While testing for the WorldSBK teams is in full swing at Jerez, halfway around the world, the MotoGP test teams are preparing for the start of the official IRTA test in Sepang, Malaysia. Test riders for all six factories are in Malaysia, putting in laps in what are for the moment still tricky conditions - rain in the morning and afternoon, with a dry spell in the middle of the day.
For Ducati, Michele Pirro was present on Wednesday, to be joined by Casey Stoner on Thursday and Friday. For Honda, Hiroshi Aoyama was present for Honda, Takuya Tsuda for Suzuki, Katsuyuki Nakasuga for Yamaha, Mika Kallio for KTM, and Mike Di Meglio for Aprilia. Also present were a bunch of Suzuki riders, testing the new GSX-R1000 Superbike. Roger Lee Hayden and Toni Elias were over from MotoAmerica, as was Sylvain Guintoli, who will be campaigning the bike in BSB. Suzuki test rider Nobu Aoki also put in plenty of laps on the new machine.
But all eyes were on Ducati, who were at the test with two very different bikes. One was still sporting the 2016 wings and was painted in full Ducati colors. The second was in black carbon fiber, and did not have any wings on the bike. What the bike did have, though, is a rerouted rear exhaust, and a large box-like structure under the tail (for photos, see Crash.net). Ducati test rider joked with Crash.net's Peter McLaren that it was "to put some salad inside, a hot dog, some coca cola" but refused to reveal the real purpose of the construction.
What might it be? While the pictures coming back from Sepang are not clear enough to make a judgment, it seems likely to be related to weight distribution. Yamaha has previously had part of the fuel tank in roughly that location, though the structure does not look like a fuel tank. An alternative explanation could be a container for holding electronics of some sort. Judge for yourself by examining the various photos on the Crash.net MotoGP Twitter page.
The test is set to continue for two more days, before the factory riders take over on Monday. Then, the 2017 MotoGP season will be well and truly underway.