The first day of the shakedown test at Sepang is over, and it was very much a shakedown as it is meant to be. The MotoGP bikes shared the track with the factory Superbike machines being readied for the Suzuka 8 Hour race in July, but all of the factory test riders bar Yamaha got some laps done in preparation for the official test which starts on Wednesday.
It was Ducati's Michele Pirro and Aprilia's Bradley Smith who were busiest, both riders paving the way for their factory riders. The urgency is highest for Smith, as Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone are set to take the track on Sunday, the last day of the shakedown test.
Mika Kallio was paving the way for KTM, the Finnish rider forced to switch numbers from 36 to 66, Suzuki's Joan Mir having taken precedence for #36 as a full-time contracted rider. Kallio had a lot of work to do, ensuring that the bikes were ready for all four KTM riders at the test. In the end, he rode seven different bikes on Friday, including test bikes and the factory Red Bull and satellite Tech3 machines, he told Crash.net's Peter McLaren.
Stefan Bradl was turning laps for Honda, while Sylvain Guintoli was busy for Suzuki. Bradl was mostly running short exits, according to Italian website GPOne.com.
As it is a shakedown test, there were no times released, but the few journalists present spotted a few interesting bits and pieces. The most obvious change was a new aerodynamic package for the KTM. The new wings look like a cross between the short Yamaha package and the longer Ducati side sections, as you can see in the photo posted by GPOne.com. Kallio was non-committal about the fairing when speaking to Peter McLaren.
On the Ducati, there was no sign of either the torque arm or the aerodynamic tail debuted at Jerez. But it is possible that Michele Pirro was busy establishing baselines for the factory riders to test against, and running through other parts. Ducati has already said they will not debut their final aerodynamic package until the Qatar test at the end of February.
According to GPOne, Aprilia have been hard at work cutting weight, bringing the bike down to the minimum weight. This should provide better tire life, and make the bike a little easier to turn and stop.
Yamaha's decision not to test on Friday may be down to the fact that they will have both Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Jonas Folger at both the shakedown test and at the official test. Both test M1s were prepared on Friday, suggesting that they will see some action on track on Saturday.
The Suzuki GSX-RR MotoGP bike will also get an extra rider in the next day or so. BSB rider Bradley Ray, set to race the Suzuki GSX-R1000 for the Buildbase Suzuki team, and present at Sepang to help test the bike ready for the Suzuka 8 Hours, which he also contested in 2018, is to get an outing or two on the Suzuki MotoGP machine. Ray has impressed Suzuki with his performance on their Superbike in BSB, and especially with his performance at the Suzuka 8 Hour last year. As they did with Toni Elias and Josh Waters, Suzuki have decided to reward him with a spin on their MotoGP machine.
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