2018 Sepang MotoGP Test Combined Times: Lorenzo Fastest Overall, Luthi Most Improved

Jorge Lorenzo finished the Sepang test as fastest overall, setting a new unofficial fastest lap in the process. That is meaningful in itself - it means that Lorenzo is a lot further along in his process of mastering the Desmosedici, and that he is likely to be competitive from the start of the season - but a more interesting perspective on the data is provided by the improvements made by the riders over the three days. Any improvement, or lack thereof, is an indication of how the factories are faring.

Unsurprisingly, the rider who improved the most over the three days was the rider with the least experience. Sepang was Tom Luthi's first outing on a MotoGP bike, and he had a lot to learn. But learn he did, quickly dispensing with the idea that old riders can't adapt. The 31-year-old has spent the last eleven seasons in the intermediate class, first in 250s, then in Moto2. But Luthi cut 2.606 seconds off his lap time between Sunday and Tuesday, adapting fast to the demands of riding the Marc VDS Honda RC213V. Luthi still finished as last of the officially contracted riders, but got to within six tenths of his teammate Franco Morbidelli, who has already had four days on the bike at both Valencia and Jerez.

Xavier Simeon also made good progress on the Avintia Ducati GP16, improving his best time by over two seconds. More importantly, he cut the gap to the leaders: at Valencia, a track with a short 1'30 lap, Simeon's deficit to fastest rider Marc Marquez was 2.6 seconds. At Sepang, a much longer track with a 1'59 lap, The Belgian was under two seconds off the time of Lorenzo.

For most riders, the average improvement over all three days was between eight tenths and 1.5 seconds, with the average around 1.1 seconds. At the upper end of the scale, Alvaro Bautista and Karel Abraham on the Aspar Ducatis, and Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda all took around 1.5 seconds off their best time. At the lower end of the scale, Jack Miller on the Pramac Ducati and Valentino Rossi on the Movistar Yamaha bettered their times by a little over 0.8 seconds. 

The case of the Movistar Yamahas is something of a puzzle. Overall, Maverick Viñales improved his fastest time by 1.359 seconds, Rossi by 0.843. But what is strange is that their improvement came between the first and second days. Both Yamaha riders were unable to improve from the second to the third day of testing, both men struggling to post a fast lap on the final day. The race pace was good, according to Valentino Rossi, the problem was pushing for a single quick time. It was a problem which only arose on the final day, however, as the two Yamahas had topped the second day of testing on Monday.

The bottom of the improvement standings highlight another interesting case. The four riders who improved least over the three days of the test are all on factory machinery, and include two Ducati GP18s and two KTMs. Both Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci started the test off fast, but only improved their times by six tenths of a second. In the case of Dovizioso, that could be because he was forced to switch back to the GP17 at the end of the day, because of a problem that arose on his bike, an issue which had Petrucci had also had. Petrucci was also on a GP17 at the end of the day, but he set his fastest time on the bike. 

Dani Pedrosa's name should probably also be added to the list. The Repsol Honda rider went slower on Monday than he had on Sunday, so his improvement from Sunday to Tuesday was only four tenths of a second. That is in part because he set a very fast lap on Sunday, topping the timesheets by over a third of a second. But that can also be read as an indication of just how much improvement the Honda has really made over the three days. Pedrosa was chasing a quick time on both Sunday and Tuesday, and was fast on both days - fastest on Sunday, second fastest on Tuesday - and so the difference is in large part attributable to the improvement of the bike, and perhaps the improvement of the track.

What may be cause for concern is the fact that the KTM riders are last in the improvement standings. Pol Espargaro couldn't ride the final day because of a crash on the second day, in which he badly banged up his ankle. But Bradley Smith only improved by 0.579 over the course of three days. KTM have a lot of development work still to do, but they find themselves in the hardest part of it now. The first couple of seconds are easy. The last second is incredibly tough. With Espargaro seventeenth, 1.4 behind Lorenzo, and Smith nineteenth, 1.6 behind Lorenzo, KTM has a lot of ground to make up.

Improvement over three days:

No Rider Bike Fastest Improvement Overall position
12 Tom Luthi Honda RC213V 2:01.126 2.606 25
10 Xavier Simeon Ducati GP16 2:00.784 2.162 22
19 Alvaro Bautista Ducati GP17 2:00.205 1.523 16
17 Karel Abraham Ducati GP16 2:00.574 1.514 21
35 Cal Crutchlow Honda RC213V 1:59.052 1.470 3
29 Andrea Iannone Suzuki GSX-RR 1:59.615 1.412 13
53 Tito Rabat Ducati GP17 1:59.547 1.365 12
25 Maverick Viñales Yamaha M1 1:59.355 1.359 7
42 Alex Rins Suzuki GSX-RR 1:59.348 1.279 6
45 Scott Redding Aprilia RS-GP 2:00.812 1.150 23
26 Dani Pedrosa Honda RC213V 1:59.009 0.990 2
99 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati GP18 1:58.830 0.972 1
41 Aleix Espargaro Aprilia RS-GP 1:59.925 0.941 14
5 Johann Zarco Yamaha M1 1:59.511 0.910 10
93 Marc Marquez Honda RC213V 1:59.382 0.908 8
32 Katsuyuki Nakasuga Yamaha M1 2:01.679 0.894 28
30 Takaaki Nakagami Honda RC213V 2:00.071 0.881 15
46 Valentino Rossi Yamaha M1 1:59.390 0.843 9
43 Jack Miller Ducati GP17 1:59.346 0.832 5
68 Yonny Hernandez Yamaha M1 2:01.223 0.830 26
50 Sylvain Guintoli Suzuki GSX-RR 2:01.120 0.744 24
33 Kohta Nozane Yamaha M1 2:01.385 0.659 27
21 Franco Morbidelli Honda RC213V 2:00.526 0.635 20
4 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati GP18 1:59.169 0.601 4
9 Danilo Petrucci Ducati GP18 1:59.528 0.595 11
38 Bradley Smith KTM RC16 2:00.520 0.579 19
44 Pol Espargaro KTM RC16 2:00.262 0.306 17

Combined times for three days:

No Rider Bike Sunday Monday Tuesday Improved Fastest Diff
99 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati GP18 1:59.802 1:59.498 1:58.830 0.972 1:58.830  
26 Dani Pedrosa Honda RC213V 1:59.427 1:59.999 1:59.009 0.990 1:59.009 0.179
35 Cal Crutchlow Honda RC213V 2:00.522 1:59.443 1:59.052 1.470 1:59.052 0.222
4 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati GP18 1:59.770 1:59.732 1:59.169 0.601 1:59.169 0.339
43 Jack Miller Ducati GP17 2:00.178 1:59.509 1:59.346 0.832 1:59.346 0.516
42 Alex Rins Suzuki GSX-RR 2:00.627 2:00.042 1:59.348 1.279 1:59.348 0.518
25 Maverick Viñales Yamaha M1 2:00.714 1:59.355 2:00.547 1.359 1:59.355 0.525
93 Marc Marquez Honda RC213V 2:00.290 1:59.730 1:59.382 0.908 1:59.382 0.552
46 Valentino Rossi Yamaha M1 2:00.233 1:59.390 1:59.449 0.843 1:59.390 0.560
5 Johann Zarco Yamaha M1 2:00.421 1:59.702 1:59.511 0.910 1:59.511 0.681
9 Danilo Petrucci Ducati GP18 2:00.123 1:59.747 1:59.528 0.595 1:59.528 0.698
53 Tito Rabat Ducati GP17 2:00.912 2:00.506 1:59.547 1.365 1:59.547 0.717
29 Andrea Iannone Suzuki GSX-RR 2:01.027 1:59.917 1:59.615 1.412 1:59.615 0.785
41 Aleix Espargaro Aprilia RS-GP 2:00.866 1:59.925 1:59.962 0.941 1:59.925 1.095
30 Takaaki Nakagami Honda RC213V 2:00.664 2:00.952 2:00.071 0.881 2:00.071 1.241
19 Alvaro Bautista Ducati GP17 2:01.728 2:00.728 2:00.205 1.523 2:00.205 1.375
44 Pol Espargaro KTM RC16 2:00.568 2:00.262   0.306 2:00.262 1.432
36 Mika Kallio KTM RC16 2:05.932 2:00.701 2:00.464 5.468 2:00.464 1.634
38 Bradley Smith KTM RC16 2:01.099 2:00.520 2:00.969 0.579 2:00.520 1.690
21 Franco Morbidelli Honda RC213V 2:01.161 2:00.662 2:00.526 0.635 2:00.526 1.696
17 Karel Abraham Ducati GP16 2:02.088 2:00.914 2:00.574 1.514 2:00.574 1.744
10 Xavier Simeon Ducati GP16 2:02.946 2:01.689 2:00.784 2.162 2:00.784 1.954
45 Scott Redding Aprilia RS-GP 2:01.962 2:01.456 2:00.812 1.150 2:00.812 1.982
50 Sylvain Guintoli Suzuki GSX-RR 2:01.864 2:01.392 2:01.120 0.744 2:01.120 2.290
12 Tom Luthi Honda RC213V 2:03.732 2:01.810 2:01.126 2.606 2:01.126 2.296
68 Yonny Hernandez Yamaha M1 2:02.053 2:01.554 2:01.223 0.830 2:01.223 2.393
33 Kohta Nozane Yamaha M1 2:02.044 2:01.480 2:01.385 0.659 2:01.385 2.555
32 Katsuyuki Nakasuga Yamaha M1 2:02.527 2:02.573 2:01.679 0.894 2:01.679 2.849

 

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Comments

Looking at the indiviual lap times, i notice that Rossi did a low 2:00, and then 3 laps in the 1:59s - and this was all right at the end of the session, after 5:30pm.  I had assumed that the grip would be low at this time, but I could be wrong - does the heat go and the grip come back late in the afternoon?

Yea. Lower temp at the end of the days  means better conditions for a fast lap but still not as good as in the morning. Not a bad time for Rossi in such conditions :)