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2017 Sepang MotoGP Test Round Up, Part 1: 93 vs 25, Yamaha, Ducati, Honda & More

What did we learn from the Sepang MotoGP test? More than we thought we would on Sunday night. The forecast was grim: plenty of sporadic rain and a track that wouldn't dry quickly promised three wasted days. But by the time the teams packed up on Wednesday night, after nearly a full day of testing, Sepang had turned out to be both productive and instructive.

After three days of testing it is clear just how close the field is this season. The top ten riders are separated by just four tenths of a second. Sixteen riders are within a second, from Maverick Viñales in first to Hector Barbera in sixteenth. The top four riders are on four different manufacturers, less than two tenths apart, and there is a good mix of manufacturers throughout the top of the timesheets.

The two exceptions are Aprilia and KTM, but there is hope for them too. Aprilia have made huge strides last year - Aleix Espargaro is thirteenth, 0.740 behind Viñales, and two whole seconds closer to the front than Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista were at the same test last year – and now basically just lack horsepower. KTM are in their first season in MotoGP, but are already closer at Sepang than Suzuki were at their first Sepang test in 2015. The level in MotoGP is now unbelievably high, and unbelievably close.

2017 Sepang MotoGP Test Press Releases

Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the Sepang test:


Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Concludes Sepang Test on Top

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP has wrapped up the first official IRTA test of the 2017 season today at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia. Riders Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi have spent the three days working through various testing items to further develop their YZR-M1s and secured first and sixth place respectively in the overall standings.

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“If you want to make the gods laugh, tell them your plans.” They certainly saw us coming this time at Sepang.

The tropical skies opened on two of the three days, sending riders scurrying into the pits because they were there to work on their new bikes at the limit, not tiptoeing around on a wet track.

But the rain itself wasn’t a huge problem. In the steamy equatorial heat, Sepang used to dry very quickly. No longer, however. Ten months ago the circuit underwent a much-needed resurfacing, which also included adding cambers at some corners to improve draining and safety during torrential downpours.

2017 Sepang MotoGP Test Tuesday Round Up: Fast Riders And Warthog Winglets

What looked like a wasted day quickly turned around at Sepang. Tuesday started wet, the streets and circuit taking a while to dry after Monday evening's torrential rain. Sepang's weakness was once again exposed: the track took a long time to dry, wet patches remaining on the track for several hours. It was not until 1pm that a few riders started to venture out, and by 2pm, the track was full with riders trying to make up for valuable lost time.

Some riders made use of the conditions, as far from ideal as they were. Jorge Lorenzo put in ten laps in the wet, and Johann Zarco put in eight laps. The reason? To help build confidence, for Lorenzo in the wet, for Zarco, to try to figure out what a MotoGP bike is capable of.

Zarco rode a pair of wet tires to destruction, feeling how the soft, moving rubber exaggerated every movement of the bike. It served as a sort of magnifying glass for how a MotoGP bike behaves, amplifying the feedback and making it much clearer to fully understand, Zarco explained. By the end of the run, he had learned a lot, and made a massive step forward.

How much difference had it made? When the red lights came on for the end of the session, Zarco's name was still fifth on the timesheets, the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider less than a tenth behind Valentino Rossi, and half a second behind Maverick Viñales in second. The Frenchman had found a way of understanding where the limits lay, without pushing himself over the edge.

2017 Sepang MotoGP Test Monday Round Up: The Flying Fisherman, And Lorenzo Learning To Brake Again

On a normal day, the fastest rider at the end of a day of testing is paraded proudly in front of the press, and given his chance to explain what a good job the team and manufacturer was doing, how they were not really pushing for a lap time, and feign a certain modesty while privately gloating at how they crushed their rivals.

But this was not a normal day. The fastest man in Sepang on Monday slipped out of the circuit in virtual anonymity. After all, he is merely a test rider, and test riders don't usually talk to the media. We journalists, snobs that we are, don't waste our precious time on test riders.

In this case, however, it was not the media not wanting to talk to the test rider, it was the test rider not wanting to speak to the media. One of the reasons Casey Stoner retired from racing was because he was sick of the media circus, of spending his life living out of a suitcase and answering stupid and prying questions from idiots like me. But he still loves challenging himself on a MotoGP bike, and trying to see just how fast he can go. And Ducati are happy to pay him handsomely for the privilege. After Monday, who can blame them?

2017 Sepang MotoGP Test Preview - Happy Days Are Here Again

In a few hours time, the grandstands at the Sepang International Circuit will echo with the booming assault of MotoGP machines being pushed to their limits. The entire MotoGP grid has assembled for the first test of the preseason, meaning that the 2017 MotoGP season is about to get underway, at last.

That, at least, is the plan. The reality is that the grandstands may echo only to the sporadic rasp of a MotoGP bike being warmed up, and the occasional intrepid test rider being sent out to test conditions. The resurfaced Sepang continues to be plagued by drainage problems, water remaining on the track for a long time. In high humidity, relatively low track temperatures and without the burning tropical sun, the water left by unusually heavy rains is not evaporating. Parts of the track remain wet all day, making it impossible to push the bikes to the limit, and very risky to try.

Suzuki team boss Davide Brivio expressed the concerns shared by most teams. "You never know how many hours you can test, because the track remains wet for a long time. And if it rains a lot in the evening, maybe you have to wait a long time in the morning. So it's a little bit of a question mark now, how much you can test."

Sepang Pre-Test Wraps Up: What's In The Box, Gigi?

More factories racing means more factories testing. The usual one or two day shakedown test ahead of the first official MotoGP test of the year organized by IRTA has expanded this year to become much more than that. All six MotoGP factories are present with test riders – Aprilia, Ducati, Honda, KTM, Suzuki, Yamaha – as well as a couple of factories testing Superbike machines ahead of the 2017 season. The reason? The more factory teams there are, the cheaper the cost per factory to rent the circuit, and the more time they get preparing for next week's test.

2017 January WorldSBK Test Press Releases

Press releases from some of the WorldSBK teams after the first test of 2017 at Jerez:


Strong Restart For KRT After Two Days On Track At Jerez

Kawasaki Racing Team riders Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes made a positive start to their 2017 championship preparations on the new Ninja ZX-10RR during a two-day test at Jerez de la Frontera in Spain, with Rea going fastest of all and Sykes placing third

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - More silverware for Crutchlow

Yesterday Cal Crutchlow received Britain’s most prestigious motorcycling award and revealed that he is already close to signing a new deal for 2018

MotoGP preseason testing starts next week and no one will ride out of the Sepang pitlane more of a changed man than Cal Crutchlow.

Crutchlow wasn’t last year’s only first-time MotoGP winner but he was almost certainly more affected by his debut victory than Maverick Viñales, Andrea Iannone and Jack Miller were by theirs.

Most of us always knew Viñales would win a race, even if he didn’t, whereas Iannone always knew he was going to win a race, even if we didn’t. As for Miller, neither he nor we can be sure he will repeat his 2016 success.

Sepang Pre-Test Started - Ducati, Honda Test Riders On Track

While testing for the WorldSBK teams is in full swing at Jerez, halfway around the world, the MotoGP test teams are preparing for the start of the official IRTA test in Sepang, Malaysia. Test riders for all six factories are in Malaysia, putting in laps in what are for the moment still tricky conditions - rain in the morning and afternoon, with a dry spell in the middle of the day. 

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