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.