Sepang Test


The cancellation of the MotoGP test at Sepang – a result of the state of emergency imposed by the Malaysian government in response to rising numbers of cases of COVID-19 in the country – threw a spanner in the works for the MotoGP teams preparing for the start of the 2021 season.

Losing days of testing meant less time for the MotoGP rookies to acclimatize to the new class, and less track time to gather data for the coming season.

To address this issue, Dorna and IRTA announced that there will be an additional test in Qatar at the beginning of March. In addition to the original test scheduled for March 10th – 12th, there will be three more days of testing a five days earlier.

The MotoGP Test at Sepang, due to be held from 19th – 21st of February, has been canceled, Dorna announced today.

The King of Malaysia, at the request of the Malaysian government, has declared a state of emergency in Malaysia, which is due to last until August 1st.

The state of emergency has been declared in an attempt to stem the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues to spread around the world.

Episode 130 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and this one gives us all the happenings at the official MotoGP test in Sepang.

For this show, David Emmett is joined on the mics by a special guest, respected racing journalist Manuel Pecino. The pair walks us through the various headlines and highlights that happened in Malaysia, as we get ready for the start of the MotoGP season.

Though the show is less than an hour long in duration, David and Manuel cover in-depth a number of key topics, including what’s happening at each of the six MotoGP factory teams.

It is becoming a familiar pattern. Whenever MotoGP bikes gather for a timed session, Fabio Quartararo usually finds a way to get his name to the top of the list.

Usually by using the cunning strategy of riding his motorcycle that little bit faster than anyone else. It happened with increasing frequency during the 2019 season.

It happened again on the first day of the Sepang test in 2020. And it was no different on the second day.

The first day back after the winter break is always tricky. Bodies are sore after riding a MotoGP bike for the first time. That uses muscles which are impossible to train, and so soreness quickly sets in. Then there are the unforeseen hiccups which always arise when prototype machinery first hits the track.

Parts don’t quite work as expected, they don’t fit as easily and as quickly as hoped, and there is always a nasty surprise lurking somewhere. But then again, that’s why you go testing, to iron out the details before racing starts in earnest.

Andrea Dovizioso was just one of many riders hindered by such hiccups. “The first day you have to try a few things and a few things can happen which make you lose time,” the Italian said. “You can’t follow exactly the plan. That’s what happened today. It didn’t work a lot but we had to fix a few small problems – nothing bad.”

Or it can rain. As it did for an hour in the afternoon, and then again shortly before the end of the test. With the track taking time to dry, that meant the riders lost probably two and a half hours of track time on Friday. But all of these things are just a part of testing, and something everyone has to deal with.

The start of the 2020 MotoGP season is now just a matter of hours away. The entire MotoGP grid will soon be rolling out at Sepang for the start of the first MotoGP of the year. Notably, it is the entire grid: unlike previous years, nobody has fallen of a motocross bike, minibike, or even a mountain bike and hurt themselves.

There is plenty to get excited about. We will soon be able to get a sense of the work done by the various factories over the winter, who looks like hitting their goals, who has found something extra, who is lagging behind.

We will see which of the rookies is off to a strong start, how last year’s crop of rookies is progressing, which of the veterans has made a step, either forward or backward, and which of the crop of title candidates is looking sharpest.

Yet a note of caution is advised. By Sunday night, we will have a timesheet showing who was fastest over the three days, and we will have a complete list of every lap posted by each rider (helpfully published by Dorna on the official MotoGP website, unhelpfully, in a format which is not easily extracted for analysis).

2019 was a long, hard year for Aprilia. The hiring of new Aprilia Race CEO Massimo Rivola signaled a year of rebuilding for the Italian factory, as Rivola took over the organizational side of the MotoGP project, freeing up Romano Albesiano to concentrate on building a brand new RS-GP from the ground up, and providing Albesiano with the resources to do so.

That project forced Aprilia riders Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone to battle on through the 2019 season with a bike that was struggling to be competitive.

The wait came to an end at the MotoGP shakedown test at Sepang, where Aprilia rolled out the new RS-GP, in the hands of test rider Bradley Smith. “Those six or seven months of waiting were worth it,” was Smith’s verdict after the first full day of testing on the 2020 prototype.

This weekend, MotoGP bikes have been rolling onto the track for the start of the 2020 season.

They have done so almost completely out of the public eye (prompting the philosophical question of if an RC213V is fired up at a circuit, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?) as three days of the MotoGP shakedown test gets underway at Sepang.

The shakedown test was a private test, meaning it is closed to the media and public. There is no live timing publicly available from the test, and lap times are probably unreliable, as teams and factories release the times they want to make public (if any), rather than a neutral timing system recording every lap.

The 2020 MotoGP season has already had an interesting start for the Aprilia Racing squad, with the off-season headlines dominated by the doping results of the Italian team’s Italian rider, Andrea Iannone.

While we could learn as soon as next week whether Iannone’s “B” sample tests positive or negative for anabolic steroids, this week the rumors center around the changes coming to the Aprilia RS-GP for next season.

This is because news from Italy pegs some major movements are underway in Noale, and that an all-new design and technical basis for the Aprilia RS-GP is set to debut at the Sepang test next month.