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Photo Gallery: Andrew Gosling Shoots The Phillip Island WorldSBK Test - Monday


Phillip Island feels like a Ducati track. Marco Melandri agreed on Monday


Leon Camier hopes to revive Honda's fortunes in WorldSBK. So far, so good


Not the best of starts to the test for Jonathan Rea. Still third fastest, despite the highside


The brains of the operation


Aussie veteran Wayne Maxwell is still posting respectable times among the WorldSBK crowd


Tom Sykes' first objective? To beat the other side of the garage


Back to WorldSBK for Loris Baz, after a solid few years in MotoGP


Hot headers


Lucas Mahias: looks like a boxer, rides like the wind, wears a pink helmet. Any questions?


The Orange Menace: Luke Stapleford caused a bit of a stir on the Triumph 675 on Monday, finishing 3rd in WorldSSP


An American back in WorldSBK: Jake Gagne has big shoes to fill in the Red Bull Honda team


Peekaboo, Mr West


High hopes for the Pata Yamaha team, though Alex Lowes finished just 8th on Monday


Tom Toparis, wildcarding at his home round, on the Kawasaki ZX-6RR


Two-time ASBK champ Troy Herfoss demonstrating the Universal Racer Sign Language for "the front keeps wanting to wash out"


Daniel Falzon, teammate to Wayne Maxwell, and another Australian at the test


Built for speed, not for comfort


One of Xavi Fores' mechanics demonstrates the artisanal craft of tie-wrapping


Kenan Sofuoglu lost his WorldSSP title last year. Can he get it back in 2018?


Behold the steed of His Chazness


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If you'd like a print of one of Andrew Gosling's shots, then send Andrew an email and he'll be happy to help.

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The Week That Testing Hits Full Swing - Moto2 & Moto3 In Jerez, MotoGP In Buriram, WorldSBK In PI

The official start of the WorldSBK season is less than two weeks away, with practice for the first round set to kick off at Phillip Island on Friday 23rd February. And to get fans in the mood for the return of actual racing, the coming week sees a full program of testing take place.

The week kicks off in Jerez, where the full grid of Moto2 and Moto3 has now assembled. After skipping the Valencia test last week, the Marc VDS Moto2 team, Sky VR46 team, and Swiss Innovative Investors team are all on track together in Jerez. The test will last for three days, from Monday through Wednesday 14th February, with the Moto2 and Moto3 classes taking to the track in separate sessions. 

The Jerez test should give a much better indication of what is to come this year, especially in Moto2. The riders missing from Valencia included Pecco Bagnaia, Joan Mir, Alex Marquez, and Sam Lowes, all names reckoned among the favorites for 2018. Seeing how they will fare against Lorenzo Baldassarri, Mattia Pasini, and Simone Corsi, who were fastest in Valencia, should be revealing. Near-live timing is available on the MotoGP.com website, with the Moto2 times here, and the Moto3 times on this page.

Once the Jerez test is finished, eager fans will have to wait less than a day for bikes to return to the track. On Friday 16th February the MotoGP teams take to the track at Buriram in Thailand. The full compliment of riders will be present, including Hafizh Syahrin making his debut on the Tech 3 machine. 

The Thailand test is not expected to be particularly instructive, however. Informally, the test in Buriram was being referred to as a "Michelin test" by paddock insiders. The expected heat and the layout of the track is not going to be much help in developing the bike. The Chang International Circuit, as the Buriram track is officially known, is a few long straights strung together with tight corners. What's more, the extreme heat - heat and humidity is expected to be worse than at the already tropical Sepang - will sap a lot of power from engines, making judging them difficult. Michelin, however, will get some data on the stress imposed on tires by the track.

Live timing of the MotoGP test in Thailand will be available via the MotoGP.com website. TV coverage of the test will be similar to that on offer for the Sepang test, with regular updates during the test,and then a wrap up show at the end of the day.

The MotoGP test finishes on Sunday the 18th of February, and then we are into the first week of racing. That week kicks off with a two-day WorldSBK test at Phillip Island, ahead of the opening round of the series that weekend, from 23rd to 25th February.

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Seven MotoGP Races To Be Shortened To Tighten Up Schedule

Seven MotoGP races are to be shortened for the 2018 season onwards. The MotoGP races at Austin, Le Mans, Barcelona, Brno, and Misano are all to be cut by a single lap, the race at Jerez is to lose two laps, and the season finale at Valencia is to be reduced by a whole three laps. 

The reason for the reduction in length is to bring the races into line with the remainder of the calendar, and create a consistent time schedule. Previously, the MotoGP regulations specified a minimum and maximum length for races (between 95km and 130km), but for 2018, the specification of distance has been dropped. Race distance for all events is now to be determined by the Permanent Bureau, consisting of the FIM and Dorna.

The old race distances caused a large variation in race duration. Races could last anywhere between 40 and 45 minutes, making scheduling for TV problematic. It also meant that if there were delays at the start, or if races were wet, they could overrun the allotted TV slot, causing major headaches for broadcasters. It meant that audiences were never sure whether they would get to see the Parc Fermé interviews or podium ceremonies. 

By shortening the seven longest races, the schedule has been tightened up significantly. All of the races bar Austria and Barcelona are between 40 and 42 minutes in length. Only Barcelona is likely to be significantly longer, at nearly 43 minutes, though the reinstatement of Turn 12 made possible during the resurfacing of the circuit should make the lap shorter than it has been for the past two years, since the tragic death of Luis Salom.

The biggest change comes at Valencia. By cutting the race by 3 laps, reducing it from 30 to 27 laps, the race duration should be cut by over four and a half minutes. That is a crucial change at the last race of the season, especially given that the title has been decided at Valencia twice in the last three years. 

Reducing race distance will not have an enormous impact on fuel consumption. The one race to be reduced which was relatively critical for fuel consumption was Misano, and taking a lap away should ease the problem there. 

The change will also be important in the coming years. From 2019, Grand Prix racing will add a fourth class, in the Moto-e electric bike racing series. That race - a 20-minute sprint race - will also have to be fit into an already busy schedule. Cutting back on race length will assist in scheduling for that series as well.

The table below shows the effect of shortening races on race duration, and the amount of time possibly saved. Though times are shown to three decimal places, these are approximations, and likely to be out by several seconds.

Race Pre-2018
race
length
(laps)
Race
time
record
Record
year
2018
race
length
(laps)
Projected
new
record
Difference
Qatar 22 42:28.452 2016      
Argentina 25 41:35.644 2015      
Austin 21 43:33.430 2014 20 41:28.981 2:04.449
Jerez 27 44:57.246 2015 25 41:37.450 3:19.796
Le Mans 28 43:29.793 2017 27 41:56.586 1:33.207
Mugello 23 41:32.126 2017      
Barcelona 25 44:41.518 2017 24 42:54.257* 1:47.261
Assen 26 40:54.037 2015      
Sachsenring 30 40:59.525 2017      
Brno 22 42:47.800 2014 21 40:51.082 1:56.718
Austria 28 39:43.323 2017      
Silverstone 20 40:51.835 2014      
Misano 28 43:43.524 2016 27 42:09.827 1:33.697
Aragon 23 41:44.933 2015      
Motegi 24 42:21.259 2014      
Phillip Island 27 40:33.849 2015      
Sepang 20 40:37.691 2015      
Valencia 30 45:54.228 2016 27 41:18.805 4:35.423
             
  Longest
race
Longest
race length
       
Before changes Valencia 45:54.228        
After changes Barcelona 42:54.257        

* The layout of Barcelona has been changed again for this year, with the reinstatement of Turn 12. Race time will vary from this.

Race length calculation based on the average lap time of the fastest race time recorded at a circuit. This is an approximation, giving a rough idea of how much shorter a race will be, rather than an exact prediction. Race length will vary by track condition and weather conditions

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Moto2 & Moto3 Teams To Test At Valencia From Tuesday To Thursday

With MotoGP and WorldSBK both already having had their first tests of the season, it is now the turn of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams to get the 2018 season underway. Over the next three days, a large contingent of riders from the two Grand Prix support classes will gather in Valencia for their first test of the year.

The complete Moto2 and Moto3 field will not be present at the Valencia test. According to the official website of the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, 26 Moto2 riders and 14 Moto3 riders will be participating in the test. Riders present will include Moto2 favorites such as KTM riders Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder, Gresini's Jorge Navarro, Marinelli Rivacold team's Romano Fenati, and Swiss rider Domi Aegerter, who has successfully managed to raise nearly €170,000 towards his season through a special crowdfunding scheme for Swiss athletes.

In the Moto3 class, Aron Canet will be present with the Estrella Galicia team, as well as Gresini riders Jorge Martin and Fabio Di Giannnantonio, and the Angel Nieto (formerly Aspar) Moto3 team of Andrea Migno and Albert Arenas. The Moto3 teams are likely to start off with bikes based on last year's machines. After the surprise Honda sprung on KTM last season, introducing a new, more powerful engine at the final test, too late for KTM to address this before the first race at Qatar, both Honda and KTM are likely to keep their powder dry for the final test, and wait awhile before introducing a new engine.

There will be some big names missing from the Valencia test, however. The Estrella Galicia Moto2 team of Joan Mir and Alex Marquez will not be present in Valencia, nor will the CGBM team of Sam Lowes and Iker Lecuona. The Sky VR46 team will not be sending either its Moto2 or Moto3 riders to the test. The reason given for missing this test is the temperatures in Valencia in early February. "We would rather wait for warmer temperatures and have a private test at the end of February," Marc VDS press boss Ian Wheeler told Speedweek.

After Valencia, the Moto2 and Moto3 teams head south to Jerez, for a three-day test there starting on 12th February. The final official Moto2 & Moto3 test will be at Jerez once again, from 6th to 8th March. The Moto2 teams will get their official engines from Externpro at that test.

The Valencia and Jerez tests will be open to the public, attendance being free. Live timing should be available via the dedicated timing sites of the Valencia circuit, and for the Jerez circuit.

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Hafizh Syahrin To Test Monster Tech 3 Yamaha At Buriram In Audition For 2018 MotoGP Season

Hafizh Syahrin is to test the Tech 3 Yamaha at the upcoming MotoGP test in Buriram, Thailand. The test is quite obviously an audition for the Malaysian rider, who is the prime candidate to replace the sick Jonas Folger for the rest of the 2018 season.

The test is a formality for Syahrin. The SIC Moto2 team has already replaced him with Zulfahmi Khairuddin for the coming season, and all pieces are in place for Syahrin to become a full-time fixture in MotoGP. But caution dictates that the Malaysian rider must first show he what he is capable of at Buriram before being officially signed to a contract.

But the bar will not set at a particular finishing position in the test for the Malaysian. What Syahrin will have to do at Buriram is to show continuous progress, and show he is capable of learning. Given his progress in Moto2, that should be acheivable.

The press release from the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team announcing Syahrin for the test appears below:

Hafizh Syahrin to test the Yamaha YZR-M1 in Buriram

For the upcoming official MotoGP test in Thailand, Buriram, Monster Yamaha Tech3 calls for the services of Hafizh Syahrin. With just 23 years of age, the Malaysian rider is already looking back on four years of Moto2 experience and now feels more than ready to make his first steps in the premier class of motorcycle racing. Following three exciting days of testing at the all-new venue for the MotoGP category, the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team together with its partners will evaluate the performance of the new arrival in order to decide a possible permanent ride concerning the 2018 season.

Hafizh SYAHRIN

“First of all, I want to thank Herve Poncharal for giving me this opportunity and of course the entire Monster Yamaha Tech3 team. I’ll try to do my very best during these three days in Thailand. For me, it’s a dream coming true to be able to ride a MotoGP machine. I have to admit, that I’m overly excited to get this chance. I hope I can be fast from the word go to show everybody what I’m capable of. In addition, I want to thank Razlan and all the people, who support me and made this possible. I’m incredibly happy and I’m looking forward to be in Buriram, because it will be the very first time ever I can ride a MotoGP bike. I know that I have to learn a lot abroad the Yamaha YZR-M1 and I’m eager to try to understand how the team works as I know that they are very experienced, so I want to make the most of their input. During this winter, I trained a lot, yet I hope this hard work pays off and I can’t wait to get this test started.”

Hervé PONCHARAL

Team Manager

“I’m really happy and honored to have the possibility to have Hafizh Syahrin with us for the test in Buriram. As everybody knows, since Jonas Folger decided that he couldn’t race in 2018, we’ve been looking for who could be the right replacement rider. Following the Sepang test, we had many meetings and it has been decided that Hafizh Syahrin would be a very good choice for the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team. Right now, it is only three days, but I am more than convinced that Hafizh is going to show us what he can do. He is young, only 23 years old, has already done some podiums in the Moto2 class, which is not easy. He ended inside the top 10 in the final ranking of Moto2 in 2017, which is a huge achievement, because I know how tough this category is. As I always said, to have a young rider is much more meaningful for the team than having an already established rider. Let’s do the test, I’m already full of excitement and optimism and really soon after Buriram we will take a final decision. Yet, I would like to thank Razlan Razali from Sepang International Circuit, who is the team manager of Hafizh Syahrin.”

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Hafizh Syahrin Now Main Candidate For Tech 3 MotoGP Seat As Zulfahmi Khairuddin Confirmed In His Moto2 Ride

The chances of MotoGP getting its first ever Malaysian rider are rising exponentially. It is looking ever more likely that Hafizh Syahrin, currently signed to the Petronas Sprinta Racing Team in Moto2, will move up to MotoGP and take over the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha seat vacated by Jonas Folger due to illness.

Rumors that Syahrin was a candidate to replace Folger first emerged after the opening MotoGP test of the 2018 season in Sepang, where a range of names were being bandied about. Few people were mentioning Syahrin, however, until MCN published a story linking the Malaysian rider to the team.

Since Saturday, things have moved into a higher gear. Today, the Petronas Sprinta Racing Team confirmed that Zulfahmi Khairuddin will be replacing Syahrin on the Kalex Moto2 machine the team will be fielding in 2018. At the same time, Syahrin confirmed in an Instagram post that he will be leaving the team to ride elsewhere.

The probability that "elsewhere" turns out to be the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha MotoGP teams now looks very high indeed. Several pieces have now fallen into place to make this possible, and especially solving the problem of riders getting out of contracts. With the Sepang International Circuit having a very big say in the running of the SIC and Petronas Sprinta Racing teams, it was relatively simple for them to release Syahrin from his contract, which Tech 3 boss Hervé Poncharal told MotoMatters.com was a requirement for any rider he would sign.

The announcement of Khairuddin on the Moto2 bike makes an announcement about Syahrin imminent. The odds of an official announcement on who will ride the Tech 3 Yamaha M1 being released early next week are high.

There is one possible stumbling block along the way. Syahrin has a long relationship with Malaysian oil giant Petronas, who have backed him for most of his career in Grand Prix racing. However, Tech 3 have a similarly long relationship with French oil company Motul, who are very prominent in MotoGP. This relationship will have to be solved before the deal can go forward.

No doubt that both Dorna and Yamaha would help grease the wheels of such a deal. Having a Malaysian rider in MotoGP would be an enormous coup for both the MotoGP series organizers and the Japanese manufacturer. Syahrin would be the first Malaysian to race in the premier class since its inception in 1949.

The move would not be a bad one from a sporting perspective either. Though Syahrin has not set the world alight in Moto2, he has been respectable, racking up three podiums in the class. He has finished in the top ten of the championship for the last two years, ahead of riders such as Mattia Pasini, Dominique Aegerter, Alex Márquez, Simone Corsi, Xavi Vierge, and Fabio Quartararo. He finished ahead of the other riders being linked to the ride – Sandro Cortese, Dominique Aegerter, and Yonny Hernandez the most prominent – and has consistently managed to finish in the top six.

More intriguing is his ability in the wet. When the rain falls, Syahrin finds another gear, all three of his podiums having come in wet conditions. Syahrin made history with Zulfahmi Khairuddin back in 2012, when the two Malaysians both finished on the podium at their home Grand Prix, Khairuddin in Moto3, Syahrin in Moto2. Syahrin's wet-weather riding skills mean he could cause a surprise or two if it rains. And given the recent history of MotoGP, rain seems certain at at least a couple of circuits this (and every) year.

Of course, nothing is done until the contracts are signed and the official press release has been issued. But all the signs so far are pointing in the direction of that being just a matter of days.


Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2017 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.

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Northern Ireland To Play Host To World Superbikes In 2019

The WorldSBK series is set to go to Northern Ireland in 2019. Dorna have come to an agreement with Manna Developments, the company behind the brand new Lake Torrent Circuit near Coalisland, County Tyrone, to host a round of WorldSBK starting next year.

The announcement will be welcomed in Northern Ireland, given the very strong motorcycling heritage of the region. The northern part of Ireland - both north and south of the border - has produced some of the great names of motorcycle racing, and one of the great dynasties in the Dunlop family.

The area plays host to one of the most prestigious races held on public roads, the Northwest 200, and many other races are held in the area, including at Cookstown and Dundrod. Dundrod is also the site of the Ulster Grand Prix, which was on the Grand Prix calendar until 1971. Both reigning WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea and Milwaukee Aprilia rider Eugene Laverty hail from the region. 

The Lake Torrent project appears to be a much more financially sound proposition than the Circuit of Wales, which was due to be built to host MotoGP. The Lake Torrent Circuit would require one tenth of the funding of the Circuit of Wales, and the funding has already been raised through private means. The chances of the circuit actually being completed are very high, as there is no dependency on public funding.

The press release from Dorna announcing the WorldSBK round appears below:


WorldSBK set for Northern Irish debut in 2019

Lake Torrent Circuit confirmed to host MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship action

Developer Manna Developments and Dorna WSBK Organization today confirmed the signing of a three-year agreement to host the WorldSBK Races at the new £30m (€34m) Lake Torrent Circuit which is currently under construction in Coalisland, County Tyrone, just 40 minutes away from Belfast.

Lake Torrent is the brainchild of Manna Developments founder and motor-racing enthusiast David Henderson and is set to regenerate the Mid Ulster area through new jobs in the business, leisure and engineering sectors – as well as boosting tourism in County Tyrone and across Northern Ireland as a whole.

Designed by award-winning motorsport design firm Driven International, the development of Lake Torrent will transform 163 acres of former clay pits into a world class racing circuit and its creation will see WorldSBK visit Northern Ireland for the first time in the series history.

The WorldSBK Championship is one of the largest motorsport championships in the world. Now in its 31st season, the championship is contested by 59 teams, visiting 12 countries and with global TV airtime in excess of 18,000 hrs. Northern Ireland will join a list of host nations that currently includes Australia, Thailand, Spain, Holland, Italy, England, Czech Republic, USA, Portugal, France, Argentina and Qatar.

Currently in the early development stages, work is now under way on the Lake Torrent Circuit which will be 3.6km (2.2 miles) in length, featuring 12 corners with a width of 12-15m and elevations of +/-30m, accompanied by full supporting facilities.

Estimated to create 700 jobs in the 18 month construction phase, with longer term plans to build a further 90 retail and business units around the circuit, Lake Torrent will bring a huge financial boost to the Mid Ulster area and is set to become more than just a race track.

Motorsport fans will be treated to the full race weekend experience at the state of the art circuit - and weekends don’t come much bigger than the WorldSBK, as David Henderson of Manna Developments explains: “For the past 15 years it has been a dream of mine to build a motor racing circuit that incorporates the feel of the road with the safety of an international standard track – and also to bring the World Superbike Championship to Northern Ireland,” said Mr Henderson.

“Having finally identified the perfect location and achieved planning permission last year, today sees the completion of that dream and is a day that will only be topped when we see up to 30,000 spectators converge in Coalisland for the first WorldSBK racing event in Northern Ireland. They really don’t come much bigger than this. This is a historic milestone for the town of Coalisland, the county of Tyrone and indeed for the whole of Northern Ireland as we celebrate the realisation of our vision to create an internationally recognised motorsport arena which will become a venue for regional, national and international competitions for many years to come," he added.

Reigning WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki Racing Team), who hails from Northern Ireland, is understandably thrilled about the agreement: “I’m so excited about this news because motorcycling in Northern Ireland has a huge heritage, right through from Joey Dunlop to myself and Eugene Laverty. I’m very curious to see how the track is going to look, but I’m sure it will be very well attended because the fans over there love their bikes. I can’t wait to get the chance to go there in 2019, and it’s an incredible way to nurture young talent. I can’t wait to be involved and to fly the flag for Northern Ireland in this new adventure, and it would be nice to create a circuit that many people talk about as the best in the world.”

Mark Hughes, Managing Director of Mrk1 Consulting, who handled the WorldSBK contract negotiations on behalf of Manna Developments, was present at the signing ceremony.

“I’m thrilled that 12 months of hard work with Manna Developments, DORNA and the Mid-Ulster Council have paid off,” said Mr Hughes. “The passion for two-wheeled racing in Northern Ireland is legendary and this circuit and this race will take that passion to new heights. This event will have a huge economic impact on Northern Ireland, Mid-Ulster and Coalisland that will last for generations.”

Last September, Mid Ulster District Council granted planning permission for the first phase of work at Lake Torrent which includes the race circuit, pits, medical centre, restaurant, hospitality suites, six business units and a crèche, as well as a new public ring road to bypass the town and facilitate easy access in and out of the circuit.

Welcoming today’s announcement, Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Kim Ashton, said: “The development of Lake Torrent as a world class venue for motorsport is hugely important for Mid Ulster and its position has been boosted by news that a competitive event of the standard and reputation of the World Superbike Championship has been secured for three consecutive years. I am delighted to have hosted a reception for the championship representatives and for those who are spearheading Lake Torrent and look forward to meeting and working with them as the project develops.”

Speaking at a reception in the Mid Ulster Council offices in Dungannon, WorldSBK Executive Director Daniel Carrera said: “We are delighted to be adding Northern Ireland as a destination for the MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship. The Lake Torrent circuit is a fantastic project that will deliver a high-class facility for competitors and visitors. We are proud that Manna Developments and Mid Ulster representatives have chosen WorldSBK as their top event for the international promotion of the circuit and region.

“We know that the proper management of this kind of facility could provide the local community with new opportunities through business, job creation, leisure and tourism. With the large tradition and culture in motorcycling in Northern Ireland, I am sure that this event could become a reference in our Championship in the near future.”

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Sepang Private MotoGP Test Final Day Notes: More On Yamaha And Honda's Aero, While Ducati Tries A New Frame

The final day of the private MotoGP test was wet once again, with just a few hours of reasonably dry track time before the heavens opened and teams turned their thoughts to building arks. It was enough to get some work done, but the rain meant that Casey Stoner did not do any testing on Friday, leaving the fastest time – according to GPOne, and unofficially – to Mika Kallio on the KTM.

There was little to choose between the test riders. The unofficial times reported by GPOne.com have Kallio at a 2'01.1, Hiroshi Aoyama on the Honda a tenth slower, Ducati's Michele Pirro with a 2'01.4, and Sylvain Guintoli posting a 2'01.6. Aprilia's Matteo Baiocco made great strides, improving to 2'02.9, cutting his deficit to the leaders by over a second.

Though test riders are unlikely to be smashing lap records, it is clear from the photos posted by Crash.net's Peter McLaren that the factories have been busy. The most obvious changes have been in the aero, but the factories have been testing other new parts as well.

We have already mentioned Honda's revised aero, which bears a remarkable similarity to the one used by Ducati, and is a radical departure for HRC. Honda's winglet replacement aerodynamics packages have been rather modest up until now. The package previewed at the private Sepang test uses the same principle as Ducati's, which was decried by other manufacturers at the time.

Yamaha's new aerodynamic fairing looks like an attempt at making legal the fairing used at the Valencia test, and about which the other factories complained so much. The replacement winglets on the new fairing (see link) are swept slightly back rather than swept forward. But it is hard to see the new winglets as part of a single unbroken outer silhouette, they do look like an add-on appendage.

Yamaha's approach, however, is interesting. They are following the line taken by Ducati in their design process, and which can be summed up as "It is easier to get forgiveness than permission". Yamaha, like Ducati before them, appear to be starting from the most extreme position they hope might possibly be legal, then working backwards with every rejection by MotoGP Technical Director Danny Aldridge. They will end up with something which is only just legal, but as judging the legality of parts, and how closely they adhere to MotoGP's technical regulations, "only just legal" is more than enough.

There have been no sightings of new aerodynamic updates at Ducati, but there is definitely a new chassis. It was notable that Casey Stoner didn't once leave the pits using Ducati's aerodynamic fairing, which suggests that Stoner was working on something else instead. Close study of the pictures (e.g. those posted on Twitter by Crash.net) shows that the section around the swingarm axle mount is different on the new chassis.

Ducati appear to have made the section in front of and below the footpeg mounting points wider, with more bracing lower down. There also appears to be some changes to the engine mounting points for the rear cylinder head, with fewer bolts attaching the rear head directly to the frame. This, presumably, is part of the work on stiffness which Ducati have done, in the hope of improving the turning of the bike.

In two more days, there will be nowhere left to hide, as the MotoGP bikes take to the track in earnest, and more importantly, in public. Hordes of photographers will descend on the pits in Sepang, and little by little, the factories' secrets will be laid bare.


Gathering the background information for long articles such as these is an expensive and time-consuming operation. If you enjoyed this article, please consider supporting MotoMatters.com. You can help by either taking out a subscription, buying the beautiful MotoMatters.com 2017 racing calendar, by making a donation, or by contributing via our GoFundMe page.

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Sepang Private MotoGP Test Update: Stoner Fastest, New Aero For Honda And Yamaha, Suzuki Riders Get To Play

The the 2018 MotoGP season does not start officially until Sunday the 28th January, when the contracted riders take to the track for the first time after the enforced winter break, bikes are already out on track at Sepang. MotoGP's six factories have their test teams at the circuit, and are doing some preparation work ahead of the start of the year.

After the two days, the first in relatively mixed conditions, the second in better conditions, it comes as no surprise that Casey Stoner is still fast, and pretty much on race pace according to the unofficial timings posted by GPOne.com. Stoner was nine tenths quicker on the Ducati than Honda test rider Hiroshi Aoyama, and over a second quicker than KTM's Mika Kallio and Honda's other former MotoGP rider at the test, Stefan Bradl. Just how far the times can be trusted is open to question: there is no official timing at the track yet, and all times are self reported by factory staff.

There are also very few photographs coming from the test. The track was reportedly rented by Yamaha, who invited the other factories to the test, though it is rumored that they stipulated that the other factories were forbidden from taking photographs, especially in pit lane. That ban does not apply to Yamaha, of course, who are present with a full compliment of photographers and a video crew.

Despite that, and thanks to the diligent work of Crash.net's Peter McLaren, who is already in Malaysia, a few images have slipped out. What they reveal is a glimpse of what the factories have been working on over the winter. Both Yamaha and Honda have been working on aerodynamics, though the Yamaha set up looks very similar to the winglets trialed in Valencia, and about which the other factories - especially Ducati - have complained bitterly.

The Honda winglets mark a radical departure for the Japanese factory. Two large, enclosed side aerodynamic hoops now adorn the RC213V, looking for all the world as if they were freshly ripped off a Ducati GP17. Racing engineers tend to all gravitate to very similar solutions, and that looks to be the case with Honda. There are other optical differences to the bike as well: the nose of the fairing is very different where the winglets attach, though the air intake looks unchanged. The tail looks a little slimmer too, perhaps signifying a change in weight balance, but perhaps a consequence of the revised exhaust routing debuted at Valencia.

For more pictures, head over to Crash.net, and look at the stories posted by Peter McLaren.

Suzuki had a lot of guest riders present, with Australian Josh Waters, Northern Irish TT racer Michael Dunlop, and MotoAmerica champion Toni Elias all getting a run out on the Suzuki GSX-RR. It was not quite the full experience, however, as it is believed that Suzuki did not use the MotoGP Michelins for Waters, Dunlop, and Elias, not wanting to use tires from the factory's testing allocation. But the Suzuki riders were lyrical after their rides, at least, those who were willing to speak to the press (this remains a private test, after all, where the media is tolerated at best).

Josh Waters was willing to speak to Peter McLaren, and you can listen to him speak over on Crash.net.

The private test wraps up tomorrow, Friday, and after a day of rest for the factory engineers - and the team launch of the ECSTAR Suzuki MotoGP team - the official test starts on Sunday. MotoMatters.com will be present and reporting from the track (I am writing this article in the airport, waiting for my flight) so make sure you check the site, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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Yonny Hernandez To Test For Tech 3 At Sepang - Decision On Full-Time Replacement To Follow After Sepang

The Colombian rider Yonny Hernandez is to replace Jonas Folger in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team at the Sepang test. The move had been widely anticipated, though officially denied. Hernandez has recent MotoGP experience, having spent five years in the class between 2012 and 2016, most of those years on a Ducati. He returned to Moto2 in 2017, and had decided to make the switch to WorldSBK for 2018.

In the press release, Poncharal states that Hernandez is one of the possible candidates to replace Jonas Folger full time for the 2018 MotoGP season. That would be complicated, as Hernandez already has a contract with the Pedercini Kawasaki team to race in WorldSBK in 2018. However, team boss Lucio Pedercini told GPOne at the team launch that he would be open to releasing Hernandez from his contract. "It's true that the contract made between Yonny and the team doesn't foresee [Hernandez going to MotoGP], but anyway, I don't think it would be problem if he decides to test it or even return to MotoGP." Pedercini said he had a possible replacement already lined up if Hernandez does leave.

The test may be an audition for Hernandez, but it is far from a foregone conclusion that the Colombian rider will get the seat for 2018. Poncharal has a number of meetings lined up with managers at Sepang, and will not make a decision before the end of the test. He told MotoMatters.com in an interview that he intends to have a permanent replacement in place before the Buriram test in Thailand, which takes place from 16th-18th February.

The press release from Tech 3 announcing Hernandez appears below:


Yonny Hernandez set to step in at Sepang test

The Columbian Yonny Hernandez will replace Jonas Folger at Monster Yamaha Tech3 for the first MotoGP pre-season test at the Sepang International Circuit, kicking off this week. Following the announcement that Folger has to sit out the entire 2018 campaign due to his continuous recovery, the 29-year old Hernandez takes over his Yamaha YZR-M1 for the three days of testing at the Malaysian venue, bringing five years of MotoGP experience. The Monster Yamaha Tech3 team intends to reveal a permanent replacement ahead of the second test in Thailand, mid-February.

Yonny HERNANDEZ

"First of all, I have to say, that I’m sorry for Jonas Folger. I hope he gets well very soon and back on track again, as he is an incredible fast and talented rider and I want to wish him all the best. At the same time, I’m obviously happy for myself to get such a fantastic opportunity riding a MotoGP bike again. I’m delighted I can do the test and work with a very good team and machine. I’m truly curious to ride a Yamaha bike, because in all my career I was sitting on a Ducati. I want to thank the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team and especially Herve Poncharal for giving me this unique chance."

Hervé PONCHARAL

Team manager

“Before starting to talk about who will be on our second bike in Sepang, I would like to express one more time how sorry and sad I am, not having Jonas Folger with us in 2018. Having said that, we have to try to overcome this situation the best way we can and everybody knows it’s not easy. On the 20th of January, almost everyone with the required level is already under contract, therefore I am very happy to have found out that Yonny Hernandez was so far without a contract. I know, that he has got some plans and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Pedercini letting Yonny test with us and give him the opportunity to show what he can do on a Yamaha M1 MotoGP bike. I am pleased to give him this possibility to test for three days and with it giving him the chance to show his potential to both, Yamaha Motor Corporation and the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team. Yet, no permanent decision will be taken before we fly back from Sepang. For sure, we will analyze in detail how Yonny performs during this test and obviously, he is one of the riders on our short list for 2018.”

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