While the MotoGP paddock is away, the test teams will play. In the middle of the Asia-Pacific flyaways, back in Europe the test teams are preparing for the start of 2020. In the coming days, test teams for Aprilia, KTM, and Ducati will all take to the track, while Honda will be testing directly after Sepang.
Aprilia and Bradley Smith will kick off events at Aragon, with a three-day test at the Spanish circuit. Smith has plenty of work to do: there are preparations for the 2020 season, though the bike will not be ready until the Sepang test, in all likeliness. But after engine problems for both Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone in the race at Motegi, Smith will have plenty to work on in helping to isolate the problem.
Dani Pedrosa and KTM follow, from Thursday to Saturday. Pedrosa is focused entirely on the 2020 KTM RC16, continuing the search for more speed from the bike. Pedrosa's improvements have already made a big impact, the Spaniard helping to smooth and improve the electronics and settings. He has also helped streamline the testing program for KTM: Pedrosa is involved in finding the best package of new parts that work together, which KTM can then hand off to Pol Espargaro to test.
The Ducati test team will also be at work, though they will be testing at Valencia. Michele Pirro will be taking to the Spanish track from Wednesday to Friday, working mostly on his race setup, as the Italian will be racing as a wildcard at the final round of 2019.
On the Monday and Tuesday after the Sepang round, Stefan Bradl will be taking to the track at Jerez. The German will be working on the 2020 Honda RC213V, getting it ready ahead of the first test after the Valencia race.
HRC regard that work as crucial: though Marc Marquez won the 2019 MotoGP title with relative ease, the results of the other Honda riders make it clear just how difficult this year's bike has been to ride. Any work Bradl can do to steer the Honda engineers in the right direction is important.
That test was given such a high priority that Bradl was unavailable to take the place of Takaaki Nakagami at LCR Honda, while the Japanese rider was away having shoulder surgery. Bradl would have been available for Phillip Island and Valencia, but Lucio Cecchinello would have had to find another replacement for Sepang.
Bradl's lack of availability made the choice to put Johann Zarco on Nakagami's bike even easier. LCR Honda get a replacement for the Japanese rider, and HRC get a chance to evaluate Zarco as a potential replacement for Jorge Lorenzo in 2020 (even though HRC's official line is that they have every intention of keeping Lorenzo for next year), or possibly even 2021, when all of the MotoGP seats are open.