MotoGP, 2019 Sepang Test: 5 Things We Learned From the Event 

Ducati was the fastest motorcycle at the MotoGP tests in Sepang
Ducati was the fastest motorcycle at the MotoGP tests in Sepang

The three days of the 2019 Sepang Test, which was the first pre-season test, offered the teams a chance to test the limits of their machines before the start of the next season, and the session offered quite a few interesting results with most of the teams showing improvement over the previous season, indicating that the fight for the MotoGP championship could turn out to be a close affair.

Overall, factory teams made iterative improvements while the satellite teams, on the whole, displayed a more competitive pace.

Without further ado, let us look closer at the five key takeaways from the final test at the Sepang International Circuit before the upcoming season gets underway in March 2019 at the Losail International Circuit.

#5 KTM and Yamaha have shown signs of improvement

There is still a long way ahead for KTM to establish a foothold in the world of MotoGP and the 2019 season would be another step in the right direction for the Austrian manufacturer.

The Sepang test showcased that the bike had largely improved when compared to the previous season, suggesting that the team would be even more competitive in the upcoming season.

Johann Zarco, one of the riders for the KTM team, expressed confidence in the machine, reiterating that it has improved a lot from the previous season.

Yamaha Factory Racing, like KTM, too showed signs of improvement, indicating that the slump of the past two years was definitely behind them. Valentino Rossi insisted that the Japanese manufacturer has finally found its way, making the machine miles better than what was seen in the previous season.

He said, “This time, we try something that improves, we try something that is worse but it’s like we have a direction. We need time because our opponents are very strong but we are more optimistic.”

#4 Suzuki’s competitive bike could net the team their first win

Suzuki showcased good pace at the 2019 Sepang Test
Suzuki showcased good pace at the 2019 Sepang Test

The inconsistencies of the Suzuki machine are long gone, and the same was reiterated during the 2019 Sepang test when Alex Rins posted consistent lap times throughout the session.

The Spaniard secured five podiums and managed to finish the 2018 season in the fifth place, but with last week’s pace, Rins could well be on his way to hand Suzuki their first win in MotoGP since their return.

Alex Rins said, “We need to analyse all the data from these three days. We did a lot of 1’59s, which is a good thing. They need to analyse so they can find something new. I’m really happy.”

“Winning a race is not easy. But I think we have the pieces for winning some races. We improved a bit more the bike than the race. For sure our package now is better than the race,” he added.

#3 Marc Marquez is still not fully fit

Marc Marquez is still recovering from an injury
Marc Marquez is still recovering from an injury

Marc Marquez made it to the Sepang test and did get a good number of laps under his belt, but it didn’t showcase the true pace of the five-time champion.

It was immediately clear that the Spaniard’s shoulder injury had not yet completely recovered, preventing him from finding his best during the test session. Despite this, the Repsol Honda rider managed to the set the fastest time on the opening day of the session.

His teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, on the other hand, didn’t participate in the test as he was still recovering from surgery.

The Spaniard, however, showed positive signs that he would be close to 100% during the opening race of the season at Qatar.

With all that said, the test provided no clear indication of Honda’s edge over its opposition, if it has any.

#2 Ducati has the best ride for qualifying

Ducati's single-lap pace was extraordinary
Ducati's single-lap pace was extraordinary

On a fast lap, it was well established that the Ducati machines were near impossible to beat as the Italian manufacturer managed to put all the four bikes in the front at the end of the test session at the Sepang International Circuit.

Ducati’s number two - Danilo Petrucci had the upper hand on the final day of the test session. The young Italian rider was the fastest rider on the grid and also managed to go under the best lap time, setting a new unofficial record at the Sepang International Circuit in the process.

Petrucci said, “When I saw the lap time on the dashboard, I was really happy.”

His teammate, Andrea Dovizioso added, “All in all, this test has been positive. It was important to push to the limit again today because we only have another test before the season starts, and we managed to post a competitive time even on a flying lap after being really consistent in yesterday's race simulation.”

#1 Bagnaia is the rookie to watch out for during the 2019 season

Francesco Bagnaia put on a spectacular show in Sepang
Francesco Bagnaia put on a spectacular show in Sepang

Francesco Bagnaia, the 2018 Moto2 Champion, is only a rookie in the premier class, but he shook the entire motorcycle racing community with a dream performance in Malaysia.

The Italian rider, with a 2018-spec motorcycle, showed tremendous pace on the track, which ensured that he would finish the test session in the second place, less than 0.1 seconds behind the top-man Danilo Petrucci. Moreover, he managed to go under the lap record in the process.

Bagnaia, a product of the VR46 academy, also received praise from his mentor Valentino Rossi regarding his pace.

The prolific Italian said, “He’s always fast in this test and made 1m 58.3s. Considering the small amount of experience I think that we have to keep attention on him.”

Despite the strong show, a modest Bagnaia highlighted that there is a still a lot more to do to challenge the likes of Marc Marquez for the MotoGP title.

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Edited by Arvind Sriram
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