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.