Sepang, Malaysia

2017 Sepang MotoGP Test Monday Round Up: The Flying Fisherman, And Lorenzo Learning To Brake Again

On a normal day, the fastest rider at the end of a day of testing is paraded proudly in front of the press, and given his chance to explain what a good job the team and manufacturer was doing, how they were not really pushing for a lap time, and feign a certain modesty while privately gloating at how they crushed their rivals.

But this was not a normal day. The fastest man in Sepang on Monday slipped out of the circuit in virtual anonymity. After all, he is merely a test rider, and test riders don't usually talk to the media. We journalists, snobs that we are, don't waste our precious time on test riders.

In this case, however, it was not the media not wanting to talk to the test rider, it was the test rider not wanting to speak to the media. One of the reasons Casey Stoner retired from racing was because he was sick of the media circus, of spending his life living out of a suitcase and answering stupid and prying questions from idiots like me. But he still loves challenging himself on a MotoGP bike, and trying to see just how fast he can go. And Ducati are happy to pay him handsomely for the privilege. After Monday, who can blame them?

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2017 Sepang MotoGP Test Monday Final Times - Stoner Quickest, Times Unchanged

Casey Stoner remained fastest at the end of the first day of testing at Sepang. Times were unchanged from 4pm, when the rain came. A few riders went out in the rain to try the bike in the wet, but they had no impact on the timesheets.

Results:

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2017 Sepang MotoGP Test Monday Times 16:00 - Stoner Still Fastest As Rain Stops Play

The rain came down shortly after 4pm at Sepang, bringing an early end to proceedings. But the rain had held off for longer than the MotoGP teams had expected, and so a lot of work got done. Times were little changed from earlier in the day.

Times at 4pm:

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2017 Sepang MotoGP Test Monday Times 14:30 - Stoner Fastest As Testing Breaks For Lunch

Testing continues at Sepang, the weather still holding, but most of the MotoGP riders have now decided to take a break from the sweltering heat. At the lunch break it is Casey Stoner who is the quickest man on the day, the Ducati test rider one of only two men to crack into the 1'59s. Factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso is the other, the Italian a tenth of a second off the pace of Stoner.

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2017 Sepang MotoGP Test Monday Times 12:20 - Iannone Leads Bautista As Testing Starts

MotoGP testing is underway at Sepang. The weather has held, and a dry track saw a mass exodus onto the track, the riders using the opportunity to do as much testing as possible. Shortly after noon, Andrea Iannone is fastest, the Italian making a strong start on the Suzuki. He deposed Alvaro Bautista on the Pull&Bear Aspar Ducati, who had led for much of the morning. Maverick Viñales is third, always quick here, and now doubly so on the Movistar Yamaha.

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2017 Sepang MotoGP Test Preview - Happy Days Are Here Again

In a few hours time, the grandstands at the Sepang International Circuit will echo with the booming assault of MotoGP machines being pushed to their limits. The entire MotoGP grid has assembled for the first test of the preseason, meaning that the 2017 MotoGP season is about to get underway, at last.

That, at least, is the plan. The reality is that the grandstands may echo only to the sporadic rasp of a MotoGP bike being warmed up, and the occasional intrepid test rider being sent out to test conditions. The resurfaced Sepang continues to be plagued by drainage problems, water remaining on the track for a long time. In high humidity, relatively low track temperatures and without the burning tropical sun, the water left by unusually heavy rains is not evaporating. Parts of the track remain wet all day, making it impossible to push the bikes to the limit, and very risky to try.

Suzuki team boss Davide Brivio expressed the concerns shared by most teams. "You never know how many hours you can test, because the track remains wet for a long time. And if it rains a lot in the evening, maybe you have to wait a long time in the morning. So it's a little bit of a question mark now, how much you can test."

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Sepang Pre-Test Wraps Up: What's In The Box, Gigi?

More factories racing means more factories testing. The usual one or two day shakedown test ahead of the first official MotoGP test of the year organized by IRTA has expanded this year to become much more than that. All six MotoGP factories are present with test riders – Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM, Suzuki, Yamaha – as well as a couple of factories testing Superbike machines ahead of the 2017 season. The reason? The more factory teams there are, the cheaper the cost per factory to rent the circuit, and the more time they get preparing for next week's test.

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Sepang Pre-Test Started - Ducati, Honda Test Riders On Track

While testing for the WorldSBK teams is in full swing at Jerez, halfway around the world, the MotoGP test teams are preparing for the start of the official IRTA test in Sepang, Malaysia. Test riders for all six factories are in Malaysia, putting in laps in what are for the moment still tricky conditions - rain in the morning and afternoon, with a dry spell in the middle of the day. 

For Ducati, Michele Pirro was present on Wednesday, to be joined by Casey Stoner on Thursday and Friday. For Honda, Hiroshi Aoyama was present for Honda, Takuya Tsuda for Suzuki, Katsuyuki Nakasuga for Yamaha, Mika Kallio for KTM, and Mike Di Meglio for Aprilia. Also present were a bunch of Suzuki riders, testing the new GSX-R1000 Superbike. Roger Lee Hayden and Toni Elias were over from MotoAmerica, as was Sylvain Guintoli, who will be campaigning the bike in BSB. Suzuki test rider Nobu Aoki also put in plenty of laps on the new machine.

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2017 MotoGP Calendar Now Confirmed

The 2017 MotoGP calendar is now officially confirmed. The FIM removed the provisional status of the calendar after Dorna finalized contracts with the two remaining circuits still left with an asterisk, Silverstone and Sepang.

The situation with Sepang had been settled earlier, with Sepang keen to retain a MotoGP race for the long term. Sepang has grown to become one of the best-attended races on the calendar. So large are the crowds that they now easily outnumber attendance for F1, which the circuit is trying to drop.

Silverstone was the last race to be finalized. Representatives from the Circuit of Wales, which holds the contract for the British round of MotoGP, had traveled to the Movistar Yamaha launch in Madrid, where they met with Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. There, they finalized arrangements for this year's round of MotoGP. Despite the Circuit of Wales still only existing on paper, the British round will continue to be nominally hosted by the circuit for as long as they keep complying with their financial obligations to Dorna. Until the circuit is finished, the race is likely to stay at Silverstone.

Below is the now official MotoGP calendar for 2017:

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2017 Provisional MotoGP Calendar - Sachsenring Now On 2nd July

The FIM today issued a revised and updated version of the provisional 2017 MotoGP calendar. The calendar features just a single change: the date of the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring has been moved forward two weeks, and will now take place on 2nd July.

The change has both benefits and disadvantages. On the plus side, moving the date of the Sachsenring race means that the riders now have a proper summer break again, with a month off to recover between the Sachsenring and the following race at Brno. Under the previous calendar, they had only three weeks between the German and Czech Grand Prix.

The downside is that the series now has another back-to-back race to contend with. Outside of the Pacific flyaway races (which are usually held on three consecutive weekends for reasons of cost and logistics), Dorna tries to avoid back-to-back races where possible. There are now three pairs of European races on consecutive weekends: Mugello on 4th June and Barcelona on 11th June; Assen on 25th June and Sachsenring on 2nd July; and Brno on 6th August and Austria on 13th of August. Notably, these pairings are all sequential, meaning the MotoGP grid will face three lots of back-to-back weekends in a row.

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