Very Testing Times
The prevailing wisdom is that pre-season MotoGP tests don’t actually mean anything in terms of season outcomes. And if you were to look back at previous seasons, this is sort of true. Racers who had killer times in the tests often disappointed during the race season and vice versa.
Except there are always exceptions to the rule (yes, I am looking at you and all your teeth, Marquez), and pre-season testing isn’t really meant to be an indicator of anything other than pre-season testing.
So far we have had three pre-season tests.
The first was the traditional Euro love-in at Valencia (Link). The new kids like Morbidelli and Simeon got a chance to experience entirely new levels of terror, Crutchlow got to hate on the winglets, Rossi got to surprise his detractors once again and Lorenzo got to glare at Dovizioso for a whole day.
And at the end of that day, Marquez and Pedrosa made sure everyone knew the Hondas get around Valencia really well, and that Zarco rides them old Yamaha’s like no-one’s business.
The next test, as usual, was a three-dayer at Sepang (Link). It’s important for the teams to know how the bikes will run in 100 per cent humidity, and if the riders are immune to cobra venom.
Session One saw Jack Miller looking very comfortable on his Ducati, but the session belonged to Dani and his Honda, with a confident Dovizioso politely sitting a mere three-tenths of a second behind him.
Lorenzo and Petrucci put the other Ducatis up there, while Old Faithful Rossi gave his 2018 Yamaha a bit of charge to end up behind Jack Miller in sixth.
Session Three saw Lorenzo break a lap record and top the board, though unkind souls will tell you he did it in the morning when the track was conducive to such things, and not in the arvo when the actual race is traditionally held, and when everyone else was busy trying not to drown in the humidity.
And so the circus went to Buriram in Thailand for its next three-day test. (Link).
Here was a track no-one had raced on, had any data for, and which boasted just as many cobras as Sepang. Still, the racers seemed to like it, and no-one was critical of the layout, surface or facilities.
Session One had the winglet-hating Crutchlow justifying his salary, followed by young Rins and his Suzuki. Marquez and Dovi were also up at the pointy end, as were Pedrosa, Petrucci, and Miller.
Rossi circulated behind them, followed by Iannone and Lorenzo. Vinales was somewhere behind them, and doubtlessly wondering if this foreshadowed another disappointing season.
Session Two saw Marquez and Pedrosa reminding everyone how quick those factory Hondas and their riders are going to be in 2018. Maverick tried harder and found himself in fourth, ahead of Zarco, but behind a grinning Miller in third. Lorenzo languished once again in 10th, but was obviously pleased to be ahead of his nemesis Rossi in 14th.
Session Three would have changed all of that. Lorenzo found himself in 22nd spot, behind Hafizh Syahrin.
Pedrosa was showing off his Honda’s excellence in top spot, ahead of Zarco (who had discovered his team had made a deal with KTM for next season), and Crutchlow, whose winglet-free Honda was proving to be pretty quick in Thailand.
So now the final test at Qatar awaits.
And then there is a mere 17 days before the 2018 MotoGP season begins. It can’t come soon enough.