The hibernation period is almost over and you can already feel the excitement of Malaysia in the air. Just a few more days, and the MotoGP bikes will leave the spotlights of the presentations to return to their rightful place – the track. And lucky for us, because we are dying of curiosity to see the 2017 models and the sneak previews have left us unsatisfied.
It could be no other way, because by now these are events that are dear to sponsors and marketing personnel, but they unveil very little. Just the new graphics - and even those are not very different from the old ones - in addition to being the venue for some statements and promises that, inevitably, not everyone will be able to keep.
Talk is cheap if you are unable to persuade the stopwatch and the Sepang tests will be the first test bench for everyone. From this Monday, the riders will compete, but the testers will have the honour of being the first to experience the potential of the new bikes, and naturally making sure that everything works properly.
This is the way it has been for a few years. Before the big names take to the track, the testers do the dirty work and demonstrate the fruits of the racing departments’ labours. This is why the event from Wednesday to Friday at Sepang will be very interesting.
By now, MotoGP holds no great revolutions, but two days from now we will discover what the manufacturers have prepared. So forget about the ‘old’ repainted Yamaha machines we saw in Madrid or the Ducati with last year’s fairings presented in Bologna. In Malaysia we will see the ‘real’ 2017 bikes, or at least something very close to the definitive version. All the engineers, speaking in numbers, say that they will be 80% close to the final version.
So we will see the M1 and the Desmosedici, but also the long-awaited new Aprilia, Suzuki and Honda’s evolutions, the KTM in its début. A nice herd of more or less restive horses, chomping at the bit to be put to the test in the field.
All the Manufacturers will rely on the experience of internal test riders, with Ducati playing the ace up its sleeve with Casey Stoner, taking his first turn on the GP17. Lorenzo could not have asked for anyone better to unleash the muscles of his new bike. The Australian will also stay on in Malaysia afterward and don his leathers for one or more days of official testing, as he did last year.
One thing we will certainly not see in Malaysia: the bikes’ definitive fairings. With the winglets removed, all the Manufacturers have tweaked the aerodynamics on their respective bikes - so much for containing costs! - in order to find the load provided by the spoilers using some other contrivance.
Naturally, no one wants to show their hand straight away with the risk of being copied, so we can expect that only in Qatar will the MotoGP bikes be wearing their definitive outfits. Which, do not forget, cannot be changed more than twice during the season.
Of course, our correspondents will be in the field already on Thursday, armed with magnifying glasses and eagle eyes to discover all the news. You can follow all the updates on this site and on our Facebook page.