Testing gives us our first glimpse of the season – and what’s changed
The fastest ever lap of Sepang was set this season, as Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) blasted around the Malaysian venue in a 1:58.830. But whilst that stole the headlines, there’s more to see when comparing this preseason test and the last.
Lorenzo, of course, leads the way for the highest-profile improvement. But despite gaining nearly a second on his 2017 best, the five-time World Champion on the GP18 wasn’t the man who gained the most. Of those who didn’t change machinery, that was Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing).
Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) makes sure the top four remain solely Ducati and KTM riders, as he gained 0.782 seconds to slot in behind Espargaro, Lorenzo and Smith. It was Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins who broke that monopoly, as he gained seven tenths going into his second season; as well as now fully fit. Teammate Andrea Iannone, meanwhile, was a sliver slower than in 2017.
Sepang was good reading for Honda. LCR Honda Castrol’s Cal Crutchlow was just under seven tenths quicker, and Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa – second quickest overall – only a tenth off the Brit’s improvement. Reigning Champion Marc Marquez also improved, but only by a tenth.
The man who took him to the wire for the Championship last season was another, like his teammate, who was significantly faster. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) gained nearly four tenths on his 2017 best, which bodes well for the Italian and the Borgo Panigale factory. But it wasn’t all perfect reading for Ducati riders, as Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) and teammate Karel Abraham were both slightly slower. Bautista lost the most time, over half a second slower changing from the GP16 to the GP17 as he adapts.
Now the grid will take on Buriram in Thailand as the second preseason test gives the premier class their first taste of the venue ahead of its debut on the calendar this season; another clean slate and another look on who could be gunning for the front in 2018.