhythm' and also we adjusted the bike set-up more to suit the Michelin tyres. Which we hadn't done before, it was always just 'take the Bridgestone tyres out and put the Michelin tyres in'."

Zeelenberg, winner of the 1990 West German 250GP then fourth in the world championship the following season, believes a combination of tyre characteristics, engine behaviour and riding style have been causing the accidents.

"Some [falls] are during braking, the front is already locking. Others are mid-corner, they lose the front as they open the throttle. So it is [not only the tyre] but also the engine behaviour and the riding style.

"Dani [Pedrosa] for example brakes hard in a straight line, turns shortly and then picks up the bike quickly. This is his style and it is quite suitable also for the Michelin, because you are not leaning so long on the side and you don't ask a lot of the front.

"Jorge, Marc and Vale struggle a bit more I guess because they brake hard but also deep. This is what they used to do with the Bridgestone and they have to skip that a little bit out of their mind. And this is difficult!"

Asked if he considers Lorenzo to be an adaptable rider, given the technical changes to be mastered, Zeelenberg replied:

"Actually he's quite good in that, because he is able to ride any kind of set-up very fast. So even when his bikes are completely different he has a very good pace with both.

"But on the other side he felt the tyre limit very well with the Bridgestone. But with the Michelin he needs to learn where the limit is because the problem is it doesn't give as much warning.

"This is for everybody at the moment. That is why you see the crashes. They are not patient enough."

While Honda, Ducati, Suzuki and Aprilia all held private tests with their race riders in late November, to further tune the ECU and Michelin tyres, Yamaha opted to save all of its private test days until 2016.

Rossi and Lorenzo will thus next be on track for the opening official 2016 test at Sepang from February 1-3.

Prior to that outing, Crash.net understands Yamaha is planning a two-day test at the same Malaysian circuit on January 13-14.

Since the winter test ban doesn't end until January 31, it would feature development riders only.

 

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