The first official MotoGP testing of the new year has been completed at Sepang. It was the first time that riders have been seen in their new colours for the upcoming year, and has offered a look at who will be going strong this season, as well as showing how well the rookies will adapt.
Maverick Vinales was the most successful of all the riders who have moved teams. The Spaniard seemed to adapt very quickly to his new Yamaha, topping the overall testing times by 0.084 seconds. He finished in the top three on each day, before leading the standings on day three. The man that he replaced, Jorge Lorenzo, is still getting used to his new Ducati. The three time world champion had to settle for tenth, 0.2 seconds behind his team mate, Andrea Dovizioso, and a tenth behind Ducati test rider Casey Stoner.
Andre Iannone enjoyed a strong showing on his Suzuki, after topping the standings on day two and finishing second overall. Alvaro Bautista also had a strong test, including a third place on day 2. Following his step up from Aprilia to the Aspar team, the Spaniard finished seventh overall, above Jorge Lorenzo. Aleix Espargaro, who has replaced Bautista at Aprilia, had a solid test, finishing in thirteenth place, 0.74 seconds off of Vinales’ time. His Brother, Pol Espargaro, and Bradley Smith have moved from the Tech 3 Yamaha team to the new KTM team. They both struggled, but for a new team in MotoGP, you can expect their results to improve as the season goes on.
The double Moto2 world champion Johann Zarco had the most attention on him, but ended up with an eleventh place. The highlight of his outing on his new Tech 3 Yamaha was a fifth place on day 2. His new team mate will be Jonas Folger, and the German was unable to break the 2 minute barrier, but still recorded top ten finishes on the first two days. After finishing third in Moto2 last season, Alex Rins finished twelfth overall. The Suzuki rider also failed to finish under 2 minutes, but was only outside the top ten by 0.29 seconds. There will be another British rider in the Premier Class this season, with Sam Lowes joining Aprilia. It looks like the bike will need some improvement though, as Lowes was unable to break in the top 20, only finishing above Tito Rabat, excluding test riders.
As previously mentioned, Maverick Vinales is looking like a serious contender for this year’s title. His team mate, Valentino Rossi, will no doubt be trying to prevent that as he searches for a record equalling eighth Premier Class title. Rossi finished sixth overall in testing, but his real strengths lie on a race day.
The reigning world champion, Marc Marquez, is looking strong again this time around. Finishing the Sepang test 0.138 seconds behind Vinales, it is clear that the Repsol Honda rider is well in the hunt for his fourth title in five years. Honda’s chances at a Constructors’ title look good this season, as Dani Pedrosa put in a strong showing throughout testing (fifth place, 0.21 seconds from Vinales) and Cal Crutchlow came ninth, 0.36 seconds from the top.
Who do you think will win the 2017 World Championship? Will there be a surprise package? Have your say in the comments below.