What we learned from first major MotoGP test of 2024

What we learned from first major MotoGP test of 2024

The first major track action of the 2024 MotoGP season has come a little earlier this year – thanks to new concession rules that allowed for the three-day Sepang shakedown to be attended not just by factory test riders and rookies, but the actual race teams of struggling manufacturers Honda and Yamaha.

And while the Malaysian outing was largely closed off to the media and with riders mostly (more on that later) not speaking about their experiences until the main three-day test early next week, there was still plenty to notice from trackside – and from the timing screens.

Combined times

1. Pedro Acosta (Tech3 Gas Gas), 1m58.189s
2. Pol Espargaro (KTM), 1m58.241s
3. Johann Zarco (LCR Honda), 1m58.400s
4. Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), 1m58.438s
5. Dani Pedrosa (KTM), 1m58.478s
6. Joan Mir (Honda), 1m58.517s
7. Alex Rins (Yamaha), 1m58.543s
8. Luca Marini (Honda), 1m58.935s
9. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha), 1m58.983s
10. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda), 1m59.072s
11. Michele Pirro (Ducati), 1m59.330s
12. Stefan Bradl (Honda), 1m59.770s
13. Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia), 2m00.000s

Without the full grid, it’s of course still hard to piece together too much of what the season will look like – but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t still some interesting things on show.

Acosta is going to be very fast

We always knew that rookie sensation Pedro Acosta was going to get on pace in MotoGP, given his remarkable progression through the ranks of Moto2 and Moto3 over the course of only three seasons.

However, Acosta is showing perhaps even sooner than expected that he might really live up to the hype as a premier-class rider – with a blisteringly fast MotoGP-spec debut at Sepang.

Only his second test on the bike following a single day at Valencia late last year, he took to the track as if he’d been riding MotoGP bikes all his life.

Ending the final day of the test fastest overall, he was only a tenth of a second away from the qualifying time set by top KTM racer Brad Binder at October’s race.

Pedro Acosta, Tech3 Gas Gas, MotoGP, Sepang shakedown

Whether that’s because this year’s bike is a whole lot faster remains to be seen when a full grid assembles, of course – and it’s fair to say that Acosta got the full benefit of KTM’s support at the test to help make him comfortable on what very much looks like 2024-spec machinery.

But it’s a strong start for the youngster, and one that will fill him with confidence as he awaits the rest of the grid on Tuesday.

KTM have really upped the aero game

Dani Pedrosa, KTM, MotoGP, Sepang shakedown

Among the most noticeable things on show was KTM’s continuing aero push – and the lengths to which it’s gone in hiding its various developments.

Designed with the full might of partner Red Bull’s F1 aero team, it’s quite obvious that there’s been an injection of new thinking.

The rear wing, which remains particularly striking, doesn’t look too different from the version already in use late last year – but it is still the most intricate version on the grid, and its ‘box’ approach (as opposed to stegosaurus wings or T-wings) is increasingly starting to be pondered by rivals, with Honda and Yamaha sampling more basic versions here.

Dani Pedrosa, KTM, MotoGP, Sepang shakedown

And there is a lot going on at the front, with the front fender wing – arguably an extension of what the likes of Ducati and Aprilia had been doing on the forks – an extremely striking development.

Pol Espargaro, KTM, MotoGP, Sepang shakedown

It overall looks like there’s a really strong package there in whatever the best combination of the elements will prove to be – as KTM riders finished the shakedown in first, second and fifth.

Honda’s gains are being verified

Joan Mir, Honda, MotoGP, Sepang shakedown

Maybe the biggest surprise of the Valencia test last year was how comfortable the Honda riders immediately looked on their 2024 machines, and that has so far carried through to Sepang with relatively impressive laptimes not just from Joan Mir but from new arrivals Luca Marini and Johann Zarco.

Luca Marini, Honda, MotoGP, Sepang shakedown

And with the factory Honda team the only one to make its riders available to the media at the shakedown, Mir is now adamant that Honda has finally changed its development direction towards something more fruitful.

Joan Mir, Honda, Sepang shakedown

He cautions there’s still a long way to go, feeling the aero is still on the basic side and there’s not yet a certainty over the engine specs – but it’s seemingly night and day compared to where Honda was last year.

Aprilia is trying new concepts with its bike shape

Lorenzo Savadori, Aprilia, MotoGP, Sepang shakedown

There’s plenty of new aero on show in Sepang, but most of it is so far a variation on trends we’ve already seen – apart, of course, from Aprilia’s very different new rear seat unit.

Working to incorporate the same effects as others’ rear wings into the bottom of the unit, it is a huge departure from anything we’ve seen before and, when combined with a new rear wheel cover tested by Lorenzo Savadori, is perhaps the most visibly different change.

Michele Pirro, Ducati, MotoGP, Sepang shakedown

Ducati’s new fairing, on the other hand, has so far looked rather normal – something that’s at odds with what the riders teased during Ducati’s launch last mont.

Whether that changes once Pecco Bagnaia and Enea Bastianini jump on the Desmosedici remains to be seen.

Yamaha in a confident mood

Cal Crutchlow, Yamaha, MotoGP, Sepang shakedown

There wasn’t much information coming out of the Yamaha camp at the shakedown – nothing particularly surprising given how the factory usually operates. There wasn’t that much going on visually on track either, with the 2024 bike being used by 2021 world champion Fabio Quartararo, test rider Cal Crutchlow and new signing Alex Rins looking very much not unlike the one they used in Valencia.

Alex Rins and Cal Crutchlow, Yamaha, MotoGP, Sepang shakedown

Despite that, though, the mood inside the garage seems to be a very optimistic one.

And if things really are looking up, you’d have to imagine the culprit is the engine – which is the big question mark, and is intended to be a significant step up on the initial prototypes trialled in last year’s tests.


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