The MotoGP race season kicks off in just over two weeks, and the teams are headed to Losail Circuit this weekend to prepare for the opener.
The three-day MotoGP Losail test starts Saturday, and it’s the final testing ground for many teams, as they set their bikes up for the coming melee. Some teams (the Honda and Yamaha factory teams, in particular) have their motorcycles mostly straightened away and will only be making minor tweaks; the test will be more about the riders themselves, as they learn how to flog the new bikes around a track beside Sepang, where the first two tests were held.
Other teams have a bit more work ahead of them. Aprilia has to decide which of their upgraded ART machines they’ll race this season, now that they’re preparing for an all-new prototype in 2016. They brought two machines to Sepang to test, but they need to narrow their choice down in the next few days. They also need to get rider Marco Melandri comfortable on the machine, as he’s struggled greatly this year after returning to MotoGP from a few years in World Superbike.
The Ducati factory team will continue to test the new GP15 prototype at the Qatar track; the last Sepang test showed the machine handles much better than the GP14.3, but riders Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso both need more seat time to adjust to the bike. Qatar will provide that opportunity, and should tell a lot about the team’s fortunes this year.
Suzuki’s new factory team will certainly be busy; they’re working hard on improving their prototype in every department, readying it for the 2015 season. They think they improved their power output, but they’re still planning on testing other bits at Qatar.
Honda satellite team LCR could be interesting to watch; rookie Jack Miller is still learning how to ride a MotoGP bike, but at Sepang, vet Cal Crutchlow showed he still has potential to take a podium if his bike holds together. Crutchlow is a man with plenty to prove, so expect him to ride the wheels off his Honda this weekend.
Honda’s factory team dominated the first two tests, but Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo proved the Yamaha factory squad shouldn’t be too far behind. Both riders seemed to expect more of a performance upgrade with the new motorcycle, but Lorenzo figured the team was still in a better spot than last year.
“In Sepang we were not far away and at circuits like Assen, Mugello and Phillip Island we can be even better. I have a very good feeling with the bike this year even with all the changes, and while I was not the fastest in Sepang, I have managed two titles with the Yamaha, and have very high hopes for this year’s bike,” he said. “Last year I was the rider with the most points from Germany to Valencia and finished the Championship very strongly.
“If we can start at the same level or even stronger, then we can definitely aspire to win the championship.”