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It’s that time of year again: the Sepang test. Now a mainstay of preseason excitement as it heads up the agenda as first track action of the year, the sweltering heat and challenging layout of the Malaysian venue is once again ready to welcome the class of the new MotoGP™ season: 24 riders, 12 teams, and one World Championship title up for grabs. The questions are many, and the answers will be hard fought.
#2018StartsNow: The wait is over as MotoGP™ testing begins
Beginning on the 28th January, there are eight hours of track action per day over three days, and motogp.com will offer extensive coverage. That includes regular updates throughout the three days, as well as interviews, action clips and a special end-of-day wrap-up show. So here we go - #2018 starts now…
Can Marquez maintain his momentum?
The man wearing the crown as the engines prepare to fire up in 2018 is Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), and Sepang will give us the first glimpse as to the six-time World Champion’s form heading into the year. So far, Marquez has only relinquished his hold on the premier class title once – in 2015 – and his name is penciled in as a key favourite. And his teammate, Dani Pedrosa, is always a big threat – and the most recent race winner. Honda were the only manufacturer who brought a 2018 prototype bike to the Valencia test – also ridden by LCR Honda Castrol’s Cal Crutchlow – so Sepang will prove interesting.
Could Lorenzo catch Dovizioso at Ducati?
The man who took Marquez to the wire over the stunning 2017 season was Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). His form was stunning, taking Ducati back onto the top step six times throughout the year. His teammate, five-time World Champion Jorge Lorenzo, is the only man other than Marquez to have taken the MotoGP™ crown since the younger rider’s graduation to the premier class – so can a year in red turn the tables and see Lorenzo back on top? Or will years of development and a new mentality keep ‘DesmoDovi’ leading from the front at Borgo Panigale?
Does the 'Doctor' have a tenth title up his sleeve?
2017 had some big ups and downs for Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) – including his 300th premier class race start, at Silverstone, and a broken leg not long after. But three weeks later the ‘Doctor’ was back, at MotorLand Aragon, and he put in a stunner to duel his teammate for fourth. Starting the season healthy and showing no signs of slowing down, can Rossi take that elusive tenth? Yamaha will be pushing hard to move forward from 2017 – so Sepang could be pivotal for both.
Will 2017 testing top gun Maverick Viñales strike back?
Fastest, fastest, fastest, fastest – that was Maverick Viñales’ CV during preseason last year as he got on the Movistar Yamaha for the first time. And the Spaniard won the first two races, too, before then going on to finish the season in third overall. After a winter of keen development for Yamaha – including a private test at Sepang in November - will Viñales come out the blocks swinging once more? And if he does, what does that tell us about the season as a whole?
Should sophomore Zarco be a favourite for victory?
After a stunning debut season, debut podiums and the coveted Rookie of the Year title, there are a lot of eyes on Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) as he enters his second season. Routinely top Yamaha over the second half of the season, that named the Frenchman as a real podium contender much of the time – so will 2018 be the season that changes him from podium to victory contender? With good initial reports on the Yamahas he tested at Valencia at the end of last year, Zarco will be arriving at the Sepang test asking ‘why not?’
Who will win the battle of the rookies: Morbidelli, Nakagami, Luthi or Simeon?
The Rookie of the Year crown is one that you can’t defend. One of Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), his teammate Tom Lüthi, LCR Honda Idemitsu’s Takaaki Nakagami and Reale Avintia Racing’s Xavier Simeon will be the fastest newcomer in 2018 – but which one? Morbidelli is reigning Moto2™ Champion and was dueling Nakagami for fastest rookie when they both first tested the machines – but Simeon was recovering from injury and Lüthi wasn’t even able to take part. Sepang will be the Swiss rider’s first taste of his 2018 bike…and he’ll be pushing hard to play catch up.
Beginning on the 28th January, the track will be open from 10 a.m. (GMT+8) to 6 p.m. on each of the three days, allowing rookies and frontrunners alike to get as many laps as possible. motogp.com will offer extensive coverage of the #SepangTest, including regular updates throughout the three days as well as interviews, action clips and a special end-of-day wrap-up show. Don’t miss it – MotoGP™ is BACK!
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