As usual, the season starts in Qatar (March 26) and finishes in Valencia (November 12), with 16 races in between, and no significant changes from last year. Austria is back for a second run at the Red Bull Ring, Phillip Island third from last on October 22. There are 23 riders in 13 teams, representing six different manufacturers.
Ducatis are the most numerous, with eight Desmosedicis ranging from three of the latest GP17s to sundry older models.
Next up, five Hondas; and at the tests the latest RC213V came with two different variants of the new Big Bang engine. It remains to be seen whether HRC will settle on just one when the real racing begins, when engine design is frozen for the year.
Marquez has been consistently fast in testing despite finishing behind Vinales at the Sepang and Phillip Island tests. Come Qatar, he’ll be on it.
Four Yamahas for two teams; then two each from Suzuki and Aprilia. And another two from the all-new KTM team, adding a quirky steel-chassised V4 to make three European factories against three from Japan.
Tech rules are generally as for last year, with Aprilia and KTM escaping most of the strictures that apply to established race-winning teams—joined this year by Suzuki after the company’s success with Vinales last year. As well as riders not being able to test outside officially designated times, the factories are limited to seven engines, with design frozen from race one.