CONTENT & CONCERN: Who's best placed after the Sepang Test?

We take a look at who will have walked out of the Sepang paddock grinning from ear to ear, and who will feel they have work to do

We might have had only three of action in 2024 but already there are some riders and teams in the MotoGP™ paddock that are smiling a little more than others. With only five days of pre-season testing ahead of the opening round of the year, it's important to hit the ground running and not let your rivals get the jump on you.

So, ahead of the Qatar Test starting next week, we take a look at who's got a spring in their step and who's got work to do.


Only Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin outscored the Italian in the second half of 2023 and he's continued that fine form through to 2024 despite the team change. Valentino Rossi's signing for the new year hit the ground running in Qatar, although the timesheets might not tell you that. On the final day of the test, 12 riders did runs of nine laps or more and Diggia was the fastest of them all.

The Italian took top spot not by a small margin, being three quarters of a second clear of the next best Enea Bastianini and 1.1 seconds clear of Sprint King Jorge Martin. That's in a top ten that was split by only 2.8 seconds. Impressive stuff from the 25-year-old. And it all comes in a year where he's once again had to change Crew Chief. Now with David Muñoz, it marks his third different technical head in the space of three years. The type of instability that could derail any premier class star.


On the other side of the box, Marco Bezzecchi is well aware of the work he needs to do in Qatar. Finishing the Sepang Test as the slowest of the full-time Ducati riders in 17th was a shock to many, especially given the quality of his breakout year in 2023. The Italian struggled to feel comfortable on his new machine, explaining that the 2023 engine stops the bike in a different way and puts power to the ground in a different way: his two key areas of concern.

After losing much of the momentum he built throughout 2023 due to a broken collarbone with six rounds remaining, BEzzecchi will be keen to start the year strong. Especially given the fact he turned down the chance to partner Jorge Martin on full-factory equipment to remain where he currently is.



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An obvious one. Seven days into life as a MotoGP™ rider and the 19-year-old is already mixing it with the very best. He went under Bagnaia's official outright lap record and pole lap from the Malaysian Grand Prix, he was faster than the World Champion and only a second shy of Marc Marquez over his longer run and, as a result, has received plaudits from up and down pitlane.

He was breathing down the neck of KTM's star man Brad Binder on the final day of the Sepang Test and, without doubt, will ruffle more than a few feathers once the season gets underway. He's going to improve, he's going to get faster, he's going to surely challenge for race victories.


Not only did Fernandez have to contend with his rookie teammate coming in and beating him on the timesheets, but the Spaniard was faced with the difficult task of stomaching a Sepang Test where seemingly very little worked. Struggled over one lap, didn't have the pace over a longer distance, and desperately needs two days in Qatar to try and feel more comfortable on KTM's new package.

Fernandez was not only 20th of the 20 full-time riders but was more worryingly 0.732 seconds behind the man in 19th, Luca Marini, who himself was only 1.3 seconds away from top spot. The former Moto2™ World Champion will have to cancel out all of the noise coming from the other side of the garage and find his feet in the Doha desert next week to eradicate the big gap that formed in Sepang.


A change in engine character and a change in the mood of The Beast, as Ducati's 2024 model looks to much better suit the Italian's way of riding. In particular, the engine braking on the 2024 model is helping Bastianini return to the riding we saw from him in 2022. A statement that will no doubt concern some of his rivals.

The Italian was third overall, second over the longer distances and even had team boss Davide Tardozzi beaming on the final day as a result of his efforts. Yes, Sepang was the only venue in 2023 where we saw the 26-year-old challenge at the front but this looks to be more than just a rider gelling with a circuit. The Ducati Lenovo Team man will be confident of proving that in Qatar.


Although Aleix Espargaro finished the Sepang Test as Ducati's closest competitor over both one lap and a longer distance, it was a very different story with Maverick Viñales and Miguel Oliveira. Top Gun finished 12th and the Trackhouse Racing man was 18th on Aprilia's 2024 RS-GP, and neither were smiling at the close of the Sepang Test.

Aprilia's new aerodynamic package is quite a bit different so maybe it's just a case of Viñales and Oliveira requiring more time to adapt, but there will be concern at the Noale factory given the mixed feelings coming out of their camp. Viñales was able to string together a very strong long run, however, finishing sixth fastest and only half a second behind his teammate. But there's no denying that there are a big few days ahead for the Italian squad as they try and take the fight to Ducati.


There will have been some frustrated faces down at Gresini Ducati after the first day of action in Sepang. Marc Marquez had a couple of technical issues, wasn't able to string many laps together and, generally, just didn't feel comfortable. However, the Spaniard did more laps than anyone on Day 2 and then started to find his feet on the third and final day. His long run on the final day was the fifth quickest of anyone, and all at a circuit he has never enjoyed visiting.

Yet more optimism on the other side of the garage, after Alex Marquez become the only rider not on a 2024 Ducati to break into the 1:56 club. Now with a year of experience, there were strong signs that the upcoming year could be the one where the younger Marquez really starts to challenge on a consistent basis.


With so little testing time available in the current era of MotoGP™, it is paramount to maximise those days. Sadly, a big crash inside the opening hour of the Sepang Test completely derailed the Spaniard's plans. He finished the season with a career-best result and was hoping to carry that momentum through to 2024, but starting the new year in this manner will have sapped the vast majority of that momentum away.