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MotoGP, Race against time at Sepang: not much time to catch Ducati

Three days with test riders, 5 with team riders and then the season will begin. What Aprilia, KTM, Honda and Yamaha need to catch up with Ducati, which must not lose its way

MotoGP: Race against time at Sepang: not much time to catch Ducati


Three days of testing with test riders, another 5 with team riders and then off we go. It's not an easy winter for MotoGP, time is short and making the right decisions before the start of the season won't be easy. There are very few days to check that all the work done at home is going in the right direction, with the hope of not making mistakes that could cost you dearly. Ducati knows something about that, because in 2022 it managed to complicate things, only to then go back on its steps and sort everything out in the best possible way.

On Sunday, at Sepang, the test riders will be protagonists for three days, then from 10 to 12 February it will be the turn of the riders and finally, on 11 and 12 March in Portimao there will be the last test, two weeks before the first race of the year.

What will the various constructors be aiming for these days?

Ducati: improving perfection without losing its way

The Desmosedici is the benchmark in the category, there's little doubt about that. The Borgo Panigale bike manages to adapt to all riding styles, goes fast and has few weak points. The Italian technicians would seem to be the ones with the easiest job, but that's not necessarily the case. Those who stop are lost and in and around Bologna there are magicians who might amaze with some inventions, but not everything always goes in the right direction and the case of the front lowering device last year is proof of this.

Gigi Dall'Igna knows how to treasure his mistakes and, during the team presentation, he explained to us that for once he could 'go slow' a bit on the evolutions so as not to risk compromising a mature and competitive project. When you have an almost perfect bike, the risk is to ruin its balance and every move must be carefully considered. Having 8 riders on the track (but only 4 will have the GP23, those from the factory team and those from the Pramac team) will help gather data and clarify ideas.

Not to mention the fact that nobody believes that Ducati won't amaze once again with some invention.

Yamaha: not much horsepower and a lot of work required, waiting for the Marmorini treatment

When it comes to Iwata, everyone thinks of horsepower. The one that is missing. The M1 has never stood out in all of its history for power, but now this shortcoming is becoming crucially important, also because in terms of the chassis it no longer makes the difference it once did. It's not for nothing that Luca Marmorini, an engineer with an important past in F1, knocked on the door to give the Japanese 4-cylinder a new lease of life.

Everything seemed to have gone well, until Quartararo and Morbidelli were left a bit nonplussed when they opened the throttle in the end-of-year tests in Valencia. It is logical that work has been done in recent months and the results will be seen at Sepang. However, it was not only the engine that was the subject of interventions, the aerodynamics were also revised, adopting solutions that are now common for the competition.

The problem? Only having two riders. Without a satellite team, Fabio and Franco will have to take on all the work.

Aprilia: goodbye concessions, the RS-GP needs one last step

It is undeniable that the RS-GP is the bike that improved the most in 2022. The first victory in MotoGP came, together with many podiums, but at the end of the year something went wrong and the results didn't arrive. This is the point from which Romano Albesiano and his men must start again to bring their project to maturity. With a limit from this year: the loss of concessions. Which means having much fewer tests available, but above all no longer being able to evolve the engine during the season. On the other hand, it will now have 2 more riders to take advantage of for the tests.

In Aprilia they have been able to open up new paths in terms of aerodynamics, the V4 works well and the bike is 'healthy'. It is no longer the time to file away the seconds, but tenths, the most complicated thing to do. If they succeed and find the consistency that has sometimes been lacking, they will have one of the best bikes of the lot.

KTM: good but not great, the RC16 is chasing maturity

The RC16 has always been the most difficult bike to interpret, also due to the technical solutions adopted (tubular frame, WP suspension). In one race it looks like a missile, in the next it seems to have a wet wick, with many, too many ups and downs. In other words, it always seems to be on its way, but then something happens. The Austrians know that a lot of work is required, as does Fabio Sterlacchini, a past in Ducati and now technical manager of KTM.

In general, rather than serious shortcomings, it seems that the bike needs many small adjustments here and there to constantly compete with the best. Help will certainly come from Miller and Pol Espargarò who will bring their experience respectively in Ducati and Honda with them. Perhaps they will be essential in putting the last pieces of the puzzle in the right place.

Honda: the revival has begun, they don't need magic but concreteness

In this analysis, we have ordered the manufacturers according to their position in the constructors' championship and seeing Honda in last place can only be surprising. Or maybe not, because in recent years the Japanese have gotten everything wrong they could get wrong. The new bike doesn't work and the internal organization also had flaws. They've already taken action on the second (Kokubo is back and Kawauchi has arrived from Suzuki), the first will probably take time.

The lack of Marquez was clearly felt, but the impression is that the situation could have been managed better. Because Marc found himself with a bike that doesn't work and that he doesn't like. It should be worrying, but HRC’s strength cannot be underestimated and the new arrivals Mir and Rins could prove invaluable.

Surely, the time has come to no longer rely solely on Marquez's magic and churn out an RC213V at the level of the best competition.


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