Image courtesy of MotoGP
There were understandable signs of fatigue in some garages as the third and final day of the MotoGP Thailand winter test drew to a close. This was not the case, however, for Honda and for Dani Pedrosa in particular. After showing good pace and putting in some important work over the three days, the diminutive Spaniard treated himself to the fastest lap of the test on his 77th and penultimate time around with a time of 1:29.781.
While plenty of valuable work was done with electronics, aerodynamics and tyres during this test, it was primarily a circuit familiarisation exercise for the MotoGP show. Honda will come away happiest, after seeing Cal Crutchlow and Jack Miller stay at or near the top of the timing screens throughout the test and rookie Takaaki Nagayama climb to within a seventh of a second of Pedrosa’s best by the end.
Suzuki will also be encouraged by their time in Thailand, with both Alex Rins and Andrea Iannone running good pace and getting close to deciding which engine and aero packages they will homologate for 2018.
Yamaha had a mixed test, having not yet solved their electronics puzzle. The four M1s were shown the way for most of the test by Tech 3’s Johann Zarco, who had the advantage of riding a more familiar machine than the factory men, though he too did plenty of experimenting with electronics. The Frenchman finished second, joining the two factory Hondas in the sub 1:30 club. Rossi and Vinales finished the day on 1:30.7 and 1:30.8 respectively. Hafizh Syahrin completed an excellent tryout for Tech 3, taking away a best time of 1:31.5. Most observers in Buriram believe the Malaysian has earned himself a contract for the season.
Ducati will also be doing some head scratching. New boy Jack Miller continued to enjoy his time on what now looks like the most ride-able package in the paddock, finishing sixth on the final day, a mere two-thousandths faster than Andrea Dovisioso. Danilo Petrucci had a quiet final day, after being among the leaders on Friday and Saturday. In sharp contrast to the imperious form he showed at the Sepang test, Jorge Lorenzo struggled at Chang International, unable to find the mid-corner speed the team had given him just two weeks earlier. Today he finished more than two seconds slower than Pedrosa.
KTM were without the injured Pol Espargaro, but Bradley Smith and test rider, Mika Kallio, put in plenty of laps to get closer to a good base for 2018.
Chang International Circuit also came through the test well, working with Dorna Race Director, Mike Webb to address safety concerns about pit entry and exit and a few places where riders run the risk of hitting barriers at shallow angles. The riders all declared themselves pleasantly surprised by the circuit, which they found challenging and more fun than they expected after initially walking around or riding around on scooters. Circulating at MotoGP speeds perhaps revealed something about what designer Hermann Tilke had in mind when he approached the drawing board back in 2014.
We previously described Thailand as ‘fizzing with excitement’ for the arrival of MotoGP and that certainly proved to be the case with packed grandstands and a busy expo area on Saturday and Sunday.
With the inaugural PTT Thailand Grand Prix scheduled for 5-7 October, what we saw this weekend promises close racing and something close to the 100,000 spectators the organizers are targeting.