And the 2017 season is underway.
For those that are casual followers of these series, here's some pointers to the biggest changes in the rules for 2017, just in case you've missed this and get confused once the season starts:
- The use of aerodinamic winglets (the "wings" seen last year) are banned for 2017.
It is no longer permitted to add any device or shape to the fairing or bodywork that is not integrated in the body streamlining (e.g. wings, fins, bulges, etc) that may provide an aerodynamic effect (e.g., providing downforce, disrupting aerodinamic wake, etc).
No doubt, manufacturers will be trying to go around these rules, so we may see intricate and clever fairing designs with covered winglets.
- The intermediate tyres will no longer be used.
They added little or no value over soft slicks or hard wets. The loss of the intermediate tyres is to be compensated by an extra tyre choice for both front and rear slicks. This will most likely be a soft compound slick, to fill the void left by the loss of intermediates.
Though the total tyre allocation is not to be increased, the riders will now have three front compounds (plus an option tyre), and three rear compounds (plus an option tyre), to choose from.
- The riders must now inform MotoGP medical staff if they pick up an injury outside of MotoGP events.
For example, a rider breaking a bone or suffering a concussion in a training accident will have to inform MotoGP medical staff, and submit themselves for medical examination before being passed fit to race.
For 2017, the Austrian colossus KTM joins the fight between manufacturers, against the feud of the Japanese (Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki) and the constant threat of the Italians (Ducati and Aprilia).
As for the riders, at the end of the past year there were some major swaps in the official teams of manufacturers. From those, the most proeminent are as follows: Jorge Lorenzo is now riding for Ducati, Maverick Vinales for Yamaha, Andrea Iannone for Suzuki, and Aleix Espargaro for Aprilia. His brother Pol Espargaro will be riding for KTM, as will Bradley Smith.
New riders from other classes are in for the 2017 MotoGP championship. Coming from Moto2, Johann Zarco (Moto2 champ) and Jonas Folger are racing for the Yamaha satelite team (Tech3), Alex Rins is riding for Suzuki, and Sam Lowes is riding for Aprilia. Back from WSBK, Karel Abraham will ride an older 2015 Ducati for a satelite team (Aspar).
The first official MotoGP test of 2017 took place this week at Sepang, in Malaysia.
This is an extremely important test, where the final teams and riders line-ups are present, as well as factory test riders, and also the new bikes for the upcoming season.
The final day of testing was today (Wednesday, 1st of February 2017), from 10:00am to 6:00pm.
A brief rain shower arrived at 2:30pm - sunshine soon returned, but the slow-drying track meant riders were reluctant to venture back out.
However, the final hour and a half saw a flurry of activity and new personal best lap times.
Day 2 leader Andrea Iannone lost the front of his Suzuki at Turn 1 early in the day, then later at Turn 15. Pol Espargaro, Hector Barbera and Aleix Espargaro also fell, without harm.
Tito Rabat was absent due to injuries in a Tuesday highside, but day one pace setter Casey Stoner was back on track for Ducati.
Vinales and team-mate Valentino Rossi spent substantial time with the new Yamaha fairing, which features covered winglets on either side.
These are the final times of the test:
2017 Sepang MotoGP test - Wednesday Final Times:
1. Maverick Viņales - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) - 1m 59.368s [72 Laps]
2. Marc Marquez - Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) - 1m 59.506s [85 Laps]
3. Andrea Dovizioso - Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP17) - 1m 59.553s [56 Laps]
4. Dani Pedrosa - Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) - 1m 59.578s [67 Laps]
5. Valentino Rossi - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) - 1m 59.589s [62 Laps]
6. Alvaro Bautista - Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP16) - 1m 59.628s [64 Laps]
7. Casey Stoner - Ducati Test Rider (Desmosedici GP17) - 1m 59.639s [46 Laps]
8. Cal Crutchlow - LCR Honda (RC213V) - 1m 59.728s [71 Laps]
9. Jorge Lorenzo - Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP17) - 1m 59.767s [66 Laps]
10. Johann Zarco - Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) - 1m 59.772s [45 Laps]
11. Andrea Iannone - Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) - 2m 0.045s [49 Laps]
12. Alex Rins - Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) - 2m 0.057s [60 Laps]
13. Aleix Espargaro - Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) - 2m 0.108s [53 Laps]
14. Danilo Petrucci - Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP17) - 2m 0.310s [53 Laps]
15. Jonas Folger - Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) - 2m 0.312s [54 Laps]
16. Jack Miller - Estrella Galicia Marc VDS (RC213V) - 2m 0.439s [70 Laps]
17. Karel Abraham - Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP15) - 2m 0.445s [38 Laps]
18. Hector Barbera - Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP16) - 2m 0.537s [50 Laps]
19. Scott Redding - Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP16) - 2m 0.645s [74 Laps]
20. Loris Baz - Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP15) - 2m 0.873s [58 Laps]
21. Bradley Smith - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (RC16) - 2m 1.338s [62 Laps]
22. Sam Lowes - Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) - 2m 1.341s [43 Laps]
23. Pol Espargaro - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (RC16) - 2m 1.506s [67 Laps]
24. Katsuyuki Nakasuga - Yamaha Test Rider (YZR-M1) - 2m 1.658s [30 Laps]
25. Takuya Tsuda - Suzuki Test Rider (GSX-RR) - 2m 2.769s [68 Laps]
Official Sepang MotoGP records:
Best lap: Dani Pedrosa (Honda RCV) - 1m 59.053s (2015)
Fastest race lap: Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha M1) - 2m 0.606s (2015)
Unofficial Sepang MotoGP record:
Marc Marquez (Honda RCV) - 1m 58.867s (2015 testing)
Mat Oxley wrote a great resume of this pre-season test at Sepang on the Motor Sport Magazine website:
Strongly recommended read, also because it will put you at speed in regards to the work in backstages, the riders, the teams, the bikes, and what went on during the test.
The next official test will take place at Phillip Island, Australia from February 15-17.