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.
Xavier Simeon also made good progress on the Avintia Ducati GP16, improving his best time by over two seconds. More importantly, he cut the gap to the leaders: at Valencia, a track with a short 1'30 lap, Simeon's deficit to fastest rider Marc Marquez was 2.6 seconds. At Sepang, a much longer track with a 1'59 lap, The Belgian was under two seconds off the time of Lorenzo.
For most riders, the average improvement over all three days was between eight tenths and 1.5 seconds, with the average around 1.1 seconds. At the upper end of the scale, Alvaro Bautista and Karel Abraham on the Aspar Ducatis, and Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda all took around 1.5 seconds off their best time. At the lower end of the scale, Jack Miller on the Pramac Ducati and Valentino Rossi on the Movistar Yamaha bettered their times by a little over 0.8 seconds.
The case of the Movistar Yamahas is something of a puzzle. Overall, Maverick Viñales improved his fastest time by 1.359 seconds, Rossi by 0.843. But what is strange is that their improvement came between the first and second days. Both Yamaha riders were unable to improve from the second to the third day of testing, both men struggling to post a fast lap on the final day. The race pace was good, according to Valentino Rossi, the problem was pushing for a single quick time. It was a problem which only arose on the final day, however, as the two Yamahas had topped the second day of testing on Monday.
The bottom of the improvement standings highlight another interesting case. The four riders who improved least over the three days of the test are all on factory machinery, and include two Ducati GP18s and two KTMs. Both Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci started the test off fast, but only improved their times by six tenths of a second. In the case of Dovizioso, that could be because he was forced to switch back to the GP17 at the end of the day, because of a problem that arose on his bike, an issue which had Petrucci had also had. Petrucci was also on a GP17 at the end of the day, but he set his fastest time on the bike.
Dani Pedrosa's name should probably also be added to the list. The Repsol Honda rider went slower on Monday than he had on Sunday, so his improvement from Sunday to Tuesday was only four tenths of a second. That is in part because he set a very fast lap on Sunday, topping the timesheets by over a third of a second. But that can also be read as an indication of just how much improvement the Honda has really made over the three days. Pedrosa was chasing a quick time on both Sunday and Tuesday, and was fast on both days - fastest on Sunday, second fastest on Tuesday - and so the difference is in large part attributable to the improvement of the bike, and perhaps the improvement of the track.
What may be cause for concern is the fact that the KTM riders are last in the improvement standings. Pol Espargaro couldn't ride the final day because of a crash on the second day, in which he badly banged up his ankle. But Bradley Smith only improved by 0.579 over the course of three days. KTM have a lot of development work still to do, but they find themselves in the hardest part of it now. The first couple of seconds are easy. The last second is incredibly tough. With Espargaro seventeenth, 1.4 behind Lorenzo, and Smith nineteenth, 1.6 behind Lorenzo, KTM has a lot of ground to make up.
|12||Tom Luthi||Honda RC213V||2:01.126||2.606||25|
|10||Xavier Simeon||Ducati GP16||2:00.784||2.162||22|
|19||Alvaro Bautista||Ducati GP17||2:00.205||1.523||16|
|17||Karel Abraham||Ducati GP16||2:00.574||1.514||21|
|35||Cal Crutchlow||Honda RC213V||1:59.052||1.470||3|
|29||Andrea Iannone||Suzuki GSX-RR||1:59.615||1.412||13|
|53||Tito Rabat||Ducati GP17||1:59.547||1.365||12|
|25||Maverick Viñales||Yamaha M1||1:59.355||1.359||7|
|42||Alex Rins||Suzuki GSX-RR||1:59.348||1.279||6|
|45||Scott Redding||Aprilia RS-GP||2:00.812||1.150||23|
|26||Dani Pedrosa||Honda RC213V||1:59.009||0.990||2|
|99||Jorge Lorenzo||Ducati GP18||1:58.830||0.972||1|
|41||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia RS-GP||1:59.925||0.941||14|
|5||Johann Zarco||Yamaha M1||1:59.511||0.910||10|
|93||Marc Marquez||Honda RC213V||1:59.382||0.908||8|
|32||Katsuyuki Nakasuga||Yamaha M1||2:01.679||0.894||28|
|30||Takaaki Nakagami||Honda RC213V||2:00.071||0.881||15|
|46||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha M1||1:59.390||0.843||9|
|43||Jack Miller||Ducati GP17||1:59.346||0.832||5|
|68||Yonny Hernandez||Yamaha M1||2:01.223||0.830||26|
|50||Sylvain Guintoli||Suzuki GSX-RR||2:01.120||0.744||24|
|33||Kohta Nozane||Yamaha M1||2:01.385||0.659||27|
|21||Franco Morbidelli||Honda RC213V||2:00.526||0.635||20|
|4||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati GP18||1:59.169||0.601||4|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||Ducati GP18||1:59.528||0.595||11|
|38||Bradley Smith||KTM RC16||2:00.520||0.579||19|
|44||Pol Espargaro||KTM RC16||2:00.262||0.306||17|
|99||Jorge Lorenzo||Ducati GP18||1:59.802||1:59.498||1:58.830||0.972||1:58.830|
|26||Dani Pedrosa||Honda RC213V||1:59.427||1:59.999||1:59.009||0.990||1:59.009||0.179|
|35||Cal Crutchlow||Honda RC213V||2:00.522||1:59.443||1:59.052||1.470||1:59.052||0.222|
|4||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati GP18||1:59.770||1:59.732||1:59.169||0.601||1:59.169||0.339|
|43||Jack Miller||Ducati GP17||2:00.178||1:59.509||1:59.346||0.832||1:59.346||0.516|
|42||Alex Rins||Suzuki GSX-RR||2:00.627||2:00.042||1:59.348||1.279||1:59.348||0.518|
|25||Maverick Viñales||Yamaha M1||2:00.714||1:59.355||2:00.547||1.359||1:59.355||0.525|
|93||Marc Marquez||Honda RC213V||2:00.290||1:59.730||1:59.382||0.908||1:59.382||0.552|
|46||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha M1||2:00.233||1:59.390||1:59.449||0.843||1:59.390||0.560|
|5||Johann Zarco||Yamaha M1||2:00.421||1:59.702||1:59.511||0.910||1:59.511||0.681|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||Ducati GP18||2:00.123||1:59.747||1:59.528||0.595||1:59.528||0.698|
|53||Tito Rabat||Ducati GP17||2:00.912||2:00.506||1:59.547||1.365||1:59.547||0.717|
|29||Andrea Iannone||Suzuki GSX-RR||2:01.027||1:59.917||1:59.615||1.412||1:59.615||0.785|
|41||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia RS-GP||2:00.866||1:59.925||1:59.962||0.941||1:59.925||1.095|
|30||Takaaki Nakagami||Honda RC213V||2:00.664||2:00.952||2:00.071||0.881||2:00.071||1.241|
|19||Alvaro Bautista||Ducati GP17||2:01.728||2:00.728||2:00.205||1.523||2:00.205||1.375|
|44||Pol Espargaro||KTM RC16||2:00.568||2:00.262||0.306||2:00.262||1.432|
|36||Mika Kallio||KTM RC16||2:05.932||2:00.701||2:00.464||5.468||2:00.464||1.634|
|38||Bradley Smith||KTM RC16||2:01.099||2:00.520||2:00.969||0.579||2:00.520||1.690|
|21||Franco Morbidelli||Honda RC213V||2:01.161||2:00.662||2:00.526||0.635||2:00.526||1.696|
|17||Karel Abraham||Ducati GP16||2:02.088||2:00.914||2:00.574||1.514||2:00.574||1.744|
|10||Xavier Simeon||Ducati GP16||2:02.946||2:01.689||2:00.784||2.162||2:00.784||1.954|
|45||Scott Redding||Aprilia RS-GP||2:01.962||2:01.456||2:00.812||1.150||2:00.812||1.982|
|50||Sylvain Guintoli||Suzuki GSX-RR||2:01.864||2:01.392||2:01.120||0.744||2:01.120||2.290|
|12||Tom Luthi||Honda RC213V||2:03.732||2:01.810||2:01.126||2.606||2:01.126||2.296|
|68||Yonny Hernandez||Yamaha M1||2:02.053||2:01.554||2:01.223||0.830||2:01.223||2.393|
|33||Kohta Nozane||Yamaha M1||2:02.044||2:01.480||2:01.385||0.659||2:01.385||2.555|
|32||Katsuyuki Nakasuga||Yamaha M1||2:02.527||2:02.573||2:01.679||0.894||2:01.679||2.849|