YAMAHAAfter a damp squib ending to 2020 for Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™), the Frenchman shot out the blocks this season to take his first MotoGP™ World Championship, the first for Yamaha since 2015 and the first premier class crown for France. There were a number of big shuffles around him however, with Franco Morbidelli moving to become his teammate, MotoGP™ Legend Valentino Rossi retiring, and the return of Andrea Dovizioso to the Iwata marque. For 2022, Quartararo and Morbidelli remain at Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™ and Dovizioso heads up the new WithU Yamaha RNF team alongside rookie Darryn Binder. At Jerez, Quartararo tested the same bike as the Misano Test earlier in 2021, a new swingarm and new anti-wheelie electronics. The Iwata marque also had updated front fairings and a new chassis was on show on Day 1, before a modified version on Day 2. Work also continued on the 2022 engine.The Shakedown saw Katsuyuki Nakasuga and Kohta Nozane share testing duties before a brief stint for Cal Crutchlow on Day 3 too, with the riders sharing T1- and T2-labelled machines. The Brit was recently announced as Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™ test rider for another two years, and is expected to return to the track at the Sepang Test too. What more will we see from Yamaha on Saturday and Sunday? Late last season, Quartararo was clear about his shopping list for 2022: better power, less wheelie and more rear grip.DUCATIThe momentum only grew for Ducati throughout 2021, despite an entirely fresh factory team line-up. The Bologna factory sealed another constructors’ crown with a supreme run of podiums and wins for their machinery, Francesco Bagnaia put together an incredible campaign to challenge for the riders’ title, and teammate Jack Miller took victories and podiums to ensure Ducati Lenovo Team sealed the teams’ Championship. So far, that momentum has only grown since testing began – and Ducati now have eight Desmosedicis in their premier class arsenal.The engine was a big priority for the Bologna factory in the Jerez Test, with Bagnaia and Miller getting one each and Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin sharing one. So far we’ve also seen a new, longer exhaust, different aero, a new air intake and plenty more, including an updated holeshot device. The work continued at the Shakedown in the hands of test rider Michele Pirro, with plenty of back to back testing.What more will we see at the Sepang Test as the recent masters of innovation head out for two more days of testing – and with a whole lot more riders out on track?SUZUKI2020 saw Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) take Suzuki’s first riders’ Championship since Kenny Roberts Jr in 2000, and Team Suzuki Ecstar also won the teams’ title – extra cause for celebration as 2020 also marked the 100th anniversary of Suzuki’s founding and 60 years since the Hamamatsu factory debuted in motorcycle racing. But then came a more difficult 2021, with six podiums for Mir and one for teammate Alex Rins – and neither taking a Grand Prix win.It was a generally tougher season, and Suzuki also introduced a rear ride-height device a little later than most. Can they make that step back to arguably the best-balanced bike on the grid? We’ve already seen some novelties in testing at both the Shakedown and in Jerez, including a carbon-reinforced chassis, a new swingarm, fuel tank cover, side fairings and more. With the 2022 engine also reportedly decided at or even before Jerez, the Sepang Test should be interesting as Suzuki continue the never-ending quest of the inline-four: finding more power without compromising the well-praised handling of the GSX-RR. HONDAThe return of record-breaking all-timer Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) took Honda back to the top step no less than three times in 2021, and in some style. That brought some welcome respite after a difficult 2020 without the number 93, which felt especially barren after the masterclass Marc Marquez and Honda painted together in 2019 – taking the riders’, constructors’ and teams’ titles, aka the coveted triple crown.However, some struggles for both Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) last season, as well as some first year tribulations for Pol Espargaro as he settled in at Repsol Honda, saw the factory put all hands on deck working towards an improved overall package for 2022.From what was seen on machinery fielded by HRC at the Shakedown Test and in Jerez, where Honda were the only manufacturer to break cover with a seemingly brand new bike before the winter break, the quest for improvement has resulted in a number of marked differences to the RC213V – from the tail unit and exhaust to the chassis, air intake and more. Tracking the evolution of the radically different bike won’t be the only big story at the Sepang Test for Honda either: it will also see the return of Marc Marquez, who has recovered from the diplopia that side-lined him from the last two Grands Prix of 2021.KTMKTM knocked it out the park in 2020. Rookie Brad Binder opened the Austrian factory’s win count as the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider demolished the opposition at Brno, and Miguel Oliveira, then at Tech 3, added his first win – and second – later in the year. KTM ended the year fourth in the constructors’ Championship, only four points off Yamaha in second and two points down on Suzuki in third, and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing were third in the fight for the teams’ title.2021 saw the Mattighofen contingent have a tougher time of it, and with the arrival of such incredible success came the departure of concessions, with a somewhat compounding effect. Both Oliveira and Binder still grabbed a win each and the RC16 took plenty of top six finishes last season, but the Austrian factory are looking for more in 2022.There were a couple of different aero options on show in the Jerez Test for Binder, Oliveira and test rider Mika Kallio. MotoGP™ Legend Dani Pedrosa was also out on track at the venue ahead of the rest for a private test. But overall it’s been a coy display so far, including at the Shakedown and including on the timesheets – with a new air intake and the new aero the most visible signs of change so far. We can likely expect to see plenty more on track at the Sepang Test, and we’ll also see a new face in the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing box as Francesco Guidotti arrives to take over as Team Manager. The impetus behind the change is reported as a new focus on the human side of the Austrian factory’s impressive MotoGP™ endeavours so far.APRILIA2021 was a milestone maker for Aprilia. After nearly two decades, the Noale factory took their first ever podium in the MotoGP™ era as Aleix Espargaro put in a stunner at Silverstone to stand on the rostrum. It wasn’t a one-off ride either, with Espargaro putting in some consistent top sixes and showing the serious progress made by the factory over the last couple of seasons.Mid-season, Aprilia also welcomed multiple Grand Prix winner Maverick Viñales. After a few races to get up to speed last year, the number 12 began 2022 with the only 1:58 of the Shakedown test – just ahead of his teammate as the two race riders took part thanks to the factory’s concessions. For the same reason, Aprilia also headed out at Sepang on Thursday the 3rd of February for a private test, with test rider Lorenzo Savadori testing back-to-back with the 2021 and 2022 machines, and Viñales working solely with the all-new 2022 bike.All-new really does mean all-new: engine, chassis, exhaust, aero, fuel tank cover, you name it. At Jerez, Aprilia also said the final package will only be finalised at the Mandalika test. The feedback and laptimes so far make for some good reading as the marque begin a new era as a standalone factory team though, so Sepang will likely see the Noale factory continuing to steal some headlines.
New for 2022: the rookies & the shuffles on the grid this season
New faces, new team names and new challenges define a good portion of the 2022 grid
There is plenty new for 2022, including five – yes, five – premier class rookies, and a few new team names to look out for. So first, what hasn’t changed? In short, the factory team line-ups: Quartararo and Morbidelli remain at Monster Energy Yamaha, Bagnaia and Miller return in Ducati Lenovo Team colours, Team Suzuki Ecstar field Mir and Rins, the Repsol Honda Team lineup is Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing have Oliveira and Brad Binder, and it’s Viñales and Aleix Espargaro at Aprilia Racing.Aprilia Racing is in itself a novelty for 2022, however, as the Noale marque begins a new era as a full-factory team and splits from Gresini, with whom they had partnered as an Independent Team.Amongst the Independent Teams, there’s no change at Pramac Racing as Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin remain, and LCR Honda Castrol’s Alex Marquez and LCR Honda Idemitsu teammate Nakagami return to the fold. For the rest, there are a few changes and fresh faces…GARDNER & FERNANDEZAt Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing, it’s all-change as 2021 Moto2™ Champion Remy Gardner and rookie Moto2™ sensation Raul Fernandez join the premier class and remain stablemates in doing so. Both tried the RC16 in a one-off test part way through 2021 as a reward for their incredible performances, and then again in the Jerez Test – although Gardner was suffering through the pain barrier after a late-season crash.In the Shakedown, Gardner was again on the path to recovery, this time from a crash in training that saw him injure his wrist. But he acquitted himself well. Fernandez, meanwhile, has been stealing the headlines since the first time he got on a MotoGP™ bike and continued to do so – fastest of the debutants.BEZZECCHI & MOONEY VR46The VR46 presence on the grid expands to the two-rider Mooney VR46 Racing Team in 2022, on Ducati machinery.Luca Marini gets his second bite of the premier class cherry, the Italian joined by rookie compatriot Marco Bezzecchi – and it’s started off well for the number 72 at the Shakedown as he was the fastest rookie on Day 2.DI GIANNANTONIO & GRESINIGresini go from Aprilia to Ducati in 2022 and welcome premier class podium finisher Enea Bastianini to the fold, fresh from the Italian fighting for Rookie of the Year honours last season. He’s joined by rookie Fabio Di Giannantonio, who was sidelined from two days of the Shakedown due to illness and will be especially keen to bounce back and maximise the track time at the Sepang Test.DARRYN BINDER & WithU RNF YAMAHAWithU RNF Yamaha have Andrea Dovizioso as he gets back up to speed on Yamaha machinery, and it’s rookie Darryn Binder alongside the veteran Italian. Binder makes the huge leap from Moto3™ to MotoGP™, but has acquitted himself well so far in testing – well within the ballpark laid down by the rest of the debutants.