January 2018

Numbers Don't Lie: 2017 vs 2018 MotoGP Tests Prove You're Better Off On A Ducati

Normally, when comparing times from a test, it makes the most sense to stick to a single year. But sometimes, there are good reasons to look back at past years, in search of a larger and more universal pattern. Comparing the best laps of riders who were in the championship last year and this year proves to be a highly instructive exercise.

Doing that, there is one thing that immediately leaps out at you. The two riders who improved the most between the two seasons are the two who switched between a Honda and a Ducati. Honda riders will freely tell you that the RC213V is very physical to ride, and the fate of rookies who have come into the championship on a Honda has not been great. Tito Rabat came to MotoGP as Moto2 champion, but struggled to make an impression on the Honda. On a Ducati, he finished the test ahead of factory riders Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone, and just seven tenths behind Lorenzo on the Ducati.

Back to top

2018 Sepang MotoGP Test Combined Times: Lorenzo Fastest Overall, Luthi Most Improved

Jorge Lorenzo finished the Sepang test as fastest overall, setting a new unofficial fastest lap in the process. That is meaningful in itself - it means that Lorenzo is a lot further along in his process of mastering the Desmosedici, and that he is likely to be competitive from the start of the season - but a more interesting perspective on the data is provided by the improvements made by the riders over the three days. Any improvement, or lack thereof, is an indication of how the factories are faring.

Unsurprisingly, the rider who improved the most over the three days was the rider with the least experience. Sepang was Tom Luthi's first outing on a MotoGP bike, and he had a lot to learn. But learn he did, quickly dispensing with the idea that old riders can't adapt. The 31-year-old has spent the last eleven seasons in the intermediate class, first in 250s, then in Moto2. But Luthi cut 2.606 seconds off his lap time between Sunday and Tuesday, adapting fast to the demands of riding the Marc VDS Honda RC213V. Luthi still finished as last of the officially contracted riders, but got to within six tenths of his teammate Franco Morbidelli, who has already had four days on the bike at both Valencia and Jerez.

Back to top

Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 67: Talking Sepang With Thomas Baujard

The Paddock Pass Podcast is back, reporting direct from Sepang with a new guest. On Tuesday evening after the test, David Emmett sat down with respected French journalist Thomas Baujard, who works for the French magazine Moto Journal, to discuss what happened in the test.

Tom and David go through the factories one by one, and assess where they stand after the first test of the year. They start off talking about the Sepang track, and how the new surface is ageing, and finally starting to dry more quickly. Then they get on to discuss Ducati, and how the Gigi Dall'Igna's engineers have managed to solve at least part of the turning problem for the GP18, and how that has helped make both Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo extremely competitive.

Back to top

2018 Sepang MotoGP Test: Tuesday's Quick Takes

Three days in the tropical heat of Sepang always generates so much information, and so much to think about, that it is impossible to encapsulate it all in just a few short hours immediately after the test. It takes time to digest, analyze, and separate the wheat from the chaff. That will happen over the coming days here on MotoMatters.com.

Yet there are clear lines emerging from the murk of testing. Avenues worth investigating, trains of thought worth pursuing. So here is the short version of what I think we have learned from three days of testing in Sepang. The long version – or more likely, versions – are still to come.

Honda – cautiously hopeful

After the Valencia test, Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa were happy about the new Honda RC213V motor. The electronics were roughly in the right place, and it sounded like the only work left was in refining it to turn it into a capable weapon. They were so happy they decided to skip the Jerez test, and left the donkey work to Cal Crutchlow.

Back to top

2018 Sepang MotoGP Test Tuesday 2:30pm Times: Lorenzo Still Leading As Riders Focus On Race Simulations

Only one rider has improved his time since noon, as the riders have switched their focus to race simulations. Andrea Dovizioso has moved up from eleventh to fourth, putting both factory Ducatis into the top four. Riders who have completed their test programs are starting to pack up, Jack Miller being one of the first, while others are still on track, Marc Marquez foremost among them.

Times at 2:30pm:

Back to top

2018 Sepang MotoGP Test Tuesday 12pm Times: Lorenzo Under Lap Record As Riders Hunting Times

With next to no rain overnight, the MotoGP riders were met with a bone dry and blistering hot track on Tuesday morning, which meant they went straight to work. First order of business was a time attack: with air temperatures still rising, this was the best chance of a fast time the riders had been given during all three days of the test. 

Their attempts were rewarded. Half the field was quickly into the 1'59s, and before noon, Jorge Lorenzo had smashed the existing unofficial lap record of the track set by Marc Marquez in 2015. Lorenzo's time of 1'58.830 was just a fraction under the 1'58.867 set by Marquez, but it is a sign of both how much faster Lorenzo is this year, and how much the Michelins have improved in their first two seasons back in MotoGP.

Back to top

2018 Sepang MotoGP Test Monday Round Up: Motor Monday, Miller Monday

The second day of MotoGP testing at Sepang turned out to be Motor Monday. Four of MotoGP's six manufacturers dedicated their day to gathering the data to make a decision on their 2018 engine. All of them have the lessons of 2017 in mind, when the rule on sealed engines caught Suzuki out completely, and Honda to a lesser extent. Make the wrong choice in testing, and you have nineteen races to spend regretting it, much as Suzuki did last year.

The difficulty factories face is that the testing tracks early in the year are ideally suited to camouflage potential problems. Sepang is fast and wide, with relatively few very slow corners to test just how aggressive an engine might be. It is also almost as hot as the surface of Venus, which saps power and tames the engine. Buriram replaces Phillip Island as a test track this year, but neither is conducive to teaching anything. Phillip Island is fast and flowing, and easy to go fast on. Buriram is stop and go in a heat even fiercer than Sepang, making a nonsense of engine assessment.

There's the Qatar test, of course, but if you finally figure out what is wrong with your engine at Qatar, you have two weeks to fix it before the start of the season. That is not something that is ever going to happen, even in an ideal world.

Back to top