Mixed feels for Yamaha, Marc Marquez’s fitness & more – check out some of the things we learnt from the three days in Malaysia
The ever-intriguing MotoGP™ Sepang Test has drawn to a close. But what did we learn? The answer to that question is a lot. However, we also leave Malaysia with plenty of questions left on the table.
As we look back on the three-day Official Test, here’s five of the things we learnt as we now look forward to the two-day Portimao Test in March.
Mixed emotions for Quartararo & Yamaha
The 2021 World Champion was left with mixed emotions at the end of Day 3 in Sepang. One big positive for Fabio Quartararo and his Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™ teammate Franco Morbidelli is that they’ve found a good step forward with the 2023 engine. That was one of the major talking points coming into the Sepang Test.
However, when heading out on fresh rubber to get back into the groove of time attacks, Quartararo branded the performance of his YZR-M1 a “disaster”. The Frenchman, nor Yamaha, were able to pinpoint exactly why this was the case. Something to keep a close eye on at the second and final pre-season Test in Portimao.
“I feel really good” – no physical issues for Marc Marquez
Having endured the toughest couple of years of his racing career, the Sepang Test proved Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was nearing peak fitness. Marquez clocked a total of 149 laps across the three days, and admitted the most important thing to come out of this Test was his physical condition. “I feel really good… I was able to ride in a normal way.” Fantastic news for Marquez, Honda, his fans and the sport in general.
Marini: the rider to beat so far in 2023
Fastest at the Valencia Test. Fastest at the Sepang Test. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) was – unsurprisingly – all smiles after he topped the combined timesheets in Malaysia with the second-ever fastest lap we’ve seen at the Sepang International Circuit.
Staying on Ducati’s world-beating GP22 for a second year, Marini has the talent and tools to make top fives and podiums a regular occurrence this season, and declared that he’s ready to do just that. The Italian described his Test as “fantastic”, while Day 3 was “perfect” after getting a MotoGP™ Sprint simulation under his belt.
Aprilia’s strong showing in Sepang: “I’ll be fast”
P3 and P6 was the story of Aprilia Racing’s Sepang Test, with both Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro sounding upbeat about the 2023 RS-GP. In particular Viñales, who feels the new package is much more suited to his riding style, while some areas of the bike have improved a lot compared to 2022.
The early signs are there that the Noale factory can once again mount a serious title challenge – this time with at least two riders. It was also a positive outing for Aprilia newcomers Raul Fernandez and Miguel Oliveira, with Fernandez ending the three days just over four tenths shy of Espargaro’s P6 effort. Aprilia are definitely a factory to stay tuned to in Portimao, with Team Manager Paolo Bonora confirming a new engine specification is coming for the final two days of testing.
MotoGP™ – faster than ever in 2023?
As we sprint towards the start of the season, the Sepang Test showed us that MotoGP™ could be faster than ever in 2023. In 2022, Enea Bastianini topped the Malaysian pre-season outing with a 1:58.131. This year, Marini, reigning World Champion Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Viñales all set quicker times than that, with Marini and Bagnaia in relatively uncharted 1:57s.
The early indications suggest that 2023 is going to be the biggest and fastest year of racing we’ve ever had. The upcoming Portimao Test, which begins on the 11th of March, will see the riders and teams push through the rest of their pre-season schedules before the first round of the season starts to creep over the horizon. Those couple of days in the Algarve that is next on the agenda are going to be absolutely crucial for everyone.