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The 2018 MotoGP™ season was another year of incredible racing. Now, all the focus is on 2019 and after the first two preseason tests, how is every team looking?
The 2018 triple crown winners started preseason with bikes that had a combination of parts, rather than a solid 2019 model. New features were seen, most notably was the new aero fairing that was debuted, while the air intake and steering damper were also slightly different. In addition, newcomer Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) had a Ducati-esque fuel tank modification as all eyes were on the five-time World Champion making his RC23V debut. Both he and 2018 Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) completed both the Valencia and Jerez Tests without any further complications, with both not riding at 100% fitness; Marquez is to have surgery on his shoulder in early December, while Lorenzo is still recovering from his wrist fracture.
FREE: Jorge Lorenzo's first pit out with Repsol Honda
Elsewhere, test rider Stefan Bradl was called into the LCR Honda ranks as Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) remains sidelined after his Phillip Island crash. On the other side of the garage, 2019 preparations have gone very well for Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). The Japanese rider topped the timesheets in Jerez as he adjusted to a 2018 spec RC213V – a sign of things to come? All in all, Honda are looking in good shape as the winter break begins, can Marquez and Crutchlow be fully fit for Sepang though?
The Italian manufacturer were the only team on the grid who weren’t trying out a new engine for 2019. This goes to show how strong the Desmosedici machine is, while the factory team – including stand-in test rider Alvaro Bautista – sported a new seat fitting that didn’t look too dissimilar to a rear spoiler. For Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and teammate Danilo Petrucci, testing things like electronics and the chassis were at the forefront of their plans as the GP19 bike looks to be a formidable force this coming season.
Dovizioso: "We're going home with a clear idea"
Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) was responsible for testing some geometry settings for Ducati, with the Australian also venturing out on track with a curious bar located under the swingarm. On the other side of the Alma Pramac garage, 2018 Moto2™ World Champion Francesco Bagnaia was very impressive – just 0.388 separated him from pacesetter Nakagami at the Jerez Test as the Italian gets to grips with the handlebars of a GP18 in 2019. A GP18 will also be Karel Abraham’s (Reale Avintia Racing) in 2019, while Tito Rabat made his eagerly awaited return to MotoGP™ action after his triple leg break at Silverstone – the Spaniard also having a GP18 at his disposal in 2019.
The first objective for Yamaha in 2019 is to get the engine choice right, and not to make the same mistake as 2018. Two 2019 spec engines were tested by both Valentino Rossi (Yamaha Factory Racing) and teammate Maverick Viñales, with the duo both agreeing there is a clear choice. However, in Rossi’s opinion, Yamaha have plenty of work to do “in all areas” over the winter if they are to challenge the likes of Ducati, Honda and Suzuki in 2019. Viñales has been the happier of the two in the initial tests, the Spaniard finishing P1 in Valencia and P4 overall in Jerez, but he also acknowledged there is work to do over the winter – mainly on the traction and chassis. What will Yamaha bring to Sepang?
Viñales: "Right now we're only working on the engine"
For the new Petronas Yamaha SRT garage, 2019 has begun in positive fashion. Franco Morbidelli has taken to the YZR-M1 from the RC213V like a duck to water, finishing P6 in both Valencia and Jerez - the Italian will get his try of the new engine in Sepang. Meanwhile, rookie Fabio Quartararo’s start to life in the premier class has started very well. The Frenchman finished just 1.3 seconds off Viñales’ pace in Valencia, while in Jerez, he was just 0.165 off Rossi’s quickest time…
Petronas Yamaha SRT: a new team is born
In the Team Suzuki Ecstar garage, the focus has so far been on getting the engine and chassis right for 2019. Alex Rins and test rider Sylvain Guintoli will decide the engine choice for the Hamamatsu manufacturer after testing it in both Valencia and Jerez. For rookie Joan Mir, despite getting to try the new engine on Day 2 in Jerez, the main goal was to adapt to the GSX-RR from the Moto2™ machine. And finishing less than a second off the pace in Jerez means the 2017 Moto3™ World Champion is adapting pretty quick.
Joan Mir talks about riding the Suzuki GSX-RR in MotoGP™
Christmas came early for KTM after Pol Espargaro’s (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) maiden podium finish in Valencia, and just like at Christmas, Espargaro had plenty of new toys to play with in Valencia and Jerez. The Spaniard had a “truckload” of new parts to test, ranging from the fairing, engine and chassis as the RC16 enters its third year in the premier class. On the other side of the garage, Johann Zarco began his new adventure. It hasn’t been the smooth transition from Yamaha that Zarco would have been looking for so far, but the Frenchman gradually found more feeling with the KTM across the four days of 2019 testing – more vital tests are on the horizon for the double Moto2™ World Champion.
Zarco continues adapting to KTM's RC16
For Tech 3, it was all about finding their feet as they also made the transition from Yamaha to KTM after 20 years spent with the Japanese manufacturer. Both Hafizh Syahrin (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) and rookie teammate Miguel Oliveira were able to try 2019 spec RC16s on their inaugural KTM tests.
Know your teammate: Oliveira vs Syahrin
It’s been a complicated start to preseason testing for Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, with Aleix Espargaro having to sit out the first day in Jerez due to illness. After a crash in Jerez, teammate Andrea Iannone was also struggling – a foot injury hampering his progress with the RS-GP. This meant testing duties rested firmly on test rider Bradley Smith in southern Spain, the British rider testing a new engine spec, while also comparing two Aprilia chassis for 2019.
So, a short recap for you as the winter break now begins. The next instalment of 2019 MotoGP™ action will be on the 6th February, as the grid convenes in Sepang to continue their preparations.
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