In the last three years, it’s been Ducati and Andrea Dovizioso who have challenged the might of Marc Marquez and Repsol Honda to the MotoGP™ crown. But is that about to change in 2020? Leaving the Sepang Test, two factories looked to be in very good shape ahead of the new campaign: Suzuki and Yamaha.
Yamaha topped the timesheets thanks to Fabio Quartararo’s (Petronas Yamaha SRT) efforts on the 2020 YZR-M1. And despite finishing top of the tree on all three days, the Frenchman admitted Day 3 wasn’t the easiest, so there’s more to come for the number 20. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) may have occupied P16 on the overall timesheets, but the 2019 Malaysian GP race winner’s long stint was extremely impressive – 13 1:59s in 20 laps to be precise. Teammate Valentino Rossi also praised the 2020 bike, saying it’s a step forward from last year and the new Michelin slick compound helps the M1 with better edge grip and endurance.
Top speed has been the Iwata factory’s big issue for a number of years. Last year we saw Viñales, Rossi, Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) unable to lay a glove on the likes of Honda and Ducati, even in the slipstream. The positive news is that Yamaha have seemingly found a decent chunk of horsepower with their new engine, with Viñales hitting a top speed close to that of KTM and Honda at Sepang. With more top speed and an improved chassis, Yamaha looks to be right in the hunt at the start of 2020.
And so does Team Suzuki Ecstar. The silver and blue arrows also have a new engine and chassis to boast this season, but the Hamamatsu factory also debuted a completely new frame in Malaysia. Alex Rins’ race run – like Viñales’ – was eye-catching. The Spaniard was comfortably lapping in the mid to low 1:59s, while his one-lap effort didn’t end to shabby either – a 1:58.450 placing him 0.101 off Quartararo. On the other side of the box, Joan Mir is expected to have a stellar season and with an ever-improving GSX-RR, mixed with Mir’s raw talent and continued gaining of experience, Suzuki are going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Are the two Japanese manufacturers in the driving seat to displace Honda and Marc Marquez from their perch? The Qatar Test will answer some more queries, but where it all counts is when the lights go out for the opening race of the season.